Bishop Tom Wright gets it right (at long last.)

Bishop Wright of Durham was a member of the Lambeth Commission that wrote the Windsor Report. In that report it was stated, concerning the ordination of Bishop Robinson, that there was “…a statement from the Roman Catholic church that such moves create “new and serious difficulties” to ecumenical relationships.” (WR par 28). The Windsor Report made no mention of similar ecumenical (read Roman Catholic) objections being raised to the ordination of women, although of course there were such objections.

Bishop Wright published a paper on the extent to which the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion did or did not meet the requests of the Windsor Report, and opined that the General Convention needed to shape up and do the job right. He did so within a few hours of the beginning of Convention. His paper, along with the presence and strong lobbying efforts of the Archbishop of York, the statements of the Bishop of Rochester, and various other persons from the Church of England, as well as the messages and phone calls back and forth to Lambeth Palace, made it clear that the General Convention was getting the full press of a well managed effort to get The Episcopal Church to back away.

On several occasions the specter of “new and serious difficulties” in ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church have been raised as part of the argument for ceasing and desisting from ordination and or blessing of gay and lesbian persons. But, with the exception of some of us in the blogsphere no one raised the embarrassing point that the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize Anglican orders anyway and so has no leverage on the matter.

But now, the often respected Bishop of Duram, along with the Bishop of Salisbury have written a paper, “Women Bishops: A Response to Cardinal Kasper.” In it they state,

“There is no recognition of Anglican orders, no possibility of intercommunion, except when Anglicans are deprived of the sacraments of their own church, and little recognition of the difficulties that continues to be experienced by the children of a mixed Anglican-Roman marriage. At the same time, Rome, being concerned for the sake of the unity that God wills, is anxious to advise us on what we may and may not do with our orders, which are not regarded as valid anyway.”

So, the skunk is on the table: The criticism from the Roman Catholic Church is that they are “anxious to advise us on what we may and may not do with our orders, which are not regarded as valid anyway.”

Good for Bishops Wright and Stancliffe.

Now that the skunk is on the table, the stink is evident not only as concerns the criticism of women as bishops, it also applies to the argument that we can not proceed in the Episcopal Church with any other activity regarding our orders that make for “new and serious difficulties” in relations between The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed every attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to “advise us on what we may and may not do with our orders” needs to be seen in the light of the fact that they are “not regarded as valid anyway.”

So the Windsor Report’s reference to such difficulties now comes home to the good bishop of Durham, in that he sees the problem of being gored by an ox that does not see us as a valid church, but as a quasi-ecclesial community. The paper states, “We note that Dominus Iesus (2000), continued to regard Anglican churches as separated quasi-ecclesial communities.”

Perhaps it is time to lay to rest the Roman Catholic critiques of what Anglican Communion churches do, in so far as they suggest some degrading of the status of Anglican Orders. They are already degraded enough. We as Anglicans may, and God knows we do, argue about women and gay and lesbian persons in orders but that is our business. It is not Rome’s. Not unless they can decide that our orders are valid, i.e., real.

The paper, ““Women Bishops: A Response to Cardinal Kasper” is a good read and I hope it gets widely discussed.

I am particularly interested in the sense from this article that the Roman Catholic Church approaches each member church of the Anglican Communion as a separate entity, applying pressure here and there as it deems appropriate. It signals to The Episcopal Church that the ordination of gay persons is a serious problem, it signals to the Church of England that the ordination of women is a serious problem. Perhaps the Church of Rome knows that the Anglican Communion is a “quasi-ecclesial” community. And we are. We are “quasi-ecclesial” but profoundly a koinonia. As a Communion we are indeed a fellowship, not a church. And we are not quasi anything, at least in our better moments.


  1. You're right -- this is a very interesting document. The part I loved was where the Bps were lecturing Cardinal Kaspar on how the Anglican Communion works:

    "Indeed, that imperial model - Ecclesia Anglicana telling the colonies how to behave - is precisely what we have done our best to avoid for several generations. As set out in the Windsor Report, we have a modus operandi according to which a potentially contentious issue can come to the Lambeth Conference, to the Anglican Consultative Council, and to the Primates' Meeting. To put it simply, if the Lambeth Conference gives a green light to a proposal, it is then up to an individual province to decide whether to adopt any new development for itself."

    So that's the Anglicanism's great gift to Christendom! Remind me again: was it Cranmer or Elizabeth I or Hooker who wrote the Windsor Report?

  2. So if we Episcopalians keep on (invalidly, of course) ordaining qualified and called people as bishops, priests, and deacons in defiance of ancient prejudices, there might come a day when Rome would refuse to talk down to us?

    I believe in ecumenism, I treasure dialogue between churches, but a scolding from a position of assumed superiority doesn't appear to be either of those things, does it?


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