It is a time when strange potions are being sampled by various high officials as they attempt to find “a way forward” in what now constitutes the Anglican Communion swamp. It gets curiouser and curiouser.
But the main outlines of the map being written by the Archbishop, the working group on an Anglican Covenant and the advisory group on the outcomes of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention actions, and the reactions of several of the bishops who were at the New York meeting are as follows:
- The Anglican Covenant idea will be big at the next Lambeth Conference.
- Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor will be considered written in stone, having “on the whole” received and “widely accepted.”
- The Primates Meeting is being billed as the place where the plea for Alternative Primatial Oversight will be discussed, this in spite of the fact that the Presiding Bishop has pointed out the reality that there is no such thing as APO.
- The New York meeting may be followed up by other meetings, but several of the key players may not attend, since that meeting did not (and indeed is no empowered to) solve the problem presented by the plea for APO.
- The Meeting of Bishops in Texas sworn to uphold Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor is held with the intent to “find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired.” That in spite of the fact that acting outside the context of General Convention and Executive Council is of course impaired itself, since decisions made there have no standing in the ecclesial of the Episcopal Church, whose canons and constitution the bishops attending have sworn to uphold.
- The Global South Primates may independently produce materials for the Anglican Covenant idea and push away from the Episcopal Church, and attempt a coup via the Primates meeting in Tanzania.
Notes on the Details: (no need to read unless ready for some stomach churning sips from the Anglican swamp.)
On the New York Meeting:
Here are some sample potions concerning the New York meeting: (with thanks to Kendal Harmon’s blog entry on all the statements, and the ENS summary article)
I am reposting sections of each report in order to try to trace various paths through the swamp. The highlights are mine.
Before the meeting in New York of twelve Bishops, the meeting was described as having the following purposes:
“…the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida to convene a small group of bishops from the Episcopal Church (USA) to meet together to discuss some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions.” (from the Anglican Communion Office.)
“…a candid conversation to include the Presiding Bishop-elect and me together with bishops who have expressed a need for “alternative primatial oversight…”
The Presiding Bishop.
You will note that the ACO post speaks of a broad concern for “difficult issues” and the Presiding Bishop clearly makes the meeting about “alternative primatial oversight.” No wonder the meeting did not meet expectations – the expectations were quite differently stated.
Following the meeting in New York of twelve Bishops, the meeting was described in the following ways:
“(We)…were unable to come to common agreement on the way forward. We could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight. The level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us.” (Press release from the meeting, ACNS)
“The meeting, called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has not led to a mutually agreeable way forward. ‘…we are incapable of addressing the divide which has two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church,’ Bishop Duncan said.” Press release from ACN.
"We're hoping to call another meeting later this fall to continue to wrestle with the issues," Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori said after the meeting concluded, adding that there is a "general commitment" among those present at this week's meeting to attend a subsequent meeting… Griswold said that the meeting is part of the larger context of the Anglican Communion.
"While we were having our conversation, we were part of larger processes going on, the assessment of our response to the Windsor Report, [and] the unfolding of the covenant process," he said. "We now have a global perspective. We now understand ourselves in relationship to an Anglican community that is far more complex and diverse than even our own Episcopal Church."” (Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori.)
“After prayerful consideration and consultation, the Archbishop called for the New York summit, which took place on September 11-13, 2006, in hopes of finding an American church solution to an American church problem, but to no avail. We could not come to a consensus as to how to recognize and respond to the needs expressed in the appeal…what needed to be said was said and heard, in a spirit of honesty and love. That being said, it is my sense that the time for endless conversations is coming to a close and that the time for action is upon us. I am not interested in having more meetings to plan to have more meetings.” (Bishop Jack Iker.)
“The purpose of our meeting was to address the many complex issues that face our church as one of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion and of the Communion itself… In that spirit, I want to share with you my sense of hope coming out of this meeting. While it is true we did not reach a conclusion, the level of candor and charity shared in our meeting was remarkable. I am hopeful that as we continue to meet, the Church will reclaim its historic generous orthodoxy and its respect for diversity and offer the Anglican Communion an example of faithfulness in unity and mission. (Bishop Peter Lee)
“I would characterize the meeting as frank and realistic, but also gracious and productive. All the bishops were engaged and open. “Speaking the truth in love” comes to mind. I expect there will be follow-ups to this gathering.” (Bishop James Stanton)
"The potential [for a follow-up meeting] is there," he said. "There was a clear understanding on everyone's part that just to come together again to talk for the sake of talking was not going to serve anybody well. But if we can come together with a firm proposal around which to work then we could have a reason to come together again." (From an article in the Diocese of Southwest Florida online magazine, quoting Bishop John Lipscomb)
“Sadly, we were not able to reach an accommodation adequate to the expressed needs of some of the appealing dioceses, while, at the same time remaining consistent with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,” he said. “Despite this failure, it would be my hope that future conversations might be able to build on the foundation of the candor of these three days of talks.” (Bishop Mark Sisk, quoted in a summary article by Episcopal News Service)
Again, the Presiding Bishop spoke to the wider context for the meeting and for future meetings, "While we were having our conversation, we were part of larger processes going on, the assessment of our response to the Windsor Report, [and] the unfolding of the covenant process." Bishop Lee joined him in that assessment.
It is worth noting that Bishop Griswold also put a core impediment to specific conversations on “Alternative Primatial Oversight” on the table, “Griswold said after the end of the meeting that the use of the term "alternative primatial oversight" itself was discussed. "There was some disagreement as to whether it was appropriate even to use that term," he said. "There was some reluctance to use that terminology."” (From the ENS article on the meeting.)
Some of the bishops, Lee and Sisk and Presiding Bishop Elect Jefferts Schori commend future meetings. Bishops Stanton and Lipscomb are open to the possibility. Bishop Duncan seems to consider the matter finished. Bishop Iker is uninterested, saying it is time to act.
From the various comments it would appear that (i) meetings of this small group, slightly expanded, on issues of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will continue, (ii) that there is no consensus on what Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO) might look like or if it is even possible in the Episcopal Church context, and (iii) several bishops who believe APO is what the conversations were about have more or less decided that further conversations on this level are useless, meaning, I suppose, that future conversations will not be with the most adamant of those seeking APO.
Possible Follow Up Meetings:
Future meetings of this small group of bishops will not untangle the specifics of APO. That is because the whole idea of APO is foreign to any agreement by the provinces of the Anglican Communion, and contrary to or unaddressed by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. So, why meet?
Now on to Texas:
That brings up the meeting coming up in Texas. Hopefully their agenda will be larger than the concern for APO.
This meeting is being held by those who claim to be Windsor Compliant and who sign on to the Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10. The list of attending bishops has not yet been published, but I will bet that very few of those at that meeting will have read the material listed in the first commendation of Lambeth 1.10, “the subsection report on human sexuality,” or will have followed through with the commitment to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons..” (sect.3)
And I wonder just who among the attending bishops holds to Resolution 72 of Lambeth 1988, reaffirmed by the Windsor Report, that “it is deemed inappropriate behavior for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.” If there is any primatial authority at all over the episcopate within a province, surely it includes the reception of certificates of election that satisfy the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church and in turn accepting or ordaining that elected person and entering that persons name in the roster of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.
So, how many of the Bishops attending this meeting in Texas are committed to a rejection of interference by other Provinces in the life of the Episcopal Church via bishops who exercise “oversight” of parishes here without the permission of diocesans, or who open missions in the US without permission of the Primate or the governance of the Episcopal Church. As far as I know Bishop Wimberly has not deemed it necessary to speak out against the ordination of Bishop Minns for work in the US. In fact there has been resounding silence on this matter from almost all the bishops.
The Bishops at the Texas Meeting come agreeing “that the response of ECUSA’s General Convention to the Windsor Report does not go far enough, and the intent to find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired.” It will be interesting to see just how this group of bishops, meeting without lay or clerical input and outside the bounds of the General Convention or the Executive Council will propose to “find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired.” The only way to do that is to decide to operate outside the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church and its governing structures. Are the bishops meeting in Texas willing to do that?
And now the Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
And, just to round out the whole thing, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written a Pastoral Letter to the Primates. Towards the end of that letter he says, about work on an Anglican Covenant, “I hope, as I wrote earlier, that this will be a major and serious focus for the Lambeth Conference, and the work now commissioned will be a vital task in preparation for the Conference.”
So the Lambeth Conference, which the Archbishop earlier stated will not take up again the issue of Human Sexuality, will instead take up an Anglican Covenant. Interestingly enough, the small group from the Standing Committee (two bishops and two lay persons) working on a response to General Convention’s actions, is working on the assumption that
“it is clear that the Communion as a whole remains committed to the teaching on human sexuality expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and also that the recommendations of the Windsor Report have been widely accepted as a basis for any progress in resolving the tensions that trouble us. As a Communion, we need to move forward on the basis of this twofold recognition.”
The Archbishop later says, “My earlier observations – building on the Windsor Report - on the possibility of a Covenant have on the whole been received with sympathy, and the work on this continues.”
That is, the working group is affirming what the Texas meeting of bishops also affirms. It means that the work leading up to the Primates Meeting will be based on the “twofold recognition” of ‘agreements’ clearly not agreed to by the Episcopal Church’s governing bodies. There is the rub.
The deck is stacked and the game is in play and there is no question at all that the Archbishop has determined that “as a whole” and “widely accepted” are good enough for determining that work will go forward without any discussion of Lambeth 1.10, the actual value of the Windsor Report or the advisability of an Anglican Covenant. Each have already been determined by the Archbishop to have the approval of any and every organization of the Anglican Communion.