On first read, I could not help noticing that the Archbishop has at least finally put the cards on the table: The Episcopal Church is being examined, and the inquisitors are finally the Archbishop, his “working group” drawn from the Joint Committee of the ACC and Primates, and the Primates themselves as the body that will or will not back him up. It is unclear that we have done anything but give into this inquisition.
General Convention 2006 will go down in history, among other reasons, for the clarity with which the Church of England has attempted to exercise direct and indirect ecclesiastical colonial control. Various prelates of the Church of England have made interventions that would not be condoned in other synods of provinces of this communion.
- The Bishop of Durham published a criticism of the Episcopal Church and its response to the Windsor Report hours before the beginning of Convention.
- The Archbishop of York was a guest at Convention and spoke to both houses of Convention and gave testimony in hearings, and even spoke in the House of Bishops debates on the central resolutions.
- The Bishop of Rochester, England, preached at the American Anglican Council / Network Eucharist. The text of his sermon was widely available. It was astonishingly critical both of the Episcopal Church and the context in which most of our members live and work.
- The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon was a resource for interpretation between the Communion office and the Convention.
- And now it appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself was in touch with our Presiding Bishop adding to the pressure to come up with something with which the Archbishop could work.
It brought to mind a snippet of the Declaration of Independence, a document I fear very few English prelates will have read. Here it is:
“Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”
The Episcopal Church General Convention 2006 has tried its best to attend to the Windsor Report.
- We have paid more attention to Windsor as a Synod than any other province in the Communion, to the diminution of many important resolutions that came before Convention and could not be dealt with because of time.
- We have shamefully delayed the hopes of gay and lesbian church people for equality of access to office in this church and affirmation of holiness of life as practiced by faithful and committed partners in order to "stay at the table."
- We have broken the normal covenants of the separation of powers within the governance of the Episcopal Church in order to respond as well as we are able.
- We have seen a break in the trust between the two houses of our Synod, due in no small part to the pressures felt by our episcopal leadership from Primatial forces elsewhere in the Communion.
- We have allowed our agenda to be usurped by an unclear but pervasive agenda of fear, one due not to our internal divisions alone but due to divisions within the Church of England and between the Anglican Communion, represented in the Archbishop of Canterbury, and provinces of the Communion.
- We have allowed minority factions of the Episcopal Church to dictate the terms of the current conflict to the detriment of our mission in the world and the legitimate concerns of conservatives and progressives alike.
- We have above all taken the brokenness of the Communion and our own Church and re-imaged it as the fault of gay and lesbian Christians.
I have argued that there is every reason to want to be part of the Anglican Communion as a companionship within the Christian Community. That argument still stands. But the inference from the Archbishop’s article and letter makes it clear that in terms of the current mess, we are a naughty reminder of independence, where dependence is the fact (no invitation, no attendance) and interdependence the desire (strangely implying power transferring to some other place no less distant from the Communion we all seek, namely with Christ the Lord.)
I look forward to the workings of the “working group.” But unless these advisors are willing to take seriously the contextual situation, namely that the Episcopal Church is not an appendage of some ecclesial equivalent of the British Commonwealth, but rather a free and independent people willing and desirous of companions in faith, the road ahead will be bumpy indeed.