The Mind of the House Revealed

The House of Bishops meets regularly between sessions of the General Convention and they can conduct some business specific to the House. Occasionally this takes the form of statements that express the "Mind of the House." This week, at Camp Allen, they have revealed the mind of the house in three quite remarkable ways.

Some time ago Bishop Paul Marshall commented that the Archbishop of Canterbury seemed unwilling to meet with the Bishops of the Episcopal Church but quite willing to meet with the small minority of bishops and others who objected to the actions taken by The Episcopal Church. He asked when the ABC was going to meet with the majority of the bishops of this Church.

So here is the "Mind of the House" on the matter:

To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates' Standing Committee:

We, the Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Camp Allen, Navasota, Texas, March 16-21, 2007, have considered the requests directed to us by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in the Communiqué dated February 19, 2007.

Although we are unable to accept the proposed Pastoral Scheme, we declare our passionate desire to remain in full constituent membership in both the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church.

We believe that there is an urgent need for us to meet face to face with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates' Standing Committee, and we hereby request and urge that such a meeting be negotiated by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury at the earliest possible opportunity.

We invite the Archbishop and members of the Primates' Standing Committee to join us at our expense for three days of prayer and conversation regarding these important matters.

Adopted March 20, 2007

The House of Bishops

The Episcopal Church

Spring Meeting 2007

Camp Allen Conference Center

Navasota, Texas

The invitation is coupled with notice that a majority of the bishops are unable to accept the proposed Pastoral Scheme. So the need to talk is now urgent. The Archbishop has been about the business of putting together a list of nominations for the slots on the proposed Pastoral Scheme. It would appear that he was acting too quickly. It's time to talk face-to-face.

The Bishops also produced a second short statement addressed to the Executive Council which advises the Executive Council not to go forward with the Pastoral Scheme. Here they said,

Mind of the House of Bishops Resolution Addressed to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

Resolved, the House of Bishops affirms its desire that The Episcopal Church remain a part of the councils of the Anglican Communion; and

Resolved, the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church is determined solely by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church; and

Resolved, the House of Bishops believes the proposed Pastoral Scheme of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of February 19, 2007 would be injurious to The Episcopal Church and urges that the Executive Council decline to participate in it; and

Resolved, the House of Bishops pledges itself to continue to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates that are compatible with our own polity and canons.

Adopted March 20, 2007

The House of Bishops

The Episcopal Church

Spring Meeting 2007

Camp Allen Conference Center

Navasota, Texas

It is a relief to see the House affirm what a number of us have contended for a long time, namely that the Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church is not available as a proof text that we are defined by our relationship to the Anglican Communion. They say, "the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church is determined solely by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church." That's it. So much for the plea of the Anglican Communion Network and others to the contrary.

It is interesting that they toss the matter of the Pastoral Scheme over to Executive Council. That Scheme, as spelled out by the Primates, did not engage the Executive Council at all, except in so far as it needed to be funded. The Primates, in an amazing failure to understand the polity of this Church, simply assumed that its schemes should be addressed to the bishops of The Episcopal Church and that the scheme could simply be overlaid on the generous offer of the Presiding Bishop (current and past) to consider a Primatial Vicar. The Bishops rightly addressed Executive Council and affirmed the polity of this Church that makes decisions to engage such a scheme a matter for representatives of all orders.

The third posting from the House of Bishops is a longer epistle, a "Statement from the House of Bishops." More analysis on this later, but right off the bat it is filled with important and interesting feistiness. It would appear that a majority of the bishops have found a voice, and that voice is standing more clearly in support of a Church that is making important vocational choices. They are also clear that their intention is to continue working with and being part of the life of the Communion in whatever way is possible. The actions of some of the Primates in constantly rejecting the efforts of The Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of this Church have finally been addressed, and the conclusion is this:

"At the meeting of our House of Bishops at Camp Allen, Texas in March, 2004 we adopted a proposal called Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight as a means for meeting the pastoral needs of those within our Church who disagreed with actions of the General Convention. Our plan received a favorable response in the Windsor Report. It was not accepted by the Primates. At our meeting in March 2005, we adopted a Covenant Statement as an interim response to the Windsor Report in an attempt to assure the rest of the Communion that we were taking them seriously and, at some significant cost, refused to consecrate any additional bishops whatsoever as a way that we could be true to our own convictions without running the risk of consecrating some that would offend our brothers and sisters. Our response was not accepted by the Primates. Our General Convention in 2006 struggled mightily and at great cost to many, not the least of whom are our gay and lesbian members, to respond favorably to the requests made of us in the Windsor Report and the Primates' Dromantine Communiqué of 2005. We received a favorable response from the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates, which found that our effort had substantially met the concerns of the Windsor Report with the need to clarify our position on the blessing of same sex relationships. Still, our efforts were not accepted by the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué.

Other Anglican bishops, indeed including some Primates, have violated our provincial boundaries and caused great suffering and contributed immeasurably to our difficulties in solving our problems and in attempting to communicate for ourselves with our Anglican brothers and sisters. We have been repeatedly assured that boundary violations are inappropriate under the most ancient authorities and should cease. The Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 did so. The Windsor Report did so. The Dromantine Communiqué did so. None of these assurances has been heeded. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué affirms the principle that boundary violations are impermissible, but then sets conditions for ending those violations, conditions that are simply impossible for us to meet without calling a special meeting of our General Convention.

It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."

The whole of this statement is a powerful voice at a time when powerful voice is needed. Read it all HERE.

I look forward to the report as to the breath of support for these three messages. I understand that several of the Anglican Communion Network bishops have been absent for the whole of the Meeting and others, specifically the Moderator, have pledged only to be present to make their reports. So I suspect that the core six or seven diocesians of the Network group were absent from the discussion and votes on these documents.

The Mind of the House may be clearer these days, for one reason or another. The Mind of the House is certainly clearer than the Mind of the Primates.

I hope the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates Steering Committee will meet with our House of Bishops as soon as possible.


  1. This is such incredibly good news. I too wish I knew how the voting went.

  2. I have never been more proud to be an Episcopalian as I am today. And to have served with some pretty gutsy bishops in my scant eight years as a priest. Aren't these documents just beautifully and clearly written? Wow.

    Glad to have you back, Mark, and kind of ashamed to have forgotten you are entitled to a life outside blogland. Bless you.

  3. maybe they haven't just found a voice but a spine (and maybe some cojones)?

    I like the invite they gave the ABC -- "please come, and we'll even pay the airfare." I wonder if +Williams will respond in the affirmative or will he just blow it and us off again?

  4. I too am very proud to be an Episcopalian today. This was clear, to the point, and most importantly, Christian. They said what needed to be said. I had not expected such a stand to be taken here and now. Very good news today.

  5. YAY! and YAY!

    If ++Rowan comes, I'll be shocked.

    But, I love the way he was invited. Basically, he'll look like an ass no matter what he does now. Sadly, he brought this upon himself - he could have been proactive, and visited on his own terms far earlier. Oh well. Live and learn.

  6. I think he will come. I've been enormously disappointed with him lately, and I think his shortcomings as a leader have pointed to shortcomings in his theology that I have always suspected were there. He remains one of the smartest human beings alive and a real gift to any theological conversation he chooses to partake in. One of the most painful things in all this has been watching what it has done to Rowan Williams. If he can manage to come to a place where he feels he can speak in his own voice again (rather than repeating what the "standard of teaching is", it will be an enormous blessing to him and to Anglican Christians everywhere.

  7. So I wonder, is this it? Will there be any other formal communication between now and the deadline?

    I noticed that they firmly rejected the pastoral scheme and backhandedly (?) discussed gay blessings and bishops by affirming our equality.

    Is that where it is going to be left or will that be addressed in another resolution?

  8. Fr. Mark,

    Every once in a while, we are actually able to say no to the bullies. Praise God!


  9. A very satisfying statement. Can't remember another one coming from our leadership that has been so.

    Clarity, without rancor, without pandering, and acknowledging the truth of our stand.

    We have some great bishops for a trying time.

  10. A grace-filled response to a spirit of maliciousness. The best gift I could have received on the anniversary of my ordination.

  11. Mumcat,

    I think it will be very hard for the ABC to avoid this invitation. Especially when he's met with Duncan et al several times, we're told.

    Yes, this is a good evening for the church, I think.


  12. What a relief!


  13. The bishop's said "At the same time, we understand that the present situation requires intentional care for those within our Church who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the actions of our General Convention. "
    Mark, Any idea of what this intentional care might be? is there any hope for the minority in TEC?

  14. Gosh... I've not been feeling very proud about being an Anglican, in a part of the (part) Global South but I now am glad of this heritage because of what the TEC bishops did.

  15. The TEC walks apart with KJS at the head. That certainly is a house divided. She called for B033, a "season of fasting", primatial vicar, signed Tanzania communique, etc. Now that the TEC has rejected the AC, will KJS be next?

  16. Not much to add to the comments by Bill, Lois, Dennis and Marc (happy anniversary, Marc!), I too am even more proud to be a 'Pisky today.

    It appears that the HoB has provided the clarity we have all sought after the murkiness and confusion left behind by B033. Their faith has produced the fruit of leadership without fear. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

  17. odabiahslope - I'm betting that there will be a PV (with some tweeks) similiar to the arrangement offered by the PB last fall.

  18. I applaud the clarity with which the bishops spoke even as I disagree with their decisions. This insures there will be a new Anglican presence in the US, recognized by and in full communion with Canterbury and the Global South. May God be merciful on you and on us.

  19. I too am pleased with the really "Episcopal" reply. It does chart a way to go beyond the 'either/or' type of rhetoric that we have been getting from the ultra-conservatives. In fact it is quite Lutheran: "Here we stand. We can do nothing more." Now they can take it or leave it. The responsibility for the maintenace of the Communion is theirs which it has been since this whole thing started. If they want to be the ones that pick up their marbles and go home, it is up to them. I would be unhappy if they chose to do that, but it would place the responsibility back where it belongs--on those who cannot live within the broadness of the Commnion.

  20. I think ++KJS emerges from this in a stronger position than before. She said from the start that she would carry the communiqué to the Executive Council and HOB with the expectation that they would have final say. They endorsed her position on the equality of gay people and women bishops and that one can't appeal to foreign oversight if you don't like the gender of your leader.

    I think the ABC has been considerably weakened by this rejection. It showed that he fundamentally miscalculated the depth of feelings about gays and women in the TEC and that it wasn't about to let a foreign ruler ride roughshod over its polity.

    He backed the TEC into a corner by going along with a changing understanding of the nature and authority of Lambeth Conferences and Primate's Meetings (both initially being conferences for dialogue and reflection rather than to issue binding dogma) and a harding interpretation of Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report in the expectation that the TEC would back down.

    You can't keep changing the rules during the games and expect everyone to keep playing. I just hope that the Bishops stand by this, without weakening and that my church in Canada follows through on the direction set by our Council of General Synod.

  21. Robert McLean MD PhD - you misunderstand the role of the PB. She is not an Archbishop, or a president for that matter, she merely presides over the polity of TEC (the decision making bodies). She may make recommendations - but she herself has made it clear from the get go that TEC might rightfully reject the requests. Such a rejection is not a rejection of her leadership, but a confirmation of our polity.

  22. For "important and interesting feistiness," backbones and even cojones, Bless ye the Lord.
    For finding their voices and using them in the service of others, Bless ye the Lord.
    For choosing to go where the spirit has led, Bless ye the Lord.
    For plunking us down on this blue spinning ball, hip Hip Hooray(I mean Bless ye the lord)! Etc... Etc... and so forth...
    Enjoy the day.

  23. According the Bishop Epting, the resolutions passed with large majorities -- according to Bishop Robinson, the second resolution (re: the ABC) was unanimous

  24. obadiah:

    You and I have agreed elsewhere that the recent report from the Panel of Reference regarding Florida was further endorsement of the basics of DEPO, with some suggested addition (the role of the "Designated Pastor," called by the Panel the "neighbour, neighbourly" bishop.) With the endorsement of DEPO by the Windsor Report, and this endorsement from the Panel, there's no reason DEPO couldn't be pursued, making use of input from those "Windsor Bishops" committed to be part of the "loyal opposition." Even an Assistant to the Presiding Bishop for the purpose could work under DEPO, as long as that person's authority is clearly subsidiary to that of the PB. The PB already has Suffragans; and while another Suffragan could not be elected without action of General Convention (I think the position would have to be defined in Canons), hiring an Assistant for the purpose could, I think, be done.

    Now, I'm sure those most determined to separate would not accept it as not "sufficiently strong" (i.e, independent of PB and General Convention). That doesn't mean it couldn't be offered in good faith within our own province and well within our own authority.

  25. "The Mind of the House is certainly clearer than the Mind of the Primates."

    This is an important point, Mark. Just because the Primates signed the most recent Communique does not mean all - or even most - of them really thought it was a great plan. It means they thought it was the only consensus they could find at the time. Remember: Even our own Presiding Bishop signed it in order to keep the dialogue open.

    Speaking of which, the rather frank and thoughtful statement of the House of Bishops does not reflect any rejection of Bishop Jefferts Schori's leadership; it is a rejection of coercion and dysfunctional behavior in the Anglican Communion. I don't believe the majority of Primates or the other Instruments of Communion will ultimately decide in favor of institutional dysfunction by ejecting the Episcopal Church, but, if they do, they will have no one to blame but themselves for the results.

    Of course, even that could be remedied in future in a true spirit of Christian reconciliation and traditional Anglican unity in diversity.

  26. My birthday is coming up and this is the best birthday present I could have asked for!! Thank you to all our Bishops who have stood up for us!!!


  27. Surely this is a wonder. The HoB has spoken, and both sides applaud. For now the contest can be clearly decided: Augustine or Arius?

    A church can teach only one religion. A church can contain only one set of presuppositions. So it has always been inevitable that one side or the other in this dispute would be supressed. Only two questions remain: "Which side?" and "At what cost?"


  28. Knowing full well that people I love and respect will be dissappointed by this response from our bishops, I am joyful. This in my mind is an appropriate response to those who would fundamentally change the nature of anglicanism. This is an appropriate response to bullies, who would have us, as a Church, be something we are not, because they are offended by who we are and what we believe the Gospel to be.

    I am very sorry that they (Bishop Peter, et.al.) choose to separate from us. I am sorry that they choose to follow the letter of the Law rather than the spirit of the Law. I am sorry that they choose to ignore our Lord's commandment that we love one another as He has loved us; a love for which He stretched out his arms upon the cross to embrace us all, even those of us who crucified him.

    But mostly I am sorry for their departure for we need them as we need all our Christian sisters and brothers with their diversity of thought and opinion; just as they need us and our thoughts and opinions. The things that unite us to them (and them to us): the Dominical Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, are far more potent than the petty human power oriented squables that have shattered the Church over the centuries. But I suppose that it is part of our fallen nature to put our petty issues over our Lord's Sacraments.

    So I rejoice, but I pray for all of us who follow Jesus.

  29. Marshall,
    It may be that the PB or others will move swiftly on your plan, but the HoB statements seem very vague to me. Bishop Epting says it means that the Bishops are doubly determined to "reach out" to theoir dissidents. I simply don't know what this means.

  30. obadiah:

    Certainly, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Of course, only those who actually taste can offer proof. Those who won't taste because they dislike the look can't really speak with authority.

  31. "The PB already has Suffragans"

    This, I did not know!

    Deacon Charlie -- "they" are not following the letter of the law; rather, they are following the letter of the law that suits their purposes and completely ignoring the rest of the law that is problematic to them. I belive it's called 'cherry picking.'

    Not since the Civil Rights movement have i been as proud to be an Episcopalian. truly the Holy Spirit has spoken and 'God is working his purpose out.'


  32. Marshall,
    Well, there's no pudding as yet. So it is a bit early to debate who might taste it. I fear it may never come but i hope I am wrong.

  33. I don't have a copy of the Constitution, but I believe that the phrase in the Preamble about being a constituent member of the Anglican Communion is relatively recent. Historically TEC did not refer to the AC. Those who argue that the AC reference in the Preamble would trump our own national polity would seem to have little if any historical support for their side.

  34. Post sent by Ana, but not written by Ana (and no, I don't feel like Kendall H., but I thought of him)

    From Susan M-C:

    As an American woman present at the Philadelphia ordinations 30 years ago and now living in the Diocese of Jerusalem, this is a rare and privileged time to be an Anglican.
    Here on the East Bank (aka Jordan) the day to day situation on the ground is vastly different.The war and the "situation in the Middle East" here, ARE the local situations, not a faraway thought. Iraqi refugees are flooding this country,
    including many impoverished Iraqi Christians. The ancient Christian community of Iraq is all but gone, and likely permanently. Women are not full partners here by a long shot. Yet the sweet odor of inclusion is starting to perfume the air.

    PS: this is being posted for me by a friend in the US; the site has immoderately refused to take my comment to the moderator more than a few times. Can anyone help? My email (gulp) is millercoulters at gmail


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.