Can these bones live?

The Primates Communiqué has eviscerated and desiccated whatever the Anglican Communion had become in the minds of those promoting a "four instruments" model of common life and communal discipline. The dry and convoluted meanderings of that document have produced nothing but destruction. Now there are the bare bones of the Anglican Communion "idea" strewn about on the creek bed - but there is no generous flood, nothing blooms. There is nothing that lives.

The Primates in their meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, demanded a number of things of the Episcopal Church. Demand is not too strong a word, since concerning two of those matters a specific date for response is required. Here is what the Communiqué put to the Episcopal Church:

  1. That we reassure the Primates that "there is a genuine readiness in the Episcopal Church to embrace fully the recommendations of the Windsor Report." In particular that means affirming the "standard of teaching commanding respect across the Communion," i.e. Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
  2. That there be set in place a Covenant for the Anglican Communion.
  3. There be a "robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church in the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process."
  4. That The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church "make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention, (by September 30, 2007) and
  5. That The House of Bishops will confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent." (by September 30, 2007)

About (i) the matter of embracing fully the recommendations of the Windsor Report and Lambeth 1998, Res. 1.10, it might be useful to look back at Louie Crew's analysis of who of the bishops of the Episcopal Church voted for and against Lambeth 1.10, who signed off on the statement to "listen to" gay and lesbian members of the church, and those who were at Lambeth 1998 who might be at Lambeth 2008 (if there is one.)

There was in 1998 considerable reservation by bishops from the US about the resolution. The statement of support for gay and lesbian Christians was even more telling. But the Windsor Report, slowly turned into the instrument for the canonization of Lambeth 1.10 has become repugnant not because of its content alone, but because of the way in which it is promulgated. Windsor has killed Lambeth 1.10.

The "robust scheme" of pastoral oversight, has essentially been dismissed by the House of Bishops, by way of its recommendation to the Executive Council.

The "unequivocal common covenant" regarding blessings is either an impossibility, since at its best it would be a temporary covenant of a majority of bishops of this Church or an attempt to contravene the explicit understanding under the canons that bishops may authorize services not otherwise prohibited as need be.

The notion that the House of Bishops confirm Resolution B033 as meaning this or that, is essentially put to rest in the House of Bishops' statement that it is General Convention that determines just what the canons mean, and not the House of Bishops itself.

This leaves only item two: "That there be set in place a Covenant for the Anglican Communion."

There is no question that this is a live option. There is a great deal of question as to whether or not the draft Covenant proposed by the Covenant Drafting Committee is the text that the Communion will or ought adopt.

The Primates have almost done themselves in on this one: By maintaining that the draft covenant must be accepted in its broad outline if there is to be any reconciliation of the churches it has almost ended the discussion. In its broad outline the draft covenant commits this church to a variety of things that are most likely unacceptable. Further, this draft covenant is presented as an ultimatum: either The Episcopal Church commits itself to the basic structure of this covenant prior to Lambeth or suffer the consequences.

In reality the "ultimata" of this Communiqué are the five together: Lambeth 1.10, Covenant based on the draft, the Pastoral scheme, the end of blessings, and the assurance of non-consent to the ordination of a gay bishop in relationship. That is, I think, the honest read of the Communiqué.

But of course we regular paid up Episcopalians are under no obligation to read it this way. The House of Bishops and Executive Council can correct the misunderstanding regarding polity. The HoB and the Executive Council can continue discussions about an Anglican Covenant without buying into the proposition that we must accept the broad outlines of the proposed covenant.

But what then of the dry bones of the Anglican Communion that are left?

Some have suggested that the draft Anglican Covenant is so flawed that it should be dropped all together, and that because such a Covenant is seen finally as a basis for judgment, NO such covenant should be developed. I think that is premature. A reassertion of the Lambeth Quadrilateral as a common basis for reunion and covenant might make sense. The Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism document, "A Covenant for Communion in Mission" might be a starting point for other ways of seeing our common concern. We do not have to do what the Primates propose simply because a "Draft" has been written by a committee responsible only to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Others have suggested that the Lambeth Conference ought to be called off. I think that is an interesting idea, but premature. I still believe the Archbishop of Canterbury should invite all the bishops of all the provinces of the churches with which the Church of England is in communion. Those who wish to will come. Those who will not will stay away. But he should invite ALL. Any attempt to invite only some of the bishops from The Episcopal Church ought to be met by a studied and clear abstention of all the bishops of The Episcopal Church. If invitation is only to the clean, those who go will be the dirty. Still, it's his party; he can do what he wants to. But picking and choosing will be unhealthy for us all and a thundering condemnation of his role as an instrument of unity.

The absolute worst scenario is for the Archbishop of Canterbury to give over to the Primates or any other "instruments of communion" the authority to invite.

The Primates Communiqué has produced dry bones: Not a single one of its demands of the Episcopal Church are sustaining, meaty, nourishing, and flourishing. They are dry, desiccated, eviscerated.

It is time to put new meat on the bones, new sinew, new flesh, and new skin. The Anglican Communion is alive and well, but not there, in the abstract land of primatial discussion groups gone awry.

The Anglican Communion is alive in mostly lowly places. We in the Episcopal Church have friends, companions, and fellow travelers all over the world. They are in places we least expect. The Archbishop of Nigeria may be opposed to us, but people on the ground will make relationship with companions in faith wherever they may be found. The Church in Uganda may stand opposed to our stance on inclusion, but there are people there as here who will find ways and means to relate to people here.

The principle here is simple: Love will find a way. All of this dry humbug of the Primates Communiqué cannot win. The reality is too important: In Christ Jesus, love will find a way.

The bones will rise; grow sinew, flesh, and skin. It may well be that the Anglican Communion is sloughed off like old dead skin. But the bones, ah, the bones will live.

And dance.


  1. "Windsor has killed Lambeth 1.10." No - TEC's decision to thumb its nose at Lambeth 1.10 killed it and led to escalating calls to TEC to repent. Take ownership of and responsiblity for your actions. Intransigence and a disregard for inter-dependence has brought us to the edge of the abyss. The AC has bones, sinews, muscle and flesh enough to bear witness to the Truth. It remains to be seen if there is anything left in TEC other than dry bones.

  2. Mark---as my Year 1 EFM group prepares to do Ezekiel this week, I will be sharing your comments with them.

    We have spent some time this year talking about the Current Unpleasantness--I appreciate your linking things in a way that will expand and enlarge their perception of how the Bible is related to the ways we act out our faith.

  3. Yes, thank you Fr. Harris, the bones are dry, picked over and picked clean...there is no place to hide...Amen and a Thanks be to God

    Leonardo Ricardo

  4. "No - TEC's decision to thumb its nose at Lambeth 1.10 killed it and led to escalating calls to TEC to repent" Dan

    Ah yes, "repent" to "suggested" immoral and feardriven proclamation from a group of puritan bishops who railroaded a resolution into *being* because the former ABC had a lapse in leadership skill/judgement (while having a live gavel in his shifty hands)...repent from intended mob violence against fellow Christians/Anglicans?

    No, I'll pass. because

    The "hijacked" resolution that is only a suggestion in the first place is not GODS "will" for everyone else (nor even a truly ethical consideration)!

    The buzzards have been picking at the flesh of fellow Christians for a very long time but we ain't dead yet!

    Leonardo Ricardo

  5. As I've stated on other blogsites before, when we take off our statistician's spectacles and actually look at what is there on the ground, what we find is anything but a dying church.
    Certainly the Episcopal congregations that I've attended over the last 25 years are considerably smaller than the Methodist congregations of my Texas childhood. However, in 1965 Texas, people felt obliged to go to church whether they believed (my grandmothers) or not (my parents). Today, I see smaller congregations of people happy to be there, and far more involved in all aspects of parish life than that large glum crowd of 40 years ago sitting through the summer heat in wool suits waiting for Sunday dinner.
    I think Mark is spot on about where the Church and Anglicanism in its truest form will continue to live; on the ground between individuals and not in primatial conferences. I think that this has always been the case. The people who so bitterly hate the Episcopal Church, yet cannot bring themselves to leave it for more like-minded denominations must eventually find their own accomodation or a new church.

  6. Thank you for this post. Thinking clearly and speaking clearly about the issues in which the Anglican Communion is currently immersed is vital to the effort to move forward, and I deeply appreciate the time and energy devoted to such a mindful response.
    Aware as I am that I, as all of us, see but through a glass darkly, I struggle to wrap my head around
    some of these points in relation to my understanding--which I freely admit must be flawed and
    incomplete--of the foundations of Anglican tradition.

    Point the First: The Church of England, at its inception, was born of the belief that national church must determine national ecclesiastical polity. Specifically, the belief that it was inappropriate for the Bishop of Rome to have absolute command over the Christian duty of what was believed to be the divinely ordained monarch in England. Yes, it's fun laugh about Henry VIII and his incredibly flawed humanity, but the urgency of preventing another hundred years of civil war in Britain by providing an acceptable male heir to the throne was deadly serious. England had been decimated by decades of wars over primogeniture. Henry's misguided misogyny notwithstanding--a misogyny shared, by the way, by the
    Pope himself--he believed himself to have been ordained by God to protect the nation from further
    internal bloodshed and ruin; and to overlook the pressure on the Pope by the Spanish crown to preserve
    Catherine of Aragon as queen, when the Spanish crown was financing the protection of the Catholic Church
    in France from the continued assaults of French Hugenots, is to rewrite history.
    National church must determine national ecclesiastical polity. This is the Anglican tradition.

    Point the Second: The Church of England, in its earliest formation, had no papacy and no curia. This was deliberate. Thomas Cranmer did not simply forget to create these institutions, nor did his fellows simply fail to get around to it. It seems to me that certain members of the current incarnation of the Anglican Communion would like to establish the Archbishop of Canterbury as a parallel pope, and to establish a parallel curia with the power to enforce top-down ecclesiastical polity while calling it "doctrine."

    Point the Third: Since the time of the Elizabethan Settlement (so much for Henry's fears that a woman could never be a strong monarch!), Anglican unity has been founded in our common prayer. The proposal that we should institute any newly-formed "instrument of unity" strikes at the heart of our Anglican tradition. It directly contradicts the theology of Richard Hooker and William Law, to name just two, and is much more related to Puritanism--which, you may recall, ended up breaking off from the Church.
    The Book of Common Prayer is not Scripture; but it is firmly grounded in Scripture. Anglican tradition teaches us that liturgy provides a way for people to begin to come together-—to pray together, even when they cannot bring themselves to speak to one another. This, I believe, is one of the greatest gifts of the Anglican way: our understanding of liturgy as the corporate act of the community of faith, of our common prayer as the way we begin and continue becoming the Body of Christ.

    In 1886, the Anglican primates meeting at Lambeth issued a statement which said, among other things, that “Scripture is the rule and ultimate standard of faith.” However one understands Scripture, it was and is and must be the starting point and the touchstone of all Anglican Christian decision-making. Scripture. Not a formulary constructed by a committee of primates. And yes, of course this means that faithful Christians will disagree with one another about what Scripture is saying. Of course it means that living together in fellowship will be challenging, and difficult, and sometimes wretchedly painful. Where in the world did anyone ever get the idea that a Christian life of living the Gospel in community would be easy?

    There are many faithful Christians of traditions other than the Anglican one. If some of our brothers and sisters in Christ want to form a union based on a top-down, papal structure requiring allegiance to a curial system and a covenant statement, they are free to do so and I wish them God's peace as we all, in our various traditions, continue to walk the pilgrim's way. It's just that it is not Anglican, and all the rhetoric and posturing and grand gestures in the world cannot make it so.

    My brothers and sisters, let us please, please remember the basics:
    --The head of the Church is Jesus Christ. No one else.
    --All baptized persons are ministers of the Church. There is no "passing the buck" of this call to someone else higher up and farther away.
    --The Anglican instrument of unity is our common prayer.
    --Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation.
    --For Christians, the command to love is absolute.

    The Peace of the Risen Christ be with all of us, always.

    yours in the struggle,

  7. Dan,

    I wish this entire mess were all about theological differences, but the more I look into the current Goings On in our Communion, the more I am convinced this is not about biblical purity or right living or even about what it means to be an Anglican.

    This is all about money and power, plain and simple.

    If there is any argument about sexuality to be had whatsoever it is not just about gay people, it is about anyone who is not a heterosexual male.

    To be sure, the devil is laughing with glee at all of us.

  8. Anonymous who signs himself Dan said: "TEC's decision to thumb its nose at Lambeth 1.10 killed it and led to escalating calls to TEC to repent."

    Interesting perspective.

    I suppose it matters not a whit that the "conservatives" have been every bit as energetic the the thumbing of noses.

    Care to share anything about how marvellously and diligently the Prince Bishops in Nigeria have listened to the experience of homosexual persons? After all, that was every bit as much a part of 1.10.

    The idea that only the "liberals" have defied either 1.10 or Windsor is just self-serving propaganda from those who would hand the North American church over to the hegemony of foreign prelates.

  9. the idea that north america is currently the victim of any kind of hegemony is just beyond belief. you have got to be kidding me. the rest of the world does not dominate us. we dominate them. plain and simple.

  10. 1. I don't assume that all provinces of the AC have complied with the "listening" component of Lambeth 1.10.
    2. I have asked here and elsewhere the same question: What does a listening process entail? I have listened to the stories of gay and lesbian men and women. I have heard the theoligical arguments they and their supporters use to justify a change in teaching about human sexuality. I have met, and I recognize that there are many gays and lesbians with gifts and talents for ministry of all kinds. Now what? None of what I have seen, heard or experienced leads me to conclude that TEC can support the blessing of same sex union, support for same sex marriages or the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian Christians.
    3. So where does that leave us? I don't see any way that those two different and opposing views and understandings can reamin yoked together. I am not happy about it. I am not gleeful over an impending split. I also thoroughly disagree that this has more to do with money and power than it does with theology and morality.
    4. Does "listening" mean that we stay where we are and support, spritually and financially, program and teaching that we find morally repugnant? Personally, I feel the object of a huge propaganda - an effort that I see as inimical to my family's and our society's spiritual welfare. Could I be wrong? Yes - that is possible but if listening means being barraged, day in and day out, with a message I believe is rooted in culture and not Scripture, that ain't going to happen.
    5. So I ask again - What does "listening" entail? And what is a "listening process?" The Global South Bishops have listened to all that TEC has offered to support its actions. What "stories" do they need to hear that they have not heard? That there are gifted and talented gays and lesbians? Admitted. That they are children of God made in His image? Admitted. That they can fe faithful to their partners? Admitted. How do we get past the Biblical issue? What new stories are going to be told that will make them doubt the Scriptural injunction?

  11. Dan,
    We do not "get past the Biblical issue." We have differing understandings of what the Bible is saying. You use the term "the Biblical injunction," but that understanding depends upon not only a specific interpretation but also some significant extrapolation of the actual words. Interpretation and extrapolation are not wrong in and of themselves; in fact, they are necessary in order to make meaning of most of Scripture (the parables, to give the most painfully obvious example). But it's problematic to equate my interpretation/extrapolation with the inviolate Word of God.
    In response to your questions 2 and 5, I would suggest that "Listening" entails, among other things, a willingness to at least be willing to entertain the notion that those with whose understanding of Scripture we disagree do take Scripture seriously, do read and study Bible prayerfully and mindfully, and do, humbly and with God's help, strive to live according to God's Word as it is revealed in both Scripture and in the flesh of our living Savior Jesus Christ.
    Peace and grace to you, my brother, in our Lord Jesus Christ.
    yours in the struggle,

  12. postscript: it might behoove us all to have some care with terms like "the Global South." Not all provinces south of the equator are in agreement with one another--South Africa and El Salvador come immediately to mind.
    yours in the struggle,

  13. Anon/Dan,

    Your position makes NO sense whatsoever to me.

    You say "That there are gifted and talented gays and lesbians? Admitted."

    Now I assume all these "gifted" gays and lesbians are NOT all celibate? That some are happily partnered?

    None of what I have seen, heard or experienced leads me to conclude that TEC can support the blessing of same sex union, support for same sex marriages or the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian Christians.

    Where do you think these gifts are coming from, the Santa at the mall?

    Or is there no Third Person in your trinity?

    How do we get past the Biblical issue? What new stories are going to be told that will make them doubt the Scriptural injunction?

    Hint: follow the Holy Spirit!

    Where there are gifted Christians, there is the Holy Spirit. Period. (Same-sex marital status is apparently no bar!)

    If the Holy Spirit can get around your (so-called) "Biblical injunction", then so can the Church.

    The Holy Spirit blesses, the Church merely pronounces (and if the ministers be silent, the stones themselves will cry out!).

    LET the Church be the Church: following Holy Spirit as She blesses, NOT *dictating* to Her what she may not bless.


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.