Updated 6:30 a.m.
Updated again at 8:39 a.m. to include Archbishop Aspinall
As the bishops are returning to their dioceses after meeting in New Orleans, many of them are writing letters about what transpired during the meeting and what the next steps might be.
Let's begin with Archbishop Aspinall of the Province of Australia who is on the Joint Standing Committee. In addition he was media briefer and a key player at Dar Es Salaam. A press release issued from the province media office is positive:
"I believe that the House of Bishops has responded positively to all the requests put to them by the Primates in our Dar es Salaam communique. Certainly they have responded to the substance of those requests.
“I would now like the time to undertake careful analysis of the House of Bishops response but my initial reaction based both on my preliminary reading of the document itself and on my first hand conversations with many of the Bishops involved is that the House has responded positively to the substance of all the requests made by the Primates,” said Dr Aspinall.
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has in turn called on the rest of the communion to acknowledge the requests made of it in Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor report.
The Primate of Australia said these are issues that are important and need to be taken up.
These include issues of listening to gay people in the life of the church and stopping outside intervention in the United States.
Bishop Breidenthal (Southern Ohio), one of the eight bishops who wrote the statement, believes the meeting and the Response were shaped by the conversations of the bishops with their Anglican Communion guests. He concludes,
What our guests were asking of us was clarity about two things: (1) the bishops’ interpretation of B033, the 2006 General Convention resolution regarding the election of partnered gay bishops, and (2) the bishops’ current approach to the blessing of same-sex unions. The statement that we produced is our attempt to answer those two questions succinctly and transparently. We have said nothing new. Those who were dissatisfied with B033 for going too far or not going far enough will be equally dissatisfied with the present statement.
Bishops Lillibridge and Reed of the Diocese of West Texas, considered "Windsor Bishops" explain in their letter why a "minority report" is not expected from this meeting:
"[S]ome have asked why the Windsor Bishops have not issued a ‘minority report.’ After various conversations, we decided to wait for the response to this statement from those who asked the questions. Over the past several years, the Windsor group has met numerous times. We have issued signed statements, minority reports, principles, etc… and the prevailing view is simply to hear the response to our response. Another minority report isn’t going to have much effect at this point. If the House’s response is deemed inadequate, there will be an effort to gather a significant number of bishops to discuss the next steps. This gathering would likely be larger than previous Windsor gatherings."
From here (Hat tip to Covenant-Communion)
Bishop Jelinek of the Diocese of Minnesota writes in part of his concerns about how the statement will be received:
Will there be reactivity to this Response? Is the sun likely to rise again tomorrow? Watch and listen, but first of all measure your own reactions and re-read those passages or phrases to which you most strongly react. Upon second or third reading, do you hear them the same way? If so, that is worth pursuing in conversation in your congregation or with your clergy group. If not, it is worth reflecting on what this touched (or even triggered) in you. We need to be aware that in times of tension like this, our fears and anxieties are likely to be near the surface, more easily unsettled.
The big picture is that we are considering matters that are not about winning or losing, but of discernment and meaning and within relationships. Where is the Holy Spirit leading the Christian Church and leading humanity? How do we identify the marks of the Holy Spirit in what feels like a progression, in comparison with the spirit of the age we live in? Most especially, how do we do this within timewhen we do not yet have the luxury of looking back at the past where we sometimes have more clarity? Some argue that this is precisely why we must go very slowly, yet that seems more than unjust when people are suffering. So, The Episcopal Church is moving forward while trying not to inflict more pain or to provoke more controversy.
At times like this I am most concerned about reaction without reflection, for in haste our reactions are usually determined by fear, particularly one of the following: the fear of losing or failing or losing out or losing one's touchstones and one's bearings. It seems to me that when we struggle with our inclusion we are most afraid of losing out, of not counting. And when something new comes along that seems so unusual, so different from the ways we have always seen the world and how we understand God's creativity, it seems that our experience is one of disorientation, the fear of losing our bearings. That seems to describe the church we live in today. No wonder there are tensions.
Bishop Wimberly of the Diocese of Texas talks about the next steps toward the end of his letter:
There is much still to do as we work together, and in communion, to repair the brokenness we experience today. I know that many people think we are going to reach a point when “we will all have to make a decision. ” I don’t see that point now or in the near future. I intend to continue to lead as I have lead. We are going to remain in the Episcopal Church, and we are going to remain in the Anglican Communion as a diocese. I don’t see any reason for this to be impossible.
Further, I refuse to see things in a manner that is either/or. I believe our strength and our unity are in our acceptance of a life lived with the both/and. We are both Episcopalians and Anglicans. We as Episcopalians both need our brothers and sisters across the Anglican Communion; and the Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Gray of Mississippi writes of his sense of a new way of working together that began to emerge in this meeting:
What I saw beginning to emerge for the first time was a vision of how we might be a church, as Bishop Charles Jenkins described, of one heart and two minds. We have much, much work to do to make that a reality, but in New Orleans I caught a glimpse of how it might work.