updated at 1:35 p.m. ET
By Jim Naughton
The Windsor Continuation Group today called for “the swift formation of a Pastoral Forum at a communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion.”
The forum's duties would consist primarily of advising the Archbishop of Canterbury and offering guidance to individual provinces when controversies arose involving the blessing of gay relationships, the consecration of an openly gay bishop, or cross border interventions by one province against another.
The group also recommended that the forum "offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken."
The continuation group is made up of four bishops and a retired cathedral dean, none of whom support the blessing of same sex relationships or the ordination of gays and lesbians to the clergy.
Bishop Clive Handford, the former primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, said he could not predict whether the composition of the group would effect the reception of its recommendations.
Handford stressed the preliminary nature of the document, referring to it as "observations" rather than a "report." He said he hoped it would help the Communion "to pull back, to draw breath, to take stock and to better dialog together as we go forward from here."
Handford said his group would incorporate the feedback it received from participants in the Lambeth Conference in the report it will present to the Anglican Consultation Conference which meets next May in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Asked whether the group expected Bishop Gene Robinson to resign, Handford said no. "We are just saying there shouldn't be any more."
Episcopal Church leaders who favor the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Anglican Communion differed on the the significance of recommendations.
One bishop said "the train is coming" and predicted that the Episcopal Church would eventually be forced to choose between full inclusion and membership in the Communion. Another said that the pastoral forum as currently recommended is a weak body that might easily go the way of the Panel of Reference, a failed body created to help resolve disputes within the Communion after the Primates Meeting at Dromantine. A third church leader said he thought the recommendations lacked support and might easily be modified or rejected after conservations within indaba groups.
Handford said that his group's early support for a Faith and Order Commission, contained in a document that criticized the capabilities of the Anglican Consultative Council and lauded those of the Primates Meeting had been misinterpreted by the media. The group was not in favor of a new "inquisition" he said, but merely supported a proposal to combine two existing commission into one.
Excerpts from the document:
We make the following suggestions for situations which might arise in different parts of the Communion:
the swift formation of a "Pastoral Forum" at Communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion. Such a Forum draws upon proposals for a Council of Advice (Windsor), a Panel of Reference (Dromantine), a Pastoral Council (Dar es Salaam) and the TEC House of Bishops' statement (Sept 20070 acknowleding a 'useful role for communion wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight.
The existence of such a forum might be included in the Covenant as a key mechanism to achieve reconciliation.
Part of the role of a forum might be for some of its members, having considered the theological and ecclesiological issues of any controversy or divisive action, to travel, meet and offer pastoral advice and guidelines in conflicted, confused and fragile situations. There is a precedent in the method of the Eames Commission in the 1980s.
The president of such a forum would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would also appoint its episcopal chair, and its members. The membership of the forum must include members from the Instruments of Communion and be representative of the breadth of the life of the Communion as a whole. Movement forward on this proposal must bear fruit quickly.
We believe that the Pastoral Forum should be empowered to act in the Anglican Communion in a rapid manner to emerging threats to its life, especially through the ministry of its chair who should work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury in the exercise of his ministry.
The Forum would be responsible for addressing those anomalies of pastoral care arising in the Communion against the recommendations of the Windsor Report. It could also offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken.
We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own province, but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintan their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion.
The proliferation of ad hoc episcopal and archepiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global communion. We recommend that the pastoral forum develop a scheme in which existing ad hoc jurisdictions could be held "in trust" in preparation for their reconciliation within their proper provinces. Such a scheme might draw on models derived from religious life (the relationship of religious orders to the wider Church) family life (the way in which the extended family can care for children in dysfunctional nuclear families) or from law (where escrow accounts can be created to hold monies in trust for their rightful owner on completion of certain undertakings. Ways of halting litigation must be explored, and perhaps the escrow concept could even be extended to have some applicability here.)
Anglican Journal covers this here.