Our nominations for the passages of The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion Report on The Episcopal Church House of Bishops of Meeting in New Orleans include:
On same-sex blessings
(page 6 of the pdf):
The Episcopal Church has acknowledged in the past, however, that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions”. In answer to the way in which this resolution was understood in the Windsor Report, it has been said that this statement was to be understood descriptively of a reality current in 2003 and not as permissive, and the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion prior to the 75th General Convention (2006) specifically denied that it was intended to authorise such rites.
It needs to be made clear however that we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action, a qualification which is in line with the limits that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church places upon the bishops.
On this basis, we understand the statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans to have met the request of the Windsor Report in that the Bishops have declared “a moratorium on all such public Rites”19, and the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that the bishops should “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses” since we have their pledge explicitly in those terms.
The interpretation of the phrase: “the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority” will be hotly disputed. Does that constitute a prohibition? Is it opaque on purpose? Note also the phrase “On this basis” at the beginning of the last paragraph in the quotation.
Conclusion to Part One
By their answers to these two questions, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.
Obviously the breakaway right and the Primates aligned with Akinola will dispute this. Will others join them?
Regarding incursions by Primates of other provinces
(Page 11–the second sentence):
At Dar es Salaam, the primates sought to address these matters by proposing that The Episcopal Church turn to a particular group of bishops living and ministering within its life, who had publicly declared that they accepted both the standard of teaching expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and were unreservedly committed to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. In other words, the primates were indicating to those who felt alienated from the leadership of The Episcopal Church that there were identifiable bishops within The Episcopal Church able to meet the needs identified by the groups seeking alternative pastoral provision without the need for “foreign intervention”.
A pretty straightforward repudiation of the Peter Akinola/Henry Orombi/Benjamin Nzimbi/Emmanuel Kolini incursions that won’t sit well on the separatist right.
Support for Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s “episcopal visitors”
(Pages 11 and 12)
In her opening remarks to the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori indicated to the assembled bishops that she had appointed eight Episcopal Visitors. … We believe that these initiatives offer a viable basis on which to proceed. Bishop Jefferts Schori indicated that she deliberately left open and flexible the operation of the ministry of the Episcopal Visitors, believing that it was best for the visitor and the diocesan bishop concerned to work out an acceptable scheme. The Presiding Bishop laid down only two conditions: first, that such Episcopal visitors did not encourage dioceses or parishes to leave the Episcopal Church, and second, that the Episcopal Visitors would report occasionally to the Presiding Bishop. By leaving this ministry flexible for negotiation and development, we believe that the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties, could meet their needs.
Another blow to separatists.
We are dismayed as a Joint Standing Committee by the continuing use of the law courts in this situation, and request that the Archbishop of Canterbury use his influence to persuade parties to discontinue actions in law on the basis set out in the primates’ Communiqué.
A plea unlikely to be heard by either side, except when there is a tactical advantage in appearing to be the more peaceable party.
The Pastoral Council Scheme from Dar es Salaam is dead, but the Panel of Reference may be resurrected.
We believe that the House of Bishops is correct in identifying that the co-operation and participation of the wider Communion, in a way which respects the integrity of the American Province, is an important element in addressing questions of pastoral oversight for those seeking alternative provision. We also believe that a body which could facilitate such consultation and partnership would meet the intent of the Pastoral Council envisaged by the Primates in their Communiqué. We encourage all the Instruments of Communion to participate in a discussion with the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of The Episcopal Church to discern a way in which to meet both the intentions behind the proposals in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué and this statement by the House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury may wish to revisit the work and mandate of “The Panel of Reference” and to explore whether this body, or a reconstituted version of it, may have a part to play in this respect.
It is difficult to believe that the Committee sees potential in the PofR, which is disliked and mistrusted by left and right. The acknowledgment that the Pastoral Council Scheme, foisted on the world by the Anglican Communion Institute violated the integrity of a member province of the Communion is most welcome, however.
The flashpoint among flashpoints as far as the separatists are concerned
As a Joint Standing Committee, we do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them.
“In good conscience” is very, very strong language. And not to put too fine a point on it, on Page 15, the Committee quotes the previous Archbishop of Canterbury George’s Carey who wrote that the bishops consecrated for the Anglican Mission in America during his tenure were no bishops of the Anglican Communion, and in the following paragraph adds:
The current instances of consecrations which have been taking place in African Provinces with respect to “missionary initiatives” in North America would seem to fall into the same category. We understand that, in addition to contravening the authorities quoted above, the consecrations took place either without consultation with or even against the counsel of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
That’s enough for now. There is ample language in this document to trouble proponents of the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the sacramental life of the Church as well. More on that tomorrow.
Update: one member of the Joint Standing Committee who disagrees with this report has made his voice heard. Is it maybe just a little curious that Bishop Mouneer Anis could not get his comments to the writers of the Standing Committee report in time for inclusion, but was able to get them into the hands of the Times of London two hours after the report was published?