Last week’s report in the Church Times contained quotes from Bishop John Chane, of Washington DC. These came from his column in the September issue of Washington Window, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Washington. The full article by Bishop Chane is now on the web as a PDF file here.
Update The article is now also online as a web page here
The column is reproduced in full below the fold.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
By now you should be aware of the results of the Anglican Consultative Council Meeting held earlier this summer in Nottingham, England. At the request of the Primates, both delegations from Canada and the United States attended as observers rather than as voting participants. The Episcopal Church did so—on the authorization of its Executive Council—in order to keep peace in the Anglican family.
During the meeting, representatives of our church presented To Set Our Hope on Christ, a paper laying out the Scriptural rationale for our decision to consecrate a gay man to the episcopate and to authorize a “local option” for blessing same-sex relationships. The document, to my way of thinking, is honest and persuasive. In addition to explaining why our General Convention voted as it did, it also provides the Anglican Communion with an insight into our history as a Church created out of the newly formed United States following the American Revolution. Our style of governance—in which laity, clergy and bishops share decision-making power—is unique in the Anglican Communion.
The report provides a comprehensive index of the hard work the Episcopal Church has done in studying the cultural, theological and biblical aspects of human sexuality since the 1970s. This extensive work has been neither studied, nor, in many instances, even acknowledged by many of our Church’s critics. As a result, there is much misinformation afoot regarding the thoughtful, deliberate manner in which we arrived at these controversial decisions. This misinformation continues to divert much of the Episcopal Church’s physical and human resources from domestic and global mission imperatives that the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to embrace.
One very disturbing outcome of the ACC meeting in Nottingham was the Council’s decision to admit Primates to membership on the Council. To this point, the Anglican Communion has been held together by four “Instruments of Unity”: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting. We are not a Church dominated by a Curia of Primates and Bishops. And yet that seems to be the direction in which we are heading. This is fearful indeed given the rhetoric of some of the Primates claiming new authority for themselves. The well-balanced essence of Anglicanism, as it has been handed down through the ages, is now under attack by a few who presume to speak for many.
One of the most outspoken of this small group of men who presumes to speak for the entire global Communion is the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. Archbishop Akinola has almost single-handedly led the attack against the Episcopal and Canadian churches with his zealous pronouncements against homosexuality. More recently, he has set his sites on the Church of England.
This spring, the House of Bishops of the Church of England voted to allow gay clergy to register domestic partnerships as now permitted by British law. However, they required clergy who do so to pledge themselves to celibacy. Archbishop Akinola responded thusly:
“May I remind the Bishops of the Church of England that, when faced with similar decisions on the part of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, discipline was imposed. [Author’s note: No discipline has been imposed on either church, nor do any of the instruments of unity have the power to impose whatever discipline on member churches.] While I have great affection and respect for the historic role that the Church of England has played in our lives, no Church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity, and no church is beyond discipline. I call on the House of Bishops of the Church of England to renounce their statement and declare their unqualified commitment to the historic faith, teaching and practice of the Church. Failure to do so will only add to our current crisis. I am, by this statement, asking my brother Primates, their bishops and all the faithful in our Communion to remain calm in the face of this new provocation as we look forward to our next meeting.”
With the Archbishop’s reference that “no Church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity,” I must ask myself who has been left with the ultimate authority to interpret the teaching of the Bible? Certainly such important work has not been left up to the Archbishop of Nigeria alone. And if the Church is to really focus on the issues of the Bible’s teaching and the core teachings of Jesus Christ, why does this Archbishop spend so much time on human sexuality issues while so many of his countrymen and women are oppressed by poverty, illiteracy and violence? Where is the strong voice of the Nigerian Anglican Church in opposing the continued neglect of vulnerable women and children, or in advocating on behalf of the poorest of the poor? Jesus was very clear in his hard teachings that one could always tell the righteous from the damned by whether they lived into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger and visiting those who were in prison.
One thing I can say about the American Church and her bishops is that we take very seriously the teachings of Jesus. Our Church may be divided in painful ways about the issues of human sexuality and the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, but we are united in fighting poverty and hunger and are faithful in attempting to live into the mandates of Christ’s Gospel about radical hospitality extended to the least among us. When our government does not respond to the needs of the least among us, our Church, its laity, clergy and bishops respond. We work very hard at offering the resources available within our dioceses, whether they be large or small, to assist in eliminating hunger, disease, genocide and violence against women and children.
More recently, we have begun to respond to the mandate of our own Church and the larger Anglican Communion in meeting the challenges of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. We do these things in spite of our own internal divisions and we do them because of the challenge placed before us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I call upon all Primates, laity and bishops within our Communion and Archbishop Akinola in particular to do the same within their own Provinces and the larger Church. For Jesus has made it very clear to us all; “As you have done it to the least of these, so have you done it to me.” We are all under Judgment, but that judgment ultimately belongs only to God as we know him through Jesus Christ.
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington.