Thinking Anglicans

full text of American bishops statement

For context see here.

A Statement from the House of Bishops – March 20, 2007

We, the Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting at Camp Allen, Navasota, Texas, for our regular Spring Meeting, March 16-21, 2007, have received the Communiqué of February 19, 2007 from the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We have met together for prayer, reflection, conversation, and listening during these days and have had the Communiqué much on our minds and hearts, just as we know many in our Church and in other parts of the world have had us on their minds and hearts as we have taken counsel together. We are grateful for the prayers that have surrounded us.

We affirm once again the deep longing of our hearts for The Episcopal Church to continue as a part of the Anglican Communion. We have gone so far as to articulate our self-understanding and unceasing desire for relationships with other Anglicans by memorializing the principle in the Preamble of our Constitution. What is important to us is that The Episcopal Church is a constituent member of a family of Churches, all of whom share a common mother in the Church of England. That membership gives us the great privilege and unique opportunity of sharing in the family’s work of alleviating human suffering in all parts of the world. For those of us who are members of The Episcopal Church, we are aware as never before that our Anglican Communion partners are vital to our very integrity as Christians and our wholeness. The witness of their faith, their generosity, their bravery, and their devotion teach us essential elements of gospel-based living that contribute to our conversion.

We would therefore meet any decision to exclude us from gatherings of all Anglican Churches with great sorrow, but our commitment to our membership in the Anglican Communion as a way to participate in the alleviation of suffering and restoration of God’s creation would remain constant. We have no intention of choosing to withdraw from our commitments, our relationships, or our own recognition of our full communion with the See of Canterbury or any of the other constituent members of the Anglican Communion. Indeed, we will seek to live fully into, and deepen, our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Communion through companion relationships, the networks of Anglican women, the Anglican Indigenous Network, the Francophone Network, our support for the Anglican Diocese of Cuba, our existing covenant commitments with other provinces and dioceses, including Liberia, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and the Philippines, our work as The Episcopal Church in many countries around the world, especially in the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Taiwan, and countless informal relationships for mission around the world.

Since our General Convention of 2003, we have responded in good faith to the requests we have received from our Anglican partners. We accepted the invitation of the Lambeth Commission to send individuals characteristic of the theological breadth of our Church to meet with it. We happily did so. Our Executive Council voluntarily acceded to the request of the Primates for our delegates not to attend the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham. We took our place as listeners rather than participants as an expression of our love and respect for the sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in the Communion even when we believed we had been misunderstood. We accepted the invitation of the Primates to explain ourselves in a presentation to the same meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. We did so with joy.

At the meeting of our House of Bishops at Camp Allen, Texas in March, 2004 we adopted a proposal called Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight as a means for meeting the pastoral needs of those within our Church who disagreed with actions of the General Convention. Our plan received a favorable response in the Windsor Report. It was not accepted by the Primates. At our meeting in March 2005, we adopted a Covenant Statement as an interim response to the Windsor Report in an attempt to assure the rest of the Communion that we were taking them seriously and, at some significant cost, refused to consecrate any additional bishops whatsoever as a way that we could be true to our own convictions without running the risk of consecrating some that would offend our brothers and sisters. Our response was not accepted by the Primates. Our General Convention in 2006 struggled mightily and at great cost to many, not the least of whom are our gay and lesbian members, to respond favorably to the requests made of us in the Windsor Report and the Primates’ Dromantine Communiqué of 2005. We received a favorable response from the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates, which found that our effort had substantially met the concerns of the Windsor Report with the need to clarify our position on the blessing of same sex relationships. Still, our efforts were not accepted by the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué.

Other Anglican bishops, indeed including some Primates, have violated our provincial boundaries and caused great suffering and contributed immeasurably to our difficulties in solving our problems and in attempting to communicate for ourselves with our Anglican brothers and sisters. We have been repeatedly assured that boundary violations are inappropriate under the most ancient authorities and should cease. The Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 did so. The Windsor Report did so. The Dromantine Communiqué did so. None of these assurances has been heeded. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué affirms the principle that boundary violations are impermissible, but then sets conditions for ending those violations, conditions that are simply impossible for us to meet without calling a special meeting of our General Convention.

It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God’s truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.

With great hope that we will continue to be welcome in the councils of the family of Churches we know as the Anglican Communion, we believe that to participate in the Primates’ Pastoral scheme would be injurious to The Episcopal Church for many reasons.

First, it violates our church law in that it would call for a delegation of primatial authority not permissible under our Canons and a compromise of our autonomy as a Church not permissible under our Constitution.

Second, it fundamentally changes the character of the Windsor process and the covenant design process in which we thought all the Anglican Churches were participating together.

Third, it violates our founding principles as The Episcopal Church following our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent of the Church of England.

Fourth, it is a very serious departure from our English Reformation heritage. It abandons the generous orthodoxy of our Prayer Book tradition. It sacrifices the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops. And, for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.

Most important of all it is spiritually unsound. The pastoral scheme encourages one of the worst tendencies of our Western culture, which is to break relationships when we find them difficult instead of doing the hard work necessary to repair them and be instruments of reconciliation. The real cultural phenomenon that threatens the spiritual life of our people, including marriage and family life, is the ease with which we choose to break our relationships and the vows that established them rather than seek the transformative power of the Gospel in them. We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division.

At the same time, we understand that the present situation requires intentional care for those within our Church who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the actions of our General Convention. We pledge ourselves to continue to work with them toward a workable arrangement. In truth, the number of those who seek to divide our Church is small, and our Church is marked by encouraging signs of life and hope. The fact that we have among ourselves, and indeed encourage, a diversity of opinion on issues of sexuality should in no way be misunderstood to mean that we are divided, except among a very few, in our love for The Episcopal Church, the integrity of its identity, and the continuance of its life and ministry.

In anticipation of the traditional renewal of ordination vows in Holy Week we solemnly declare that “we do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and we do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.” (Book of Common Prayer, page 513)

With this affirmation both of our identity as a Church and our affection and commitment to the Anglican Communion, we find new hope that we can turn our attention to the essence of Christ’s own mission in the world, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). It is to that mission that we now determinedly turn.

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William R. Coats
William R. Coats
13 years ago

We, in America, rarely expect our bishops to be straightforward on any issue or to take a firm stand in principle. Now we have a House of Bishops which in clarity and charity has taken the firmest stand in defense of our church, especially of its decisons from 2003 forward. Our bishops have at last defended our polity and our solidarity with all who have been marginalized – especially gays and lesbians. They have also defended an old American principle – namely the distrust of centralized power. For others who so easily wish to accede power to unaccountable prelates (and… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
Columba Gilliss
13 years ago

Thank you twice!
To the bishops for their words
and to you for posting them.
Columba Gilliss

Dion
Dion
13 years ago

Doxa to Theo!

Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
13 years ago

It looks like TEC is going to emerge from this, strengthened. Standing up for what is true and good does strengthen those with the courage to do so. Standing up for your principles with clarity and energy too. If TEC can be clear in this way Anglicansim itself and the AC will also be stregnthed. The fifth-columnsits and entryists have to realize that even though they are backed by the big bucks of right-wing political forces, in US society which care nothing for spiritual mission, nothing for oppressed peoples, the simplicity of witness and mission and integrity cannot be destroyed.… Read more »

Pluralist
13 years ago

I found 18 main points (there can be more or some joined): 1. We have no intention of choosing to withdraw: [inside] a way to participate in the alleviation of suffering and restoration of God’s creation… 2. We have responded in good faith to the requests we have received from our Anglican partners. 3. Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight: a favorable response in the Windsor Report: not accepted by the Primates 4. Refused to consecrate any additional bishops: not accepted by the Primates 5. Respond favourably to the requests made of us: a favorable response: [until] not accepted by the Primates… Read more »

Pluralist
13 years ago

Well it is pretty obvious now that the game is up. The Episcopal Church is not going to intentionally withdraw, but it is not going to accept the international oversight primatial scheme either. The ball is rightly passed back into the Archbishop of Canterbury’s and other primates’ court. It is up to them to remove TEC, if they will. Curiously the TEC bishops’ statement says that it can do nothing to meet conditions set on TEC for the removal of boundary violations. In one sense this almost gives the green light for them to continue. Except that it does not:… Read more »

Robert Leduc
Robert Leduc
13 years ago

I think equally or perhaps more important is 14. Even speaking as an Anglo-Catholic, the Primates meeting has definitely gone too far in attempting to set itself up as a curia in general terms. Sexuality is only one issue – power cuts across all issues. I’m an Anglo-Catholic because I don’t believe some of the things the Roman curia says are essential truths. This method of formulating doctrine and discipline is _precisely_ what Anglicanism is structured to avoid. That’s the whole point of it. If I have this stuff rammed down my throat, I may as well be a Roman… Read more »

Andrew Innes
Andrew Innes
13 years ago

What a marvellous statement of principle, and expression of faith. I hope and pray that the Canadian Church will stand up and be counted with you, at its General Synod in June.

To those who might have been wavering after Dar Es Salaam, I hope this gives courage.

Robert Ian Williams
Robert Ian Williams
13 years ago

They are wise men and women indeed as they realise what a can of worms would be unleashed.

Rowan and the English Bishops should clip the wings of the Covenant group too.

choirboyfromhell
choirboyfromhell
13 years ago

Wow. (!)

Dennis
13 years ago

Excellent document. This will prove to be the saving of the entire Anglican communion. This is a statement of clarity, charity and courage. I am very proud to be an Episcopalian today.

It is as good as Luther’s “Here I stand – I can do no other.”

Cheryl Clough
13 years ago

Pluralist, Thanks for that 14 point listing, it is particularly helpful. Point 14 is profoundly important “…a distant and unaccountable group of prelates…” This has become a major issue. There is an element in the heirarchy that is not accountable for abuse, who colludes to hide abuse and prepares court cases to deny that abuse occurs. This element will put pressure on a soul to the level that they will become seriously depressed or commit suicide. They have no conscience about doing this because they think they are “exorcising” a satanic element, and that any soul who “dies” to the… Read more »

cal mcmillan
cal mcmillan
13 years ago

Primatial Poker – close to endgame. TEC – “call”: ABC – “fold”, “check” or “raise”? Not likely to fold or raise. His cards are better than the former – but not good enough for the latter. And at this stage, he’d better not be bluffing. So it’s check. Look for a meeting possibly around the Niagara Falls session with Canadian HoB in mid-April. Then it’s AKI+Donutboy+ragtags – “fold”, “check” or “raise”??? If it’s really communion they want it’ll be “fold” If it’s just “our sort” of communion, then they’ll “raise” again. That just might be their biggest bluff. Whatever! The… Read more »

Paul
Paul
13 years ago

I stand with those who are happy to see TEC bishops refuse to be bullied any further.

But I’m not as confident as pluralist that Archbishop Williams and others will fight to keep TEC inside the Anglican Communion. If those Primates who refused to communicate with the Presiding Bishop at Dar es Salaam sense that victory is in their grasp won’t they push all the harder to impose their views and authoritarian structures on the Communion? If TEC is absent has the pendulum not swung even further to the right?

Malcolm French+
Malcolm French+
13 years ago

A rumour is being bandied about on Ruth Gledhill’s blog (by a poster, not by Ruth) that: _________________________________________________ * ten US dioeses – including Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, and South Carolina – are scheduling Special DIocesan Conventions as soon as their canons permit. The Network is leaving ECUSA forthwith. * Several prominent GS Primates, and one rather prominent ex-ABC are expected in Pittsbugh shortly after Easter to consecrate an Archishop. __________________________________________________ There is only one living ex-ABC. If this is accurate, the question then arises, will the current ABC defend the integrity of Anglicanism, or will he let willful schism run… Read more »

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

“we can turn our attention to the essence of Christ’s own mission in the world, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). It is to that mission that we now determinedly turn.”

Amen, and again I say Amen! 😀 (It’s all my Lenten discipline to stifle an Alleluia! ;-p)

[And leave the dead A(kinolist)C to bury the dead…]

Andrew Carey
Andrew Carey
13 years ago

I am in a position to scotch any rumour that an ex-ABC is going to be involved in any such consecrations. I suspect therefore that other elements of the rumour are probably inaccurate.

Pluralist
13 years ago

The reason I think the Archbishop of Canterbury wants TEC in the communion was in how the Sub-group reported to the primates, and indeed in the way the Presiding Bishop was included. So he would want to keep them in – because sidelining means exclusion this time around. I agree that the House of Bishops of TEC has effectively done a poker type “call” – and what I’m suggesting is that the Archbishop may be forced to fold. He might, but others would not. In the boundary violations, the cards are still on the table – they have never been… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
13 years ago

While the rumors of an ex-ABC being involved are spurious, the other parts of the story are plausible. For Duncan & Co., the game is up. They are too proud to back down and accept a Primatial Vicar on TEC’s terms (as opposed to the Primates’ terms, if they were even willing to do that). Sooner or later they will walk. And they will set up an alternative, “Anglican” structure in the US, with someone styled Archbishop or Primate. They do not need an ex-ABC (or an ABN) to do that, although it would be a nice PR stunt for… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
13 years ago

Paul They will swing the pendulum as far to the right as they can. They have no intention of consenting to allow a “liberal” theology to develop. If they can keep us in the same communion and silence us with sanctions and intidmidation, they will do so. If they can not keep us silent within their communion then they will attack us openly from without. What is being done to us is not changing. The only thing that is changing is the tactics and thus the transparency of what has been going on for centuries. If we want to stop… Read more »

David
David
13 years ago

From Paul’s comment above:
“They will swing the pendulum as far to the right as they can. They have no intention of consenting to allow a “liberal” theology to develop. If they can keep us in the same communion and silence us with sanctions and intidmidation, they will do so. If they can not keep us silent within their communion then they will attack us openly from without.”

Strange – silenced, intimidated, and attacked is exactly how I feel conservatives are treated in the Episcopal Church.

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

Dave,
the difference is that the conservatives are feeling upset at not being allowed to discriminate. They’re not actually the ones whose personal life choices are being criticised, despised and discriminated against.
My sympathy is very limited!

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

Dave,
the other difference is that liberals are happy to live and let live, wheras the conservatives are only willing to co-exist if liberals accept their particular brand of Christianity.

The one thing liberals cannot do is to discriminate against others. And that’s the one thing the conservatives insist is imperative.

I’d happily share a church with you just as you are – if only you were willing to accept me in it just as I am!

CPK Smithies
13 years ago

If this controversy had been about the admission of LGBT members to the higher orders of the Freemasons, say, or the Honorable Order of Buffaloes, no doubt some of the theological terms appearing in the bishops’ statement would have been absent. But apart from that, how would it have been different? Assuming that minimizing anti-LGBT discrimination was an important aim, could this have been better served by seeking consensus, perhaps through dialogue or debate? How has unilateral action helped? If Akinola and TEC can both be described as Anglicans (in some sense), would it now be right to say that… Read more »

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

“Strange – silenced, intimidated, and attacked is exactly how I feel conservatives are treated in the Episcopal Church.”

I affirm that you feel how you feel, David.

And I furthermore affirm that it is “strange.”

…then again, the Bible is FULL of strange feelings.

[The one that quickly comes to my mind this time of year, is the strange feeling that prompted a crowd of people to shout “Crucify him! Crucify him!” at the Prince of Peace. 🙁 ]

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