Thinking Anglicans

Windsor Report: more American views

Mark Dyer and his critics are not the only Americans who have been speaking about the Windsor Report.

Here are two further transcripts of recent talks by ECUSA seminary faculty members who, while broadly supportive of the report, have also made significant criticisms of it. Both articles are worth a careful reading in full.

Ellen Wondra delivered her inaugural lecture as Professor of Theology and Ethics at Seabury-Western on 18 October, ten days after the report was published.
‘The highest degree of communion possible’

Wondra believes that when WR uses the word consultation it means “reaching an agreement” and she believes this is how it is used in the Church of England.

For over a century and a half, the churches of the Anglican Communion have claimed that it is necessary to “consult” on matters that affect the whole communion. But we have yet to reach agreement on what “consultation” means. There are, indeed, two definitions of consultation. One is the notion of talking seriously with other folks as part of making decisions; that tends to be what the Episcopal Church and some other provinces mean by “consulting.” But in the CoE, “consultation” means reaching an agreement. So, on the CoE reading, the Episcopal Church did not consult prior to the consecration of Bp. Robinson; whereas on our reading, we did, though certainly not as widely as we ought to have done. So one big question is how we agree and determine that adequate consultation has taken place. The Windsor Report goes with the CoE view: consultation has happened when people agree. This has enormous implications, as we will see.

She also believes the WR account of the history of women’s ordination is flawed:

Frankly: This reading is a caricature, and it omits many salient points. There is nothing of the intensity and vitriol of a very public controversy both within the various provinces and at the level of the Communion itself. There is nothing of the dire threats of schism and the breaking apart of the Communion, or of the schisms that did take place, or of the extra-canonical actions of various bishops. The “measure of impairment” to which the Report refers to is the prohibitions put on women deacons, priests and bishops, many of which still exist today — notably in the Church of England, where there continues to be a ban on women bishops from functioning as bishops in that province. Nor is it mentioned that the controversy over the ordination of women prompted the Lambeth Conference to direct the Archbishop of Canterbury to set up a special commission to study how the communion might maintain “the highest possible degree of communion” among “the Provinces which differ.”

Nevertheless on the WR as a whole, she says:

The Windsor Report recognizes that dispersal of authority to local provinces, dioceses, lay people, and so on has for many years and most of the time served the Anglican Communion pretty well. It has allowed us to engage in “local adaptation” of all kinds of things, from the BCP to questions pertaining to gender, sexuality, moral life, the interpretation of Scripture, the designation of guiding traditions, and the like. It has made it possible for us to be a global communion in which there is great diversity but still considerable unity, based on a common faith and what has been called “bonds of affection.” Certainly there are times when these “bonds of affection” have been strained. Indeed, the very first Lambeth Conference was convened in response to such strain. And both the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council had to deal with such issues at their very first meetings.

But, in the judgment of many, perhaps most, Anglicans and our major ecumenical partners, this dispersed authority is not now serving us well and is indeed contributing to difficulties that may, perhaps not long from now, spell the end of the Anglican Communion. I think this judgment is correct, on the basis of the plain evidence. The familiar marks of communion – dioceses and provinces being in communion with other, bishops respecting each other’s territorial jurisdiction, respectful discourse, patience in disagreement, and so on—have been violated numbers of times. While these violations have occurred in the context of controversies about sexuality and gender, they are more profoundly connected to matters of authority. Indeed, the gravest sign of crisis in the Anglican Communion may very well be the crossing of diocesan and provincial boundaries by bishops — something prohibited in the earliest canons of the worldwide church, those of the 4th century Council of Nicaea.

Robert Hughes, Professor of Systematic Theology at Sewanee spoke at a meeting held in Nashville on 10 November. Professor Robert Hughes on the Windsor Report

(Big Thanks to Kendall Harmon for making this available – see also here for an announcement of the 10 November event.)

Hughes main criticism is that WR does not give equal weight to all four elements of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral:

A. The major theological problem I see with the document is in the section called “Fundamental Principles, Section B. After the section on scripture and its interpretation the document goes immediately to the episcopate. And it never does return to the missing two corners of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral, Creeds and Sacraments, with devastating consequences, in my view, for the ensuing doctrine of episcopate, autonomy, adiaphora, and reception, and hence of the proposed covenant. Let me spell this out more fully:

B. The second corner of the Quadrilateral, incorrectly quoted in the report in Appendix 3, p. 73, reads as follows: The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith. That’s actually the Chicago Quad. The Lambeth version added “The Apostle’s Creed as the Baptismal Symbol.” But the important point is what is common to both. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith. Let that word “sufficient” sink in for a moment. As Robert Jenson points out, four things emerged in the life of the Church at roughly the same time, which the Church of the time decided were essential to its common life, its koinonia, its being as communion. They are precisely congruent with the Quadrilateral: The canon of scripture, the theological discussions that would eventually result in the Nicene Creed, the two great sacraments (at a minimum), and the historic Episcopate. As Jenson suggests, if the Church which made those decisions erred, there is now no true Church to critique those decisions.

Hughes concludes with this:

A. In closing, I would like to offer an alternative view of where we are.

B. In his very fine book, The spirit of life : the Holy Spirit in the life of the christian , Portugese/Indian Jesuit Luis Bermejo offers a different model for reception than the one we have presented to us in the Windsor Report. He sees it in four stages, each beginning with a “C”. Communication, Conflict, Consensus, Communion. First, there has to be enough communication for folks to know a disagreement is arising. In the days of the early Church this was problematic, but when it did happen, slow enough that people had time to think, though we must recall there were riots and rock-fights in the streets of Constantinople over the Trinitarian formula. Communication has now become so rapid, however, that reflection is now mostly crowded out by reactivity and an ideological rhetoric which perpetuates conflict rather than resolves it. This is a deep infection in the Republic as well as the Church. Frankly, we all need to take a deep breath and declare a cease-fire.

C. Then comes an inevitable stage of conflict as the Church uses all its resources to work through the issue at hand. Impaired communion sometimes occurs, but that is always regrettable, and ultimately means that one voice is not at the table, and may not return for centuries. Recent progress with both the Antiochene and Alexandrian Churches, as well as between them, to say nothing of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic agreement on Justification, remind us these arguments take much, much longer, even when in the end it looks as if we will be able to work them out, if communion is too impaired and voices are excluded. That is my real concern about the idea that certain bishops should voluntarily stay away from the councils of the Church or be disinvited. That will only prolong the conflict by attempting to bring premature closure to a serious theological debate. I agree with Rowan Williams that such efforts at premature closure are a serious form of unfaithfulness.

D. We long for the ensuing stages of consensus and communion. But when we try to force it, they only recede from us. The issue for us, as I see it, is to learn how to remain faithful and in the maximum amount of charity with one another while we live through a protracted stage of conflict. It took a couple of hundred years for the Church to get the Creedal stuff worked out. I do not expect the current kerfuffle to be much shorter. Our job is to make as bright a future for our spiritual descendants as possible by being faithful in a stage of conflict. Obviously, I think we should not erect new authoritarian structures to terminate the conflict, but I think some kind of Covenant to keep it in bounds is a good idea. I also think we should begin by admitting on all sides that we are arguing about a matter that is not essential, but very, very important. Walter Bouman gave a great address at the dinner of the Fellows’ Forum in February. His point was simple: you Anglicans have everything you need to get through this. It’s called the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral. Everything I have said is only a loud Amen to that point.

Both of these articles (and Mark Dyer as well) have been criticized at length, from a conservative viewpoint, in a more recent (14 December) paper (which I also recommend reading in full) by Dr Ephraim Radner the rector of Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo, Colorado:
The Windsor Report and the American Evasion of Communion

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
J. Collins Fisher
19 years ago

“There are, indeed, two definitions of consultation. One is the notion of talking seriously with other folks as part of making decisions; that tends to be what the Episcopal Church and some other provinces mean by “consulting.” But in the CoE, “consultation” means reaching an agreement.” Incredible . . . that there could such widely varying meanings given to one such absolutely essential term. (As is said of Yanks and Brits: “Two peoples divided by a common language.”) Well, let me cheer on the U.S. of A. then (like the traditional bloody awful Yank!): we need to have a *consultation*,… Read more »

19 years ago

Your right JCF. Middle-class southern Brits use a particular “voice” which understates what they mean. The classic being “I’m a little concerned….” which means “you idiot, you completely forgot about…” (or something similar). Being from a more working-class northern UK background I’ve had to learn to speak their language! But isn’t the focus of the WR on “communion”, not the legalese (or other words) we try to use to constrain each other ? Christian communion is a spiritual condition, not a legal contract. It relys on us recognising that we are both following one Lord, one Faith etc; pursuing Love… Read more »

Cindy Hoag
Cindy Hoag
19 years ago

I was just curious as to the percentage of disaffected Anglicans in Canada or the ECUSA are considering or are already in the process of converting to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. I am Greek Orthodox and I am waiting for an influx of Episcopalians. However, the only one I’ve seen worshipping in my pews was the priest from the Episcopal church I attended many years ago. Does my church need to prepare itself for a barrage of Anglicans? It would be helpful to know.

David Huff
David Huff
19 years ago

Cindy, I wouldn’t worry too much. The truly disaffected are a small minority of all Episcopalians. And of them, a substantial number (I suspect a majority) are of a fundamentalist, evangelical Protestant bent – not people who would be attracted to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox denominations.

It’s easy to get the impression that these folks appear to be a larger group than they actually are, as they generate quite a bit of noise.

Robert Leggat
Robert Leggat
19 years ago

“It’s easy to get the impression that these folks appear to be a larger group than they actually are, as they generate quite a bit of noise.”

An interesting observation, David. I’ve heard precisely the same comment being made from the opposite camp!

David Huff
David Huff
19 years ago

Robert wrote:
“An interesting observation, David. I’ve heard precisely the same comment being made from the opposite camp!”

Perhaps, but it would make sense since the “opposite camp” represents the majority of ECUSA members 😉 I’m basing my use of the term “majority” on how votes went on both +Robinson’s confirmation and resolution C051 at General Convention 2003, as well as on the *very* small minority of U.S. dioceses joining this “Network” thing.

Kendall Harmon
19 years ago

David Huff’s comments are simply untrue. Interested readers may look at the two Christian Century articles here to see but one of many examples of evidence to show this: “”: Those elected have long been seen to be less than fully representative of the parishes and dioceses which elect them, in a number of cases quite graphically so. As for Network dioceses, the support is not limited to dioceses, first of all, and there are many supportive parishes he does not mention, but he also does not mention the hostile environment which some encounter in the Episcopal Church when they… Read more »

19 years ago

The summary at the URL shown tells me that those in the pews don’t really care about the issue of homosexuality, not that there is broad support for the “Network” and its brethren.

19 years ago

Another quick thought… as a person in the pews, I don’t really care enough about whether many or few approve. I am tired of focussing on homosexuality, and would like to talk about Jesus again.

Whatever your stance, citing approval statistics is irrelevant, unless the argument is that since most believe one way, they must be wrong. Jesus did not take votes on whether he should pursue a partivular course, he just went ahead and loved those who were marginalized.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x