Amended 17 January 2005
Addition of more WR text to item 6 – I apologise for this omission.
This article relates in part to the meetings of ECUSA and CofE bishops this week, and in part to the various subsequent meetings of February and beyond. See timetable here.
There has been some paraphrasing of the WR recommendations lately. I therefore repeat here the verbatim wording of WR’s specific recommendations in Section D as they relate to various particular groups and then add some comments on the practicalities of each recommendation. I am working on the assumption that acceptance of the WR’s recommendations broadly as they stand is the best way forward for the Anglican Communion.
1. To ECUSA as a corporate body:
…the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion.
This is expressly addressed to ECUSA as a corporate body. Therefore, constitutionally speaking, only General Convention is able to represent ECUSA in making (or not making) this response and although the House of Bishops meeting this week can give a lead, it cannot answer formally for ECUSA as a whole, just as the English HoB cannot speak for the General Synod of the Church of England.
2. To bishops who took part in Gene Robinson’s episcopal consecration:
…pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion…
This clearly refers to functions representing the AC externally, i.e. to other bodies. It does not refer, for example, to ECUSA representatives on the Anglican Consultative Council (Bp Roskam appeared to misunderstand in this regard), nor to ECUSA’s own primate – or any other person from ECUSA – attending intra-Anglican meetings including the various Instruments of Unity.
3. To ECUSA in general
…the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges…
This is carefully worded so that, as Tobias Haller has pointed out, it is possible for a mere majority of bishops with jurisdiction (i.e. active diocesans, not suffragans or retired, or other bishops) to “effect a moratorium” in practice by agreeing among themselves that they will not confirm any such election. Thus it can be initiated by bishops without requiring any agreement by diocesan standing committees, or General Convention. It is less clear that it could persist in the long term, as when “subscribing” diocesans retired, the majority would be depleted, unless replenished by new bishops.
4. To bishops who have authorized public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions
…we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation. Pending such expression of regret, we recommend that such bishops be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion…
This clearly applies to New Westminster in Canada, and also to several dioceses and diocesans in ECUSA: this appears to be the latest list of ECUSA dioceses affected.
5. On care of dissenting groups
…we commend the proposals for delegated episcopal pastoral oversight set out by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) in 2004. We believe that these proposals are entirely reasonable, if they are approached and implemented reasonably by everyone concerned. We particularly commend the appeal structures set out in the House of Bishops policy statement, and consider that these provide a very significant degree of security. We see no reason why such delegated pastoral and sacramental oversight should not be provided by retired bishops from within the province in question, and recommend that a province making provision in this manner should maintain a list of bishops who would be suitable and acceptable to undertake such a ministry. In principle, we see no difficulty in bishops from other provinces of the Communion becoming involved with the life of particular parishes under the terms of these arrangements in appropriate cases.
We are conscious that the Anglican Church of Canada is considering the adoption of a broadly similar scheme, and we ask that their proposals too should be marked by and received with a willingness to co-operate together in accordance with the principles we have outlined above…
…We further call upon those diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) who have refused to countenance the proposals set out by their House of Bishops to reconsider their own stance on this matter. If they refuse to do so, in our view, they will be making a profoundly dismissive statement about their adherence to the polity of their own church…
AS to the ECUSA bishops who have so far refused to conform to the DEPO proposals, this no doubt will be a topic of discussion at this week’s ECUSA HoB meeting, after which it may be appropriate to list who they then are.
The current status of the corresponding Canadian proposals is reported here.
6. To those bishops who have intervened in other provinces etc.
…We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:
- to express regret for the consequences of their actions
- to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
- to effect a moratorium on any further interventions
We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care.
This clearly does not include bishops who enter other dioceses at the invitation of, or with the permission of, the local diocesan (Bp Wimberly appeared to misunderstand in this regard). I know of no list of bishops to whom this call already applies. Again I will gladly compile one if readers will supply details.
7. To ECUSA
…We particularly request a contribution from the Episcopal Church (USA) which explains, from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ. As we see it, such a reasoned response, following up the work of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA), and taken with recent work undertaken by the Church of England and other provinces of the Communion, will have an important contribution to make to the ongoing discussion…
This contribution may need a little time to prepare and approve, but should not require more than a few months and could presumably be commissioned and approved by either the House of Bishops or the Executive Council.