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Windsor Report offers recommendations, calls for reconciliation

By Matthew Davies and Jan Nunley
10/18/2004

Photo by: Matthew Davies
The Most Rev. Robin Eames, Chair of the Lambeth Commission on Communion at the Windsor Report 2004 press conference      (Photo by: Matthew Davies)

 
[Episcopal News Service]  Stating that it is "not a judgment" but "part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation," the report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion -- known as the Windsor Report [http://www.anglicancommunion.org/windsor2004/index.cfm] -- was released at a news conference held October 18, 2004, at St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

The chief recommendations of the Windsor Report include:

  • An enhanced role for the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • A Council of Advice for the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • An Anglican Covenant
  • Recommendations on elections to the episcopate
  • Recommendations arising from the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire
  • Recommendations on Rites of Blessing of Same Sex Unions
  • Recommendations on alternative pastoral oversight

[See accompanying summary: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_52961_ENG_HTM.htm ]

The report asks for all parties to the controversy to express regret for ways in which their actions have harmed others. The document specifically calls on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to put into effect a moratorium on the ordination of sexually active gay clergy as bishops and on same-sex blessings, while asking that conservative bishops likewise cease to cross jurisdictional boundaries to offer episcopal oversight to dissenting congregations.

In a statement [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_52922_ENG_HTM.htm] on the report, released shortly after the news conference, the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called for a careful and patient reading of the full report. "In these next days the Report will doubtless be read from many points of view and given any number of interpretations," he said. "It is extremely important that it be read carefully as a whole and viewed in its entirety rather than being read selectively to buttress any particular perspectives."

While affirming "the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry," he apologized on behalf of the Episcopal Church for the effects of its decision on other provinces. "As Presiding Bishop I know I speak for members of our church in saying how highly we value our Communion and the bonds of affection we share," Griswold stated. "Therefore, we regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans."

"The Report calls our Communion to reconciliation, which does not mean the reduction of differences to a single point of view," he added. "In fact, it is my experience that the fundamental reality of the Episcopal Church is the diverse center, in which a common commitment to Jesus Christ and a sense of mission in his name to a broken and hurting world override varying opinions on any number of issues, including homosexuality."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams echoed Griswold's concern about the careful reception of the report in a later statement [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_52943_ENG_HTM.htm] released by his office.

"I hope too that everyone with the well being of our Communion at heart will now take time to study the report - and to pray and reflect upon its proposals which, as the Commission has made clear, offer neither easy nor simple solutions to real and demanding challenges," Williams said. "If we are serious about meeting those challenges, as I know we are, then we have to do all we can to continue to travel this road together."

Maintaining communion

The 17-member commission that produced the report, chaired by the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Robin Eames, was established at the request of the primates of the Anglican Communion during their London meeting in October 2003, and appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury later that month. The commission was specifically asked to examine and report on ways in which the 38 Anglican and Episcopal provinces can "relate to one another in situations where the ecclesiastical authorities of one province feel unable to maintain the fullness of communion with another part of the Anglican Communion."

The Windsor Report, named after the town on the southwestern outskirts of London where the Lambeth Commission has twice met, is published in four sections, each dealing with different aspects of the nature of Communion. Section A discusses the purposes and benefits of Communion and begins by describing the nature of the relationship into which all Christians believe that God calls them. Section B examines the principles that underlie the way in which the Anglican Communion lives its life and looks more deeply at the importance of communion as a principle of church life. Section C offers its recommendations on the future working of the "instruments of unity"-the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Conferences, Primates' Meetings, and Anglican Consultative Council-and suggests the creation and adoption of an Anglican Covenant. The final section (D) identifies the central issues currently facing the Anglican Communion and offers its recommendations on elections to the episcopate, the blessing of same sex unions, and the care of dissenting minorities.

The commission recognized the hurt and alienation felt by individual Anglicans, parishes and dioceses as a result of decisions made and actions taken by autonomous provinces within which there is profound disagreement, calling upon "all the bishops concerned...to work tirelessly to rebuild the trust which has been lost."

The report concluded that all parties to the current dispute should "seek ways of reconciliation, and to heal our divisions," indicating ways in which the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster could "begin to speak with the Communion in a way that would foster reconciliation."

Belonging together

In a brief introduction to the report at the news conference, Eames said that in the last 12 months the commission has labored hard and carefully to listen to all opinions in the Anglican Communion. "We have made a remarkable journey," he said. "The commission members held differing opinions on many different issues and we have not been afraid to discuss these openly."

Eames said that the 44 churches of the Anglican Communion - 38 provinces and six extra provincial churches - belong together in common mission for the sake of the Gospel. "We believe that it was important to look for healing not division; pastoral reconciliation and not punishment."

The 17 members were drawn from around the globe, Eames said, and "we have come together in our determination to see the Anglican Communion united in common witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

The report does not offer any easy judgment in the situation, he added. "It does not offer any easy solution either. It is an honest and frank expression of the position in which we find ourselves as a communion."

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies and a member of the Lambeth Commission, also spoke briefly at the news conference. "The report represents the highest degree of consensus from persons with different perspectives," he said. "This high degree of consensus was achieved by seeking to serve the will of God together. The tone of our report represents an intentional offering from the members of the communion to facilitate healing and reconciliation."

During a question and answer session, Eames stressed that, although actions in North America concerning the consecration of an openly gay priest as bishop and the blessing of same sex unions were the primary cause of the current situation in the Anglican Communion, those bishops who have gone into other provinces without permission have contributed to the crisis.

Discussions pending

Discussion of the report will take place this week in London as the Standing Committees of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council meet through October 21. The report will next be presented at the Primates' Meeting in Newcastle, Ireland, February 21-26, 2005.

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) - the Anglican Communion's chief legislative body comprising more than 100 bishops, clergy and lay representatives - will receive the report when it meets in Nottingham, England, in June 2005. The ACC, one of the Anglican Communion's four "instruments of unity," which also include the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference, is the only body that has the authority to act legislatively on the recommendations of the report.

The bishops of the Episcopal Church, at their meeting in Spokane, Washington, September 23-28, had already issued a statement [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_51620_ENG_HTM.htm ] committing to "a gracious reception of the report in a spirit of humility and ... a willingness to learn how we might best be faithful and responsible partners in the Anglican Communion." The House of Bishops will meet in Salt Lake City, Utah, from January 12-13, 2005, to "study and appropriate the work of the Commission."

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church will consider the report at its upcoming meeting November 1-4 in Boise, Idaho.

Diverse reactions

Responding to the report, the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes (NACDAP) jointly [http://www.americananglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=1177&c=51 ] expressed "strong concerns...about the fact that they call only for the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) to 'express regret' and fail to recommend direct discipline of ECUSA."

Diane Knippers of the Institute on Religion and Democracy [http://www.ird-renew.org/ ] said the report "expresses more hope than realism about the possibility of maintaining unity within the Anglican Communion" and called it "contradictory" for calling for both "legal accountability" and voluntary compliance. She also indicated disappointment that the report endorsed the U.S. Episcopal bishops' plan for delegated pastoral oversight, which IRD had previously rejected as unworkable.

"'A curate's egg' sums up our response," said the UK conservative group Anglican Mainstream [http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/ ]. "The Report's analysis and recommendations are good in some parts, but we have serious reservations about other parts," chiefly the acceptance of the House of Bishops plan for delegated episcopal pastoral oversight.

In London, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) [http://www.lgcm.org.uk/] expressed "great pain" over the call for a moratorium in the consecration of clergy in same sex partnerships to the episcopate. "We are particularly pained by the isolation suggested for Bishop Robinson from his episcopal brothers and sisters throughout the world. This is an isolation many homosexuals feel all their lives," the group noted.

But the group found hope in the report's acknowledgment that the debate on homosexuality is not closed, and concluded, "This is a document we can work with, this is a Church we want to continue to be a part of."