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U.S. bishops issue calls to prayerful consideration of Windsor

By Jan Nunley
10/18/2004

  

 
[Episcopal News Service]  [ENS] As bishops of the Episcopal Church finished their initial look at  the newly released Windsor Report from the Lambeth Commission on  Communion, most echoed Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold’s call for careful and prayerful contemplation of its conclusions and recommendations.

Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington, one of those who consecrated Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and whose diocese has developed a rite for blessing same-sex unions, expressed “my sadness that actions we undertook in good conscience-actions which gave hope to one alienated and marginalized population-have themselves engendered alienation and made others feel marginalized. This was not our intent. We lament this result and I commit myself to participating fully and energetically in the process of reconciliation through dialog and discernment which is outlined in the Commission's report.

Chane said he was grateful that the commission asked for further contributions to the Communion’s dialogue on sexuality from the Episcopal Church, as well as reaffirming the importance of bishops' respecting diocesan boundaries.

“It is my fervent hope that the Commission's rejection of a ‘parallel jurisdiction’ for Episcopalians who disagree with the actions of our last General Convention will end the talk of schism within the Episcopal Church, and that all parties will commit themselves to moving forward in the manner that the Commission recommends.

“Finally, I would like to note that we are at the beginning of what may be a long and contentious process as we explore the possibility of agreement upon a core covenant of Anglican beliefs. My prayer is that we may proceed with charity and civility, and that in healing our wounds we may be a model to a wounded world.

From London,  Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan — moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes — characterized the report as “how the Anglican Communion might work to preserve unity in the face of our Episcopal Church's decisions to abandon key aspects of Anglican (and Christian) faith and order,” and asked for prayers from members of his diocese. “Remember, our future is not ultimately in the hands of commissions, committees, or bishops,” he concluded in a brief message, “but in the hands of the one who promises ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”

“What we do in this country impacts real people in other parts of the world. At the same time, others in the Anglican Communion need to be aware of the impact of their decisions here,” said Bishop Stacy F. Sauls of Lexington (Kentucky). “Many people have been waiting for the release of this report with hopes of substantiating their particular perspective regarding the current controversies. The report admonishes all concerned- not so much for specifics of the current situation, but for lack of regard for other members of the Anglican family in making local decisions. …It is my intention as Bishop that the Diocese of Lexington will honestly and faithfully engage the report of the Lambeth Commission-especially its call for how we honor each other throughout the Communion as we work through to an understanding and practice of the Gospel that we as Anglicans can hold in common."

Several bishops offered assurances that they would not abandon their commitment to the inclusion of lesbians and gays in the church’s life.

“While this thoroughly Anglican document will give us much to reflect on, it is important to remember that it is the beginning of a process, not the end of one,” said Bishop Mark S. Sisk of New York. “The goal of the Lambeth Commission is to provide the framework for a discussion throughout the Anglican Communion about the ways in which we can stay in communion with those with whom we differ. We must remember that those differences are many, and go beyond the issues of human sexuality raised by church actions in the United States and Canada.  They include plural marriages as in some provinces in Africa, lay presidency of the Eucharist in some dioceses in Australia, and the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopacy, which is still a divisive issue within the Church of England and elsewhere.

“… As we set out on this long and difficult debate, I remain convinced that we as a Church are called to be a place of welcome and a word of hope to gay and lesbian men and women who seek to live their lives as faithful Christian people, in obedience to the Lord of life who called them into being and asks them to follow him in all the fullness of their being.

 “The implications of the report for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole will reveal themselves in the ensuing months as we come to understand what the Commission has said and what it has asked. My intent is to hear the words with an open mind and unguarded heart,” remarked Bishop George Wayne Smith of Missouri. “It is worth noting, nonetheless, that the commission reaffirms resolutions of past Lambeth Conferences recognizing the presence of gay and lesbian persons among us as full members of the Body of Christ. In that spirit, it is my intention to maintain the Episcopal Church as a
safe place for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Dean E. Wolfe of Kansas contrasted the American church’s democratic polity, with its high degree of lay involvement, to that of other provinces of the Anglican Communion.

“In the English and African provinces of our church, bishops are chosen by committee, and in England only after consultation with
representatives of the Queen. This hierarchical methodology for the selection of bishops has been viewed as problematic by the American Episcopal Church since the American Revolution. The American Church is committed to an ecclesiology which posits great authority in the lay members of our denomination.

“Bishop Robinson was elected in New Hampshire by a majority of lay and clerical delegates voting in their local diocesan convention. Bishop Robinson's confirmation was achieved only after a majority of lay and clergy delegates in the House of Deputies and a majority of bishops in the House of Bishops voted to confirm his election. The American branch of the Anglican Communion has long believed the Holy Spirit is present in this democratic process, and this remains a fundamental difference between our provinces,” he pointed out.

"Above all, the Windsor Report calls us to unity and to a focus on the mission of the church," wrote Bishop Herbert Thompson of Southern Ohio, quoting Griswold's earlier reaction. "We are blessed in our diocese to have remained focused on the ministry and mission of the church. I am proud of you, and I am honored to be your bishop. We will continue to move forward together in a spirit of unity. "