A commission formed by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to study how churches within the Anglican Communion around the world relate to one another has released its report. The Windsor Report released today, Oct. 18, details the commission’s findings following a year of study and discussion.
The formation of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, which generated the Windsor Report, was partly in response to events of August 2003, in which the Episcopal Church voted in convention to consent to the election as a bishop of the church a gay man who is living openly in relationship with another man. The General Convention at the same time voted to study how same-sex unions are being blessed across the church.
Anglicans from around the world who hold a variety of perspectives participated in the commission. The Windsor Report’s balance speaks well for the members who clearly deliberated long and carefully on the difficult matters assigned to them. “Such diversity within unity has marked Anglicanism from its beginnings,” commented the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, third bishop of East Tennessee, on the report, “but in our day, the differences have strained our unity.”
He went on to note that the report emphasizes several areas. “First, there is the emphasis on process rather than on achieving the final word. The Commission calls us to take very seriously this journey we share,” he said, noting that the process will take place on international, national and diocesan levels.
“Secondly, the emphasis on relationships rather than a legal framework also characterizes our common life,” he said. “We are bound in covenantal relationship, rather than by a legal framework. Of course, covenants require re-examination and considerable attention.
“Finally, the report is evenhanded in its criticism – of the Episcopal Church, of the Anglican Church of Canada and of those bishops who cross diocesan and provincial boundaries,” without consent of the relevant bishop, he said.
The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada) were rebuked for not following what has been an historical process of mutual discernment and decision-making among churches in the Anglican Communion. At the same time, the report called to task bishops who have exercised episcopal functions in dioceses outside their provinces. These actions have been seen to shake and in some cases shatter the bonds that allow “the church to hold together across differences of belief and practice,” according to the report.
The report acknowledges a need for churches in the Communion to mutually explore and explain theological beliefs and biblical understandings in a common forum “which listens intensely and with good will.” Discussions in the church at large to consider the report will include a special meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in January, a meeting of the global Primates of the Anglican Communion in February and a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in June.
As the Episcopal Church is the Anglican Church in the United States, the Diocese of East Tennessee is the Anglican Church in this region of the state. In the Diocese of East Tennessee, Bishop vonRosenberg will meet with clergy on Oct. 22. The diocese will gather Oct. 30 to listen and consider a variety of perspectives on human sexuality, and resources will be made available at that time to assist in similar conversations in parishes across the diocese. The Oct. 30 meeting is the latest step in a process begun this past February when the diocese in convention approved a resolution to “facilitate airing, examination and reconciliation of differing opinions on human sexuality so we can do God’s work together.”
The Windsor Report is an important instrument that will assist the churches of the Anglican Communion in their lives together. Its implications will be seen over time.
“As we walk into an uncertain future together, it is important for us all to claim our part in causing pain in the Communion,” said Bishop vonRosenberg. However, “I continue to believe in our fundamental unity. That which unites us is far more significant than what divides us. And I continue to pray that all Anglicans will focus on our mission to the world, which is our Lord’s call to us.”
The Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg,
Bishop of East Tennessee