October 18, 2004
The Anglican world that you and I belong to received today what is called the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion. This report was authorized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of Anglican churches around the world including the Episcopal Church in the United States.
The Archbishop asked for a report the common life of our brothers and sisters around the globe (more than 70-million) as we face the issues of our day. The issues that have precipitated this report are well known and were generated by the actions of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in August, 2003. As you are well aware, the General Convention’s two legislative Houses of Deputies and Bishops gave consent to the election and consecration in New Hampshire of Gene Robinson as the Church’s first openly gay bishop. At the same time the Convention also acknowledged that same sex blessings had occurred in the life of our American province. The Windsor Report also addresses the actions of the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster which approved an official rite for same sex blessings.
This report has generated a great deal of discussion as to whether the Anglican Communion can still exist as we have know it since its inception in 1888. The Four Principles of the Lambeth Quadrilateral has been the cornerstone of the Communion members’ acceptance of one another. The very first conference of the worldwide gathering of bishops acknowledged their reliance on scripture, Nicene creed, the two dominical sacraments of baptism and eucharist, and the historical episcopate. These are the essential points of unity for all branches of Christendom and not just the Anglican branches of the Body of Christ. The Report, as mentioned by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold in his statement on October 18 will be dissected in a number of venues, including the Executive Council of ECUSA when it meets in November and at the winter meeting of the House of Bishops in January. Publication of the Report is the principal item on the agenda at the current meeting of the Anglican Primates in London. The Report will also be reviewed by the Anglican Consultative Council in 2005.
The chief recommendations of the Report are described in a news story that appears elsewhere on this web site of the Diocese of Easton.
As a diocese we have already begun to explore our understanding of homosexuality when we gathered at Trinity Cathedral in September for an Evening of Faithful Conversation. What occurred there was a frank and honest expression of opposing views. The interchange that evening was summarized by one participant so well. Marjorie Sullivan of St. Alban’s, Salisbury, said, “Not one person here tonight will change his or her mind by what we have been saying to each other.” “But, she declared, “the most important thing happening here is that not one single person has raised a voice, no one is engaged in name calling, and no one is expressing anger toward a neighbor. That’s proof the Holy Spirit is in this room directing us in what we are doing.” I thought Marjorie’s statement needed reporting because I do not know where else we will be able to approach reconciliation unless we continue to pray for one another, listen to all sides, celebrate the eucharist together, and read scriptures for the revealing of God’s will for not just Anglicans but all people throughout the world.
It is very hard for us to say that we are motivated by love and yet the hatred that seems to surround this issue is so intense and immeasurable. The pain that has been inflicted is like phantom pain common to persons who have lost a limb to accident or surgery. The pain felt by the patient in the missing limb is a harsh reality even though that part of the body no longer exists.
As Christians, we are called by the very nature of our baptismal covenant to walk in love as Christ loved us. Love is what binds us together and our relationships within the Body of Christ are what compel us to continue to respect and care for one another. A friend said to me recently, “We seem to be stumbling a bit when it comes to loving, but maybe this stumbling, in a loving way, is okay.”
My hope and prayer is that when we regain our balance we will be better able to stand, sit, and kneel alongside one another knowing that forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are far superior to hatred, enmity, and separation.
The cross of Jesus continues to be the central point of our faith. Every time I look at a cross or put my cross around my neck I cannot help but remember these words from John’s Gospel.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.
I hope you will join me as I return to the cross daily for strength, compassion, renewal, and encouragement. And proceed to live out my life loving God through Jesus Christ, my neighbor, whoever that person happens to be and regardless of what that person believes.
May God’s blessing continue to be upon all of us.
Yours in the Christ of the Cross,
The Rt. Rev. James J. Shand,
Bishop of Easton