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From Northern Michigan's Bishop Jim Kelsey: A Statement on Windsor Report

10/19/2004

  

 
[Episcopal News Service]   

Those of you at Diocesan Convention (just completed) heard me talk about the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission, which was released this morning. If you were not at Convention, you could read my remarks on our web site  (The remarks concerning the Lambeth Commission are towards the end of the Address)

This morning I have downloaded the full report and have been reading through its 93 pages, It is long and complex, and (I believe) extremely well done. (I say that about its thoroughness and even-handed approach, without stating support for any of its specific conclusions or recommendations.) I commend it to your reading.

The full implications of the recommendations of this report are yet to be realized. As I said in my Convention Address, it will take many months for it to be received by the many bodies of our Church, both here within the Episcopal Church, and overseas throughout the Anglican Communion. I have some initial reactions to what I am reading, but I want to have an opportunity to reflect with others from within our diocese and beyond, before having too much to say. All of this needs to settle into perspective.

Still, there were several rumors circulating about the report prior to its release, so I am sure there are some basic facts about its content which I would like to point out:

1) Contrary to various rumors, the Episcopal Church has not been "excluded" from the Anglican Communion. This report seeks to identify a way that there can be healing and a restoration of unity and communion even as we live with our disagreements about some important matters.

2) The Lambeth Commission is concerned that the actions taken in Minneapolis (the consent to Gene Robinson's ordination as well as a recognition that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same sex unions") as well as similar, subsequent actions taken since then within the Episcopal Church and within the Anglican Church of Canada, were taken without an adequate articulation of the theological grounds upon which those actions were taken, and without adequate consultation with the rest of the Anglican Communion (particularly through the so-called "Instruments of Unity": the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the meeting of the 38 Primates from throughout the Anglican Communion). The Commission notes that such consultation *was* taken prior to the ordination of women, but was lacking in these more recent actions. Thus, most of the recommendations which follow are made for the purpose of re-establishing a climate within which that sort of consultation and deliberation might take place over the coming months and years.

3) The Commission's Report is clear that it is not taking a position on human sexuality per se, but on the matters of process by which these sorts of matters can be discussed and how our unity and Communion can be maintained throughout the process of change which occur through the march of human history, and within the bonds of our inter-relationships as a world-wide Body. thus the Report addresses the way our theological development and ecclesiastical procedures can help us sort out matters about which various Provinces might appropriately differ from those about which there should be world-wide consensus before one Province proceeds. Underlying all of this are questions of trust and authority - all of which have been stretched to near breaking points by recent developments regarding human sexuality.

4) Given the disagreements which have arisen, and serious questions about how we throughout the world-wide Communion may be accountable to one another, even while honoring appropriate differences in context, the Windsor Report proposes that a new Anglican Covenant be developed which would clarify our agreements to be mutually responsible and interdependent (to re-sound a phrase and principle affirmed in 1963 by a world-wide Anglican Congress). My impression is that such a Covenant would provide a common agreement about how we will be accountable to one another, while still respecting the autonomy of each Province of the Communion.

5) The Report also recommends a clarification of the roles of the four "Instruments of Unity" (being the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Commission, the Primates' Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council) and the creation of a Council of Advice for the Archbishop of Canterbury, which might assist the Archbishop in his/her responsibilities for world-wide oversight of the Communion. The Lambeth Commission is clear about the fact that this clarification would carefully avoid granting to these Instruments of Unity any sort of jurisdictional power, as might make the Archbishop of Canterbury into a Pope, or might make our Consultative Councils into bodies which attempt to dictate matters which have always, within the Anglican Communion, been overseen within more local Provinces and Dioceses.

6) The Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) is "invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached" with actions taken with regard to the election and consent and ordination of the Bishop of New Hampshire (Gene Robinson). This expression of regret would constitute a desire to remain within the Communion.

7) Those who participated as consecrators in the ordination in New Hampshire (and that includes me) should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. (This would mean that Mary and I would not be going to the Lambeth Conference in 2008) The purpose of this recommendation is "to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion".

8) ECUSA is asked to place a moratorium on the election and consent to the ordination of any candidate to be a Bishop who is living in a same gender union, until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges

9) The Instruments of Union (ArchBp of Canterbury, Primates, ACC, & Lambeth Conference) be urged to move forward with the "listening" process called for at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which called for the Church to listen to and learn from gay and lesbian persons as well as those who object to changes which are happening in the Communion, and that, as a part of this process, ECUSA be asked "to contribute an explanation, based on scripture, apostolic tradition, and reasoned reflection, as to how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ".

10) The Lambeth Commission has affirmed the position of the Primates that since there is no theological consensus about same sex unions, we (the Primates) as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites. Thus, they call for a moratorium on such rites, and ask Canadian and ECUSA bishops who have authorized them "to express regret that the proper constraints to the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization", and further, that they should consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from all representative functions in the Anglican Communion. They also urge that conversations continue about these matters throughout the world-wide Communion, so that a consensus might be determined.

Nevertheless, the Commission stresses that "any demonizing of homosexual persons or their ill-treatment is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care".

11) Concerning parishes in ECUSA and Canada (and elsewhere) who have dissented from their own Bishops' views on these matters, and other Bishops (including those from overseas) who have crossed diocesan boundaries to "care for" those parishes and thereby violated basic principles of diocesan jurisdiction which have been in places since the Council of Nicea is 325AD, the Lambeth Commission has affirmed the plan for "Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" approved by the ECUSA House of Bishops, and has condemned the actions of Bishops who have crossed diocesan boundaries outside of those agreements.

12) The Lambeth Commission has stated in no uncertain terms: "We do not favor the establishment of parallel jurisdictions", as has been advocated by some dissenters within the Episcopal Church.

13) The Commission calls upon Bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses, and parishes other than their own to express regret for their actions, to affirm their desire to stay within the Communion, and to put a moratorium upon any further interventions.

14) The Commission recognizes that if these recommendations are not followed, more serious efforts at mediation and arbitration might be necessary. Also, it recognizes that there is a possibility that the present strains within the Communion might result in our learning to walk different paths (in other words, that some Provinces may feel called to withdraw from membership in the Anglican Communion). In the face of these serious times, the Commission affirms that they have seen their task to be "...to work not for division, but for healing and restoration".

As I have said, this is all just "off the press", and it will take some time for the Church at large (as well as each of us individually) to process it and to integrate it into our own life and commitments. I urge you (as I urge myself) not to be reactive, but to reflect, inwardly and with others, about how we might be called to respond to this important report as we move ahead.

I'm sure we'll be having many conversations about all of this over the coming weeks and months (and years). Let us be thankful that we a part of a Church which is trying, at least, to figure out how to bring these matters to the table, so we might discover what future God is calling us to.

The Rt. Rev. Jim Kelsey,
Diocese of Northern Michigan