The primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches have met together in Northern Ireland to address common concerns and to share something of our lives and ministries in our own widely different contexts.
We have carefully studied the Windsor Report and how we might best be a communion in the midst of the deep differences which have been brought into sharp relief around the subject of homosexuality. I leave Ireland grateful that we as primates have done our very best to find a way forward and to avoid creating an unproductive situation of winners and losers.
These days have not been easy for any of us and the communiqué we issued gives some sense of our meeting and how we have struggled together. The communiqué is the fruit of a great deal of prayer and reflects our mutual desire to move forward together.
As the communiqué was written with a view to making room for a wide variety of perspectives it is inevitable that no one will be pleased with all aspects of it. Some will not be pleased with the request from the primates (paragraph 14) that the Episcopal Church, along with the Anglican Church of Canada, "voluntarily withdraw" our members from the Anglican Consultative Council "for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference." This request, together with the opportunity for a hearing with the Anglican Consultative Council (paragraph 16), gives space for speaking and listening. During this time the Episcopal Church will be responding to the questions addressed to us in the Windsor Report, as the primates have requested.
We will have the opportunity to speak out of the truth of our experience. I welcome this opportunity knowing that the Episcopal Church has sought to act with integrity in response to the Spirit, and that we have worked, and continue to work, to honor the different perspectives very much present within our church. Also during this time, the Anglican Consultative Council will be listening with care to what we have to say.
The primates discussed the importance of pastoral care for all members of our Anglican Communion and have spoken clearly to the matter (paragraph 15). I very much welcome the recommendation to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he appoint a "panel of reference to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions" for "groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces..."
The bishops of the Episcopal Church are committed to the provision of such pastoral care to those of various perspectives and have established a means of being certain it is provided which is described in Caring for all the Churches: Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight. I am also pleased by the commitment made by the primates "neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary violations."
The communiqué notes that our meeting was "characterised by generosity of spirit, and a readiness to respect one another's integrity, with Christian charity and abundant goodwill." I have faith and confidence in the many ways in which the mystery of communion is lived among us.
I am grateful that bonds of understanding and affection bind us together and call us to an ever deeper and more costly living out of the reconciliation brought about by Jesus through the Cross.
Again this week it was revealed that so much more unites us than divides us.
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA