Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ;
I read with great hope the statement released by the Primates of the Anglican Communion after their meeting this week in Northern Ireland . It is a compromise document to be sure and will not fully satisfy any party in our current controversy. Yet I believe that it will create the time and space in which members of our Communion can continue to struggle together toward a common understanding of Holy Scripture, ecclesial authority and human sexuality.
It pains me that to facilitate the process of reconciliation, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have been invited to withdraw from the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. Yet this does not seem too onerous a price to pay for the preservation of the Communion. Fortunately, while we have been asked not to send voting members to the meeting, the Primates have requested that we send a delegation to explain the theological reasoning that undergirds our commitment to fully include gay Christians in the life of the Church. This delegation will be informed by the work of a theology committee established by the Presiding Bishop, Frank T. Griswold, and led by the Rev. Mark Allen McIntosh, associate professor of theology at Loyola University in Chicago and canon theologian to the presiding bishop.
I was encouraged to see that Primates who had previously pressed for a quick resolution to the controversy in which we are embroiled have now acknowledged the wisdom of letting the Episcopal Church deal with the recommendations of the Windsor Report through our own constitutional processes. The report will no doubt dominate the agenda of our next General Convention in 2006, and that is as it should be, for we are a democratic church, governed not only by bishops, but by clergy and laity as well.
I also was encouraged to learn that Primates who had previously laid claim to canonical authority over Episcopal parishes in the United States have declared a moratorium on this practice. It was equally reassuring to learn that even those Primates who had previously slurred gay Christians have signed a document which states: “The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.” I wait eagerly to see how the Primates will embody this eloquent commitment.
It is sometimes said that this long conflict over human sexuality is diverting the church from its true mission. There is truth to this, yet at their meeting in Northern Ireland , the Primates put aside their differences to reach unanimous agreement on what, one day, might be viewed as the signature achievement of this meeting.
In paragraph 20 of their communiqué, they note that three million people will die this year of AIDS, two million of TB and one million of malaria. To combat this suffering, they have embraced the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which aim to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, and to reduce absolute poverty and hunger by half within the next 10 years. They wrote: “We call upon the people of God in all the Provinces of our Communion to encourage leaders of government to pursue these goals with vigour, and to pray for the strengthening of their resolve to achieve the MDGs by 2015.” To which I can only add “Amen.”
I will keep you informed about future developments in the life of our Communion with another letter after the next meeting of the House of Bishops at Navasota , Texas in mid-March.
In Christ' Peace, Power and Love,
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington