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Toward Columbus: Special Commission releases report on Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion
3rd in Series of Articles on the 75th General Convention

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
4/7/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has issued its report, including 11 resolutions to be debated by the 75th General Convention at its meeting June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio.

In a joint cover letter, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and the Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, observed that the report is "first and foremost... a theological document" focusing on "our understanding of our participation as members of the Anglican Communion in God's Trinitarian life and God's mission to which we are called." The letter stressed that the report "is intended to start the conversation and not conclude" discussion about the Windsor Report's recommendations, and to be an invitation into "the Windsor Process and the further unfolding of our common life together in the Anglican Communion."

The resolutions include proposals to "reaffirm the abiding commitment of the Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion"; to give members of other Communion provinces voice, but not vote on each of the convention's standing commissions; to join the House of Bishops' March 2005 "Covenant Statement" in expressing "our own deep regret for the pain that others have experienced with respect to our actions at the General Convention of 2003"; and to "urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

The Special Commission's official charge was to assist the 75th General Convention in "considering how to maintain the highest degree of communion within the Anglican Communion given the different perspectives held with regard to the place of homosexual persons in the life of the church."

The full report is available at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/SCECACReport.pdf.

The report is also being mailed to all bishops and General Convention deputies. Preliminary translations in Spanish and French are at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/53785_10765_ENG_HTM.htm

The report and the resolutions will be considered first at Convention by the Special Legislative Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, appointed in March by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and the House of Deputies President George Werner.

Griswold has said he anticipates the committee would craft a response during the convention's first week to the process set in motion by the Lambeth Commission on Communion, which issued the Windsor Report in October 2004.

The Special Commission's 26-page report, "One Baptism, One Hope in God's Call," has six sections plus a brief conclusion. Key documents from the Anglican Communion, the House of Bishops, and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church are appended to the report.

Section I describes the commission's biblical and theological basis for its understanding of communion.

Section II presents a brief history of events in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion since the last General Convention.

Section III presents a theological and ecclesiological discussion of the nature of interdependence in the Anglican Communion.

Section IV discusses expressions of regret and repentance by the Episcopal Church.

Section V surveys five "invitations" to the Episcopal Church as ways by which it can live more fully into its common life in the Anglican Communion.

Section VI traces precedents of covenants in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a response to its unity in God's mission.

The 11 proposed resolutions are:

+ Resolution A159, Commitment to Interdependence in the Anglican Communion, which would have the convention "reaffirm the abiding commitment of the Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion" in specific ways, commend Sections A and B of the Windsor Report as a means of deepening the understanding of the "vision of interdependent life in Christ," and ask the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons to make provision for persons from other provinces of the Communion to serve with voice, but not vote, on each of the convention's standing commissions.

+ Resolution A160, Expression of Regret, which would have the convention join the House of Bishops' March 2005 "Covenant Statement" in expressing "our own deep regret for the pain that others have experienced with respect to our actions at the General Convention of 2003" and offer "our sincerest apology and repentance for having breached the bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion by any failure to consult adequately with our Anglican partners before taking these actions."

+ Resolution A161, Election of Bishops, which would have the convention state that it "regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union" and "urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

+ Resolution A162, Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions, which would have the convention "affirm the need to maintain a breadth of private responses to situations of individual pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians in this Church," but concur with the Windsor Report's request that it not authorize public rites of blessing "until some broader consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" and advise bishops who have authorized public diocesan rites that they "should heed" the Windsor Report's invitation to "to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization" (Windsor Report 144).

+ Resolution A163, Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, which would have the convention affirm the need for "effective and appropriate pastoral care" for all, "recognize the agonizing position of those who do not feel able to receive appropriate pastoral care from their own bishops," urge bishops "to seek the highest degree of communion and reconciliation within their own dioceses" including using when necessary the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) process, and urge "continued attention" to diocesan boundaries and the authority of diocesan bishops.

+ Resolution A164, Continued Attention to the Millennium Development Goals, which would have the convention urge continued participation in and advocacy for the Millennium Development Goals, and the giving of at least 0.7% of diocesan, parish and individual financial resources to international development work "as a sign of the Episcopal Church's understanding that participation in the Millennium Development Goals is an expression of the hunger of this church for far deeper communion with all of God's beloved."

+ Resolution A165, Commitment to Windsor and Listening Processes, which would have the convention commend the Windsor Report as an "important contribution to the process of living into communion," commit the church to "the ongoing 'Windsor Process' of discernment as to the nature and unity of the Church," urge all members of the church to "commit themselves to the call of communion and interdependent life," commend the Anglican Communion Office's formal listening process, urge study of "To Set our Hope on Christ" and the Special Commission's own report, and ask that the model of dialogue and engagement used by the Anglican Consultative Council's Delegation to the United Nations Consultation on the Status of Women be considered for implementation in the Windsor and listening processes across the Communion.

+ Resolution A166, Anglican Covenant Development Process, which would have the convention demonstrate its commitment to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion by supporting the process of the development of an Anglican Covenant "that underscores our unity in faith, order, and common life in the service of God's mission" and ask that the Executive Council and the 76th General Convention receive reports on the process.

+Resolution A167, "Full and Equal Claim" for All the Baptized, which would have the convention reaffirm a number of resolutions passed by previous conventions, including ones that state that "gay and lesbian persons are by Baptism full members of the Body of Christ and of the Episcopal Church," that apologize "on behalf of the Episcopal Church to its members who are gay or lesbian, and to lesbians and gay men outside the Church, for years of rejection and maltreatment by the Church," and that state that "our baptism into Jesus Christ is inseparable from our communion with one another, and we commit ourselves to that communion despite our diversity of opinion and, among dioceses, a diversity of pastoral practice with the gay men and lesbians among us."

+Resolution A168, Human Rights for "Homosexual Persons," which would have the convention reaffirm "its conviction that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality" (GC 1976-A071), affirm the Windsor Report statement (paragraph 146) that "any demonizing of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care," and ask the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns to seek ways to address this concern through the Anglican Communion Office.

+ Resolution A169, Amend Canon III.1: Quadrilateral and Exercise of Ministry, which would have the convention add the following section to Canon III.1: Sec. 3. No person shall be denied access to any discernment process under these canons or to the exercise of any ministry in this Church on account of theological opinions consistent with (a) the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith, (b) the Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith, (c) the two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and the elements ordained by Him, and (d) the Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

The members of the Special Commission are:

  • Bishop Mark S. Sisk (Co-Chair) New York, II
  • The Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, (Co-Chair) Massachusetts, I
  • Sarah Dylan Breuer, Maryland, III
  • The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb, Virginia, III
  • The Rev. Dr. Mark Harris, Delaware, III
  • Bishop Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., Upper South Carolina, IV
  • Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Nevada, VIII
  • Bishop Henry Louttit, Georgia, IV
  • The Rev. Charles E. Osberger, Easton, III
  • The Rev. Canon Rosemari G. Sullivan, Virginia, III
  • Katherine Tyler Scott, Indianapolis, V
  • The Rev. Francis H. Wade, Washington, III
  • Christopher Wells, Northern Indiana, V
  • The Rev. Sandra A. Wilson, Newark, II

Appointed in 2005 by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and House of Deputies President George Werner, the Special Commission met November 7, December 20, February 13-15, March 6-7 and March 27.

The deputies appointed to the special legislative committee are: The Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, Province I, Diocese of Massachusetts, co- chair of the Special Commission The Rev. Sandra A. Wilson, Province II, Diocese of Newark, member of the Special Commission The Rev. Francis H. Wade, Province III, Diocese of Washington, committee co-chair, member of the Special Commission The Rev. Charles E. Osberger, Province III, Diocese of Easton, member of the Special Commission Russell Palmore, Province III, chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia and Executive Council member Debby Melnyk, Province IV, Diocese of Florida, member of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church Michael Howell, Province IV, Diocese of Southwest Florida Katherine Tyler Scott, Province V, Diocese of Indianapolis, committee vice chair, member of the Special Commission Christopher Wells, Province V, Diocese of Northern Indiana, committee secretary, member of the Special Commission The Rev. Carolyn Kuhr, Province VI, Diocese of Montana, General Convention 2003 chair of General Convention's Committee on the Consecration of Bishops Timothy Mack, Province VII, chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas D. Rebecca Snow, Province VIII, Executive Council member The Rev. Dan Martins, Province VIII, Diocese of San Joaquin Blanca Lucia Echeverry, Province IX, Diocese of Colombia

Bishops appointed to the committee are:

Bishop Dorsey F. Henderson Jr. of Upper South Carolina, committee co- chair, member of Special Commission Bishop Peter James Lee of Virginia Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana Bishop Robert O'Neill of Colorado Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island