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From Columbus: Kearon commends Windsor response

By Pat McCaughan and Matthew Davies
[Episcopal News Service]  The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, commended the Episcopal Church for the way it has responded to the recommendations of the Windsor Report, he told Episcopal News Service. [Full text included below.]

"General Convention is a very careful body," he said. "I commend the Episcopal Church for the way it has taken seriously the requests of the Windsor Report, and you see this seriousness in the way that business is being conducted on this particular issue at Convention."

A first-timer at Convention, Kearon is hopeful that people will emerge with a greater realization of its membership within the Anglican Communion, "certainly remembering the responsibilities within that Communion, but also the joy of it as well; joy in the fellowship and sharing and the variety in which we live."

Addressing the House of Bishops June 16, Kearon received two standing ovations and enthusiastic applause. He acknowledged that the whole Windsor process has taken up a huge amount of time "not only at this General Convention, but in the months and years which have led up to it."

Citing several strategies that are underway regarding the "Windsor Process," including the panel of reference and the Listening Process, Kearon said he feels very comfortable now that a very clear process is in place.

"We need to remember the Listening Process is a mutual process," he said. "It isn't one group being listened to by others. All must listen and engage in this Listening Process."

Another strand of Windsor Process is the notion of an Anglican covenant, which could take six to eight years to develop, he said.

"It seems most of our time is taken up running around trying to patch up or repair fabric," he said of the interdependent relationships throughout the Anglican Communion.

"Sometimes we all need to stand back from our communion, as most do, most of the time, and see the richness and wonder of which we are wrought."

Kearon spoke encouragingly about work being done to support ecumenical issues and ecumenical dialogue with Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox churches, and underscored theological education as a priority within the Communion.

He also identified interfaith issues and work on mission and evangelism as priorities.
Transcription if interview with Kearon:

DAVIES: Could you tell me about the role of secretary general of the Anglican Communion?

KEARON: It is usually described in two forms. One is an administrative role and the other is an ambassadorial role. In the administrative role you're the head of the Anglican Communion Office and that means that you act as secretary of the various instruments of communion, the Lambeth Conference, Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, and it also related to the Archbishop of Canterbury in his role as the focus of unity within the Anglican Communion.

The ambassadorial role is that you represent the provinces of the Communion one to another. You act as a sort of reminder when you visit different parts of the Anglican Communion of what it is to be a member of Communion and remind them that they are part of this worldwide family of churches.

DAVIES: What are your impressions so far of General Convention and the legislative processes of the Episcopal Church?

KEARON: When one comes to a place like General Convention, and this is my first time, the first impression is of the bigness of the whole thing but also of the amount of time it takes. It's a much longer process than other provinces when they meet. My experience has been of much smaller churches. In a sense because it is smaller, they often act quicker. But General Convention is a very careful body. There is a large number of people here as well who are not part of Convention, not deputies, and they use it as a time for fellowship, for meeting, and for a time of sharing ideas.

DAVIES: What is your sense of the Episcopal Church's reception of the Windsor Report?

KEARON: I think the Episcopal Church has taken the Windsor Report very, very seriously. I can't but realize it has been a very painful process no matter which way you look at the central issue of sexuality. The general perspective you hold on that can still find what the Windsor Report is saying to the Episcopal Church is difficult and hard. I commend the Episcopal Church for the very careful way they have taken seriously the requests of the Windsor Report, and you see this seriousness in the way that business is being conducted on this particular issue at Convention.

DAVIES: You were invited to address the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. What was your message?

KEARON: The particular meeting I attended was looking at how they express the concept of interdependence, which is one of those words which is used within the Communion and one which people find very hard to explain. We all know what a dependent relationship is; we know what independence is; but somehow we use the word interdependence as being halfway between the two. We recognize that the provinces within the Anglican Communion are each autonomous. In other words they make their own decisions. They don't make those decisions in isolation or in ignorance. So I was trying at that point to tease out the notion of interdependence. But interdependence is only one word in a number of words like autonomy and so on, all of which try to express the relationship that we exist in as Anglican churches. We use the word family, as a family of churches, and this is about relationships, and relationships only happen if they are based on respect and trust. Trust that you recognize that what you are doing as one particular province, you trust that others are doing the same processes and approaching issues with the same seriousness and the same attempt to work out the faith. Respect, because you've got to respect that other provinces will make decisions differently, and you've got to respect that they are doing that in their way of understanding what it is to be faithful to the Gospel today.

DAVIES: What would you hope to see emerge out of this Convention?

KEARON: I would hope that General Convention would come out of this whole process with a greater sense of being part of the Anglican Communion. And that's not just to criticize the Episcopal Church. One of the difficulties we have in the Episcopal Church is that every one of the provinces tend to be absorbed with their own business and they very often forget their membership of a wider family of churches like the Anglican Communion. So I hope the Episcopal Church would at least come out of this with a greater realization of its membership within the Anglican Communion, certainly remembering the responsibilities within that Communion, but also the joy of it as well. And so the Anglican Communion doesn't become the awful body that imposed the Windsor Report on them, but actually the sense of joy in the fellowship and sharing and the variety that we live in within the Anglican Communion.

DAVIES: How would you describe the mission priorities right now for the Anglican Communion?

KEARON: The mission priorities of the Communion are obviously changing and reflecting the needs of the Church at the moment. We are very conscious of the Lambeth Conference, so part of our office is working on the mission and evangelism priorities that are going to have to be addressed at the Lambeth Conference. First of all it has got to be surveyed and understand what's happening in terms of mission and evangelism and how that's brought to the bishops of Lambeth so that helpful and useful decisions can be made for the future in that area.

Interfaith issues are becoming very important within the Communion for all of us and that has to become an even greater priority than it has been in the past. Theological Education is going to be a priority at the next Lambeth Conference and I think for many years beyond that as we -- all of us -- not just clergy, but lay people, bishops, everyone, learns and studies their faith and are properly equipped to be agents of God's mission in the world.

Work like ecumenical work is obviously going to have to continue. Sometimes that's seen as somewhat boring and tedious, but actually there's been enormous strides in ecumenical work and I think a lot of progress has been made and we've got to strengthen and remember that that has always got to be one of our priorities as Anglicans.