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Communion representative to confer with some Episcopal Church bishops
Anglican Communion Secretary General to lead discussion of 'difficult issues'

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

 The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon  

[Episcopal News Service]  The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, has asked two Episcopal Church bishops to convene a small group of fellow bishops in New York in the first half of September "to discuss some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions."

The Anglican Communion Office's News Service issued the following statement August 18:

"Following consultation with the Presiding Bishop[,] the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida to convene a small group of bishops from the Episcopal Church (USA) to meet together to discuss some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions. Along with Bishop Griswold, those invited include Bishop Katherine [sic] Jefferts Schori, Bishop Bob Duncan, and Bishop Jack Iker. The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion will also attend. The first meeting will be taking place in New York in the first half of September."

The meeting has been in the works since the Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention in June, according to Canon James M Rosenthal, director of communications in the Anglican Communion Office.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, attended the convention. At the time he commended 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."

Rosenthal said that Kearon will be "facilitating" the meeting in September.

He added that the Anglican Communion Office is a "very proper and appropriate place to begin" a conversation of this importance.

"The Anglican Communion Office has been responsible for many of the meetings and committees that have been given the portfolio for concerns of church unity in the midst of our diversity," Rosenthal said. "This meeting could well be an important step in that continuing work."

Those meetings and committees include the Lambeth Commission on Communion—which issued the 2004 Windsor Report—and the Panel of Reference, established by Williams in response to the Anglican Communion primates' Communiqué from Dromantine, Northern Ireland, in February 2005. The panel is meant to consider situations "where congregations are in serious dispute and unwilling to accept the episcopal ministry of their bishop" or where Williams' "attention is drawn to other grave situations," according to the mandate published on the panel's pages of the Anglican Communion's website.

Duncan is bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP). Also referred to as the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), the group consists of 10 dioceses and individual congregations who object to various positions taken by previous General Conventions.

Iker is bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, one of the three remaining dioceses in the Episcopal Church that do not recognize the ordination of women. He announced on June 19, one day after Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as the 26th Presiding Bishop, that he and the diocesan Standing Committee were asking Williams for "alternative primatial oversight." In the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop is designated "chief pastor and primate," but does not exercise primatial oversight regarding dioceses or bishops.

Since then, six other bishops and standing committees, including Duncan, have asked for an alternate relationship with another primate, citing actions of the 2003 and 2006 General Conventions. In no case have the dioceses' conventions approved such requests.

The Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia—in Lee's diocese—is to be consecrated August 20 as a bishop in the Anglican Church of Nigeria, with oversight of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), originally called the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.

Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola asked that Minns remain Truro's rector. But Lee has told the Virginia diocese that Minns' consecration is "an affront to the traditional, orthodox understanding of Anglican Provincial Autonomy."

While Southwest Florida's Lipscomb has said the recent General Convention failed to respond properly to the Windsor Report, he has repeatedly maintained that he is committed to the Episcopal Church. At a recent clergy day in the diocese, he questioned the requests for "alternative primatial oversight" and said "rather than working toward division, I believe we should be working for the reconciliation of parties." Read the full story.

The announcement of the meeting came three weeks after Texas Bishop Don Wimberly invited a limited number of bishops to a meeting September 19-22. In a letter to invitees, he said that the aim of the meeting was "to arrive at a common response to the current circumstances of the Episcopal Church—one that will insure an unimpaired relation between bishops who uphold the requests of the Windsor Report and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Primates of the Anglican Communion." Wimberly has not released the list of original invitees or a current list of those who have accepted his invitation. 

He wrote in the letter that the two Church of England bishops scheduled to attend the meeting—N.T. Wright of Durham and Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester—"having had thorough discussions with [Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams], are coming with his blessing to discuss with us the nature of our future relation to the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion." The Archbishop of Canterbury has not commented on Wimberly's statement.