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More bishops offer reflections on New York meeting

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
9/15/2006

The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker  

 
The Rt. Rev. Peter Lee  

 
The Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk  

 
The Rt. Rev. James Stanton  

 
[Episcopal News Service] 

Four more of the bishops who participated in the September 11-13 meeting about a request by seven dioceses for oversight from a primate other that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church have issued statements about the meeting's outcome.

Bishops Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Peter Lee of Virginia, Mark Sisk of New York and James Stanton of Dallas each have made their reactions known.

Previous stories http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_77731_ENG_HTM.htm included the reactions of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and Southwest Florida Bishop John Lipscomb, as well as comments from House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and Via Media USA facilitator Dr. Christopher Wilkins.

In a related development, the Fort Worth diocese's Executive Council went on record September 14 supporting the diocesan Standing Committee's June 18 resolution asking for Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO). That action came hours after Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as the 26th Presiding Bishop.

The Council's resolution [http://www.fwepiscopal.org/news/FWExecCouncil.pdf] said that it "endorses and affirms the appeal made to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion by the Standing Committee and Bishop of our diocese for Alternative Primatial Oversight and pastoral care."

Duncan has said that the APO requests were still on the table.

The dioceses requesting some form of alternative pastoral oversight are Central Florida (Orlando-based), Dallas (which has requested a relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury), Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Springfield (Illinois), and San Joaquin (California). None of the dioceses' conventions has ratified the requests.
 
The constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion's main policy-making body, makes no provisions for alternative primatial oversight. Neither do the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

Lee and Lipscomb were the co-conveners of the New York meeting. Other participants, in addition to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Jefferts Schori, Iker, Duncan, Stanton and Sisk were Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, and Robert O'Neill of Colorado. Also participating was Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council, who facilitated the meeting at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

A statement issued at the close of the New York meeting said that the bishops had confronted "the depth of the conflicts" they face and although they "could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight ... The level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us."

Iker's statement, posted September 14 on the Fort Worth diocesan website [http://www.fwepiscopal.org/news/0906summit.html], said "the time for action is upon us."

"I am grateful that the New York summit provided an opportunity to 'clear the air' in face-to-face encounters among bishops who stand on opposite sides of the issues that so deeply divide us. It was helpful to say what was on my heart and mind and to hear directly from the other side as to how they see things," he wrote. "It was not always a pleasant exchange of views. At times the conversations were blunt and even confrontational. Nonetheless, what needed to be said was said and heard, in a spirit of honesty and love. That being said, it is my sense that the time for endless conversations is coming to a close and that the time for action is upon us. I am not interested in having more meetings to plan to have more meetings."

Iker acknowledged that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church does not have canonical oversight over the Church's dioceses.

"While I can see their point, nonetheless the official job description for the PB is 'Chief Pastor and Primate,' and it is this role that we seek to have exercised on our behalf by an orthodox Primate of the Communion, and not just someone other than the Presiding Bishop-elect of ECUSA," Iker wrote.

Lee wrote to his diocese September 13 [http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml] saying: "While it is true we did not reach a conclusion, the level of candor and charity shared in our meeting was remarkable. I am hopeful that as we continue to meet, the Church will reclaim its historic generous orthodoxy and its respect for diversity and offer the Anglican Communion an example of faithfulness in unity and mission."

Lee added that "each of us in that meeting and many church observers are finding this process frustrating, especially as we operate in a culture which desires quick, decisive action."

"I am reminded of the lesson from the Epistle of James this past Sunday and the call to us to be quick to listen and slow to action," he wrote.

Lee wrote that he looked forward to the group's next meeting. Jefferts Schori said September 13 that she hoped for another session later this year, possibly with a slightly expanded group of participants.

In an email to diocesan clergy posted at on the Anglicans United website Stanton said: "Those who wanted (or feared) any kind of resolution at so brief a meeting were, I think, bound to be disappointed. However, speaking for myself, I believe it was important. I would characterize the meeting as frank and realistic, but also gracious and productive. All the bishops were engaged and open. 'Speaking the truth in love' comes to mind. I expect there will be follow-ups to this gathering."

Sisk issued a statement to ENS via email on September 14, describing the sessions as "forthright conversations in which the depths of the divisions which challenge us became abundantly clear."

"Sadly, we were not able to reach an accommodation adequate to the expressed needs of some of the appealing dioceses, while, at the same time remaining consistent with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church," he said. "Despite this failure, it would be my hope that future conversations might be able to build on the foundation of the candor of these three days of talks."