A group of 21 Episcopal Church bishops said September 22 in a letter to their colleagues in the House of Bishops that they support the Windsor Report, believe that the 75th General Convention "did not adequately respond" to the report and subsequent statements, but pledged to "care for all God's children in our dioceses."
The letter also thanked the two Church of England bishops who attended a meeting held September 19-22 at the Episcopal Diocese of Texas' Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center, northwest of Houston.
"We are grateful for the helpful briefing from the Archbishop of Canterbury, brought to us through the Bishops of Durham [N.T. Wright] and Winchester [Michael Scott-Joynt]," the letter said. "We have corresponded in turn with the Archbishop and communicated our hopes with respect to continuing in full constituent Communion membership. It is our intention to offer a faithful and dynamic witness within the Episcopal Church."
The bishops who signed the letter are Mark L. MacDonald (Alaska), William H. Love (Albany), John W. Howe (Central Florida), James M. Stanton (Dallas), Jack L. Iker (Fort Worth), Michael G. Smith (North Dakota), Edward S. Little (Northern Indiana), C. Wallis Ohl, Jr. (Northwest Texas), Robert W. Duncan (Pittsburgh), Keith L. Ackerman (Quincy), Geralyn Wolf (Rhode Island), Jeffrey N. Steenson (Rio Grande), John-David Schofield (San Joaquin), Edward L. Salmon (South Carolina), John B. Lipscomb (Southwest Florida), Peter H. Beckwith (Springfield), Bertram N. Herlong (Tennessee), Don A. Wimberly (Texas), James M. Adams (Western Kansas), D. Bruce MacPherson (Western Louisiana) and Gary R. Lillibridge (West Texas).
In late July, Wimberly issued an invitation to the meeting that he called a "consultation for bishops." His invitation said Wright and Scott-Joynt would be coming "with [the Archbishop of Canterbury's] blessing to discuss with us the nature of our future relation to the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion."
"What the bishops are looking for is a group firmly committed to the Windsor Report who can forge a visible link with the See of Canterbury on terms acceptable to the Communion and in keeping with its ethos and mission," Wimberly's letter said.
The Camp Allen letter said the group will meet again early in 2007 and invited "others who share our concern and position to join us in our common work on behalf of the church."
The signers referred to themselves as "catholic bishops within the Anglican Communion" who "gathered with a common desire to work for the unity of the Church, as well as for the integrity and vitality of our own Province and the Anglican Communion as a whole."
Among the letter's points were:
- The bishops recognized the need on the part of the leadership of eight of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses to ask for a relationship with a primate other than the Presiding Bishop. The bishops said their recognition "does not weaken our fundamental theological and ecclesial commitments," but instead "our unity has strengthened them, and for this we thank God."
- The bishops noted that some Episcopal congregations "need a safe space within which to live out the integrity of their faith in compliance with the Windsor Report" while others "do not accept the provisions" of the report. "We pledge ourselves to work with our Episcopal colleagues to care for all God's people in our dioceses."
- The bishops "accept and affirm the Windsor Report and view adherence to it as furthering the vocation to heal the breaches within our own Communion and in our ecumenical relationships"
- The bishops believe that the Windsor Report "properly belongs within the larger framework of Anglican teaching," which includes the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality. "We understand this to be the mind of the Communion for teaching and discipline."
- The bishops agree with the Windsor Report's call for development of an Anglican Covenant.
- The bishops are committed to the "conciliar character of our Communion" and have a "clear sense" that the 2006 General Convention "did not adequately respond to the request made of The Episcopal Church by the Communion through the Windsor Report and the Primates at Dromantine." The letter said that their sense was "consistent" with a letter issued September 14 by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams' letter said, in part: "It is ... clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests [by the Anglican Primates]. The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, some have not." Read the full text of Williams' letter.
- The bishops confess their "faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life," adding that such a faith is "uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures, set forth in the catholic Creeds, and to which the historic Anglican formularies bear witness."
Read the full text of the Camp Allen letter.
While a statement by Wimberly on Texas' website [http://www.epicenter.org/edot/] says that the invited Episcopal Church bishops represent a "diversity of opinion," his July invitation said that those bishops attending must agree to four points that he wrote are "all assumed as a starting point by Bishops Wright and Scott-Joynt." They were:
1. "Agreement that Lambeth 1:10 now constitutes the teaching of the Anglican Communion."
2. "Commitment to the Windsor Report as marking the way ahead for the Communion, and acceptance of its recommendations in respect to blessing same sex unions and the ordination of persons engaged in sexual relations outside the bonds of Holy Matrimony."
3. "Acceptance of the Communique from Dromantine issued by the Meeting of Primates in response to the Windsor Report."
4. "Agreement that the response of ECUSA's General Convention to the Windsor Report does not go far enough, and the intent to find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired."
"I need to underscore the fact that these four points are not ones for debate at this meeting," Wimberly wrote in his letter. "They are assumed as a starting point for seeking means to solidify Communion after Windsor. It is my hope that you will be able to accept this invitation and enter with fellow bishops into a consultation that can produce a way forward that both prevents some in our Church from 'walking apart,' and others from seeking irregular means of preserving their Anglican identity."
Wimberly urged recipients of the letter to notify him about any diocesan bishop "who can accept the four points" and if he or she has not already been invited, an invitation would be sent. He would not release the list of original invitees or a list of those who attended.
Wimberly stressed that Wright and Scott-Joynt could provide "necessary information about the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, but it is we the bishops who are committed to the four points above who must jointly find a way forward."
The bishops who attend would have to discuss the five points, according to Wimberly's letter including solidifying links to Canterbury and the Meeting of Primates, developing a leadership council for links with Canterbury and the Meeting of Primates, "commitment to common action," "thresholds for an Anglican Covenant," and "care of clergy and parishes not represented by ‘Windsor Bishops'."
"Lambeth 1:10" refers to a resolution passed in 1998 by the Lambeth Conference, the decennial meeting of all the bishops in the Anglican Communion. The resolution said, in part, that while the majority of attending bishops recognized that "many persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation" are members of the Church, they rejected homosexual practice as "incompatible with Scripture" and "cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions..." Read the full text.
There is not complete agreement within the Anglican Communion about when a Lambeth Conference resolution becomes "the teaching of the Anglican Communion," especially because the Lambeth Conference does not have specific authority to require compliance with its resolutions. The Communique from the meeting of the Primates in the Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre, Newry, in Northern Ireland in February 2005 stated, in part, that Lambeth 1:10 "should command respect as the position overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion."
"Windsor Bishops" is a title adopted by bishops who say they support full compliance with the report of the 2004 Lambeth Commission on Communion, known as the Windsor Report.