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IRELAND: Archbishop commends House of Bishops' response

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[Episcopal News Service] The Most Rev. Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Church of Ireland Primate, has called the House of Bishops' September 25 statement, following its meeting in New Orleans, "helpful and deserving of a generous response."

"I hope that member churches of the Anglican Communion will now calmly and fairly reflect upon the New Orleans Statement and conclude that [the Episcopal Church's] bishops have gone a considerable way to meeting the reasonable demands of their critics," he said.

The statement responds to specific requests made by the Anglican Primates in a February 19 communiqué issued in Dar es Salaam that gave the bishops a September 30 deadline to clarify the meaning of Resolution B033 passed at the 2006 General Convention.

Harper commended the bishops' almost-unanimous decision to reiterate B033 that said they would "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The bishops also pledged not to authorize public rites for same-gender blessings "until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action."

Harper also noted the "generous agreement of Presiding Bishop [Katharine Jefferts Schori] to put in place a plan to appoint Episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight."

Harper noted that certain responsibilities rest upon the bishops in respect of General Convention approving legislative provisions.

"They have recognized this themselves by reference both to resolution B033 and to the possibility of the General Convention taking 'further action,'" he said. "The integrity of this position should, I believe, be respected."

The bishops' statement also addresses incursions by uninvited bishops, the need for Communion-wide consultation, the Listening Process, the Lambeth Conference, and justice and dignity for gays and lesbians.

Harper said that the bishops' call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions is "entirely in line with the recommendations of the Windsor Report and a proper understanding of Anglican polity."

He also noted that the bishops' acknowledgment for communion-wide consultation with respect to those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons "seems a balanced and relatively generous response in a very delicate area of inter-provincial relationships."

-- Matthew Davies is editor of Episcopal Life Online and international correspondent for Episcopal News Service.

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