Benediction Online

Thursday, February 15, 2007

No ‘Talk of Schism’ Today
from Dar es Salaam

Today (Thursday) the Primates met in a session of ‘intense listening, characterized by graciousness, patience and care’, according to their spokesperson, Archbishop Aspinal of Australia. That’s a very different picture from the threatened refusal to sit down with Bishop Katharine. We are told that she joined with Bishops Duncan, McPherson and Epting in a ‘passionate’ presentation of the different voices within The Episcopal Church (TEC). This seems to have raised concerns that the majority perception of TEC is the experience of a minority within the church itself.

This presentation happened within the context of a review of the Report of the Monitoring Committee which was convened to assess TEC’s response to the Windsor Report. The measured tone of the report (which was completed six months ago but only released today) is perhaps not surprising given that four of the six members of the committee were Brits. They found that although the language adopted by General Convention was not the same as that of the Windsor Report, that the response ‘as a whole’ was positive. Two of the three specific requests of the Primates meeting at Dromantine in 2005 were found to have received adequate responses; the infamous B033[1] meeting the request for a moratorium on ordaining anyone as bishop who is ‘living in a same-gender union’, and the expression of regret for straining the bonds of affection also just making the grade. Alas, our continuing differences of opinion and practice on same-sex blessings received an “F – needs further work”.

Where does this leave TEC? is a question that continues into tomorrow. All the American bishops are described as looking to the Instruments of Unity[2] for assistance in ‘creating a space for healing and reconciliation within TEC.’ Some specific proposals were suggested, and we can be sure that an alternative Anglican Communion province is one of them, but nothing was decided. We are assured that there was ‘no talk of schism in the meeting at all’.

All this has ramifications way beyond the borders of North America. The recent Civil Partnership Act, for example, highlights the issue of same-sex unions within the Church of England. The Windsor Report addresses the world-wide church, not just the US, but today it is TEC which is being judged and found wanting. The Anglican Church of Canada has not yet completed its formal response to the Windsor Report, and as usual, boundary crossing bishops received nothing more than a mild ‘tut-tut’.

The agenda is, we are told, flexible and tomorrow morning will continue with the responses of the Primates to the Episcopal Church, followed by a presentation from Bishop Peter Carnley on the Panel of Reference and then discussion of the proposed Anglican Covenant which is ‘anticipated to provide a way to healing’.

It was a quiet hot humid day around the pool, with bored journalists interviewing the conservatives and our small ‘inclusive’ contingent on and off the record. In the absence of walkouts or other action from the Primates, Davis Mac-Iyalla of Changing Attitude Nigeria has been the star of the media. Our presence here is a reminder that we are not just a problem that will go away but real baptized Christians who have as much right to be included in all the sacraments and orders of the Church as our conservative brethren.

[1] ‘Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further Resolved That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopacy whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains upon communion.’
[2] Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Consultative Council, Primates Meeting and Lambeth Conference


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