correspondents

Communiqu compliance?

The Anglican Communion Council, a right-wing think-tank (to use UK jargon) has issued its second report on how far the leaders of The Episcopal Church have complied or intend to comply with the Primates' Communique from Dar es Salaam. The following is an abridgement

1. TOP LEADERSHIP

SUMMARY

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori: Has continued to express the belief that TEC will not turn back from its previous positions and decisions on same-sexblessings and ordination of bishops living in same-sex relationships; she called Bishop Gene Robinsons election a 'blessing' and only regretted that his election was done prior to formal approval by TEC of rites for same-sex blessings. Has treated with arrogance the parts of the Communion that dissent from the US church's theological innovations; said the US church is ahead of those churches, which she believes will eventually 'catch up' and accept homosexual behaviour. Issued a letter to Archbishop Peter Aki-nola (Nigeria) on 30 April 2007, urging him not to come to the United States for the installation of Martyn Minns as bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); she appealed to 'ancient customs'.

A task force of TEC Executive Council met by conference call on April 4 and subsequently produced a study guide for the draft Anglican Covenant. The Council seeks, by June 4, responses to questions listed in the guide from congregations and individuals within TEC. After taking these church-wide responses under consideration, the Council will offer a revised version of the draft Covenant as a 'partial response to the Primates' after their next meeting June 11-14.

The House of Bishops' fall meeting will occur September 20-25 in New Orleans, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will visit the bishops at that time. The bishops' Theology Committee will publish a study guide at the end of May to help bishops and dioceses prepare a response to the Primates' Dar es Salaam Communiqu.

KEY QUOTES

Saying 'I don't believe that there is any will in this church to move backward,' the top official of The Episcopal Church said yesterday that the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has been 'a great blessing' despite triggering intense controversy and talk of possible schism. The Boston Globe, 25 April

Our road would have been simpler if we would have gotten blessing of relationships before he [Gene Robinson] would have been elected. But that's not what God gave us. So we're responding to what we have been given. Jefferts Schori during an April 5 visit to the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania

Jefferts Schori said that it could take 50 years for the debate over homosexuality to be resolved, but that she believes it will happen. She said she hopes that the Anglican Communion, an umbrella organization including The Episcopal Church and the Church of England, will stay together. 'Where the protesters are, in some parts of Africa or in other parts of the Anglican Communion today, is where this church and this society we live in was 50 years ago, and for us to assume that people can move that distance in a year or in a relatively instantaneous manner is perhaps faithless,' she said. 'That kind of movement and development has taken us a good deal of pain and energy over 40 or 50 years, and I think we have to make some space so that others can make that journey as well' The Boston Globe, April 25

I think this is an important time to let people know there is another kind of Christianity, more gracious, more willing to use our brains. Jefferts Schori at the Episcopal Communicators conference, April 25-28

My dear Archbishop Akinola: ... I understand from press reports you are planning to come to the United States to install Martyn Minns as a bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. I strongly urge you not to do so. First, such action would violate the ancient customs of the church which limits the episcopal activity of a bishop to only the jurisdiction to which the bishop has been entrusted, unless canonical permission has been given. Second, such action would not help the efforts of reconciliation that are taking place in The Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion as a whole. Third, such action would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ, which we must strive to display to all. Jefferts Schori in her April letter to Archbishop Peter Akinola

2. BISHOPS' RESPONSES

SUMMARY

A majority of TEC bishops continue vigorously to assert their rejection of the Primates' attempts to intervene in the US church situation through the Communique's 'Pastoral Scheme'.

Many TEC bishops continue to confuse the biblical concept of accepting individuals of homosexual orientation into the church, versus embracing and celebrating same-sex relations as 'normal' or even holy; these bishops confuse rejection of homosexual behaviour with rejection of individuals who practice that behaviour.

Bishops, including the presiding bishop, have indicated that their forbearance from ordaining any bishops living active homosexual lifestyles is only 'for a season,' until the rest of the Communion can accept it.

Gene Robinson (Bishop of New Hampshire) received much publicity over the past month for his lobbying efforts in New Hampshire in favour of the states legalization of same-sex unions; after the legislation passed, he announced that he and his partner will seek a civil union. Robinson also received attention for trips to two Southern universities to speak about his 'experience as the first openly gay bishop' in TEC.

Windsor bishops. The 7-member steering committee for the 'Camp Allen bishops' (also known as the 'Windsor bishops') wrote Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on April 26 to express their continued 'strong support' of the Windsor Report process and Camp Allen principles. Several among these bishops also continue to assert the seriousness of the division in TEC, a division based on theologies so polarized that they are irreconcilable.

KEY QUOTES

Citizens of our country in general (and Kansans in particular) will understand the reluctance of our House of Bishops to place our Church under the oversight of foreign prelates who are accountable to no one but God. These are the types of actions that, historically, fueled the Protestant Reformation and later initiated our struggle for independence as a nation. Furthermore, the actions of at least one Primate [Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda] regarding Christ Church, Overland Park, make this body [the Primates] a less-than-trustworthy repository for such authority. Dean Wolfe, Bishop of Kansas - March 26

It is my firm belief that the Primatial Vicar, as envisioned by the Primates, rapes our church... This is not of God as I read the Scriptures, or our Constitution and Canons. I have been down this road of the full inclusion of my brothers and sisters because of my race. I have been down this road for the full inclusion of my sisters as we made the ordination of women a reality to all the ordained ministries. I am now walking down this road again for the full inclusion of my brothers and sisters who are God's gay and lesbian children to share with us their God-given gifts for all of those same ordained ministries. We cannot go backwards, for we have heard the Spirit speaking to the Church. To go backward would be to say we have not acted under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that would be to commit the greatest sin - to sin against the Spirit. Orris Walker, Bishop of Long Island - April 11

Personally I see no way on earth The Episcopal Church will accede to their [Primates'] request for a 'clarifying' covenant on our part which would rule out the blessing of same-sex unions, or future bishops whose manner of life offends them. Carolyn Irish, Bishop of Utah -March 31

I pray that we can give a response that will allow us to be part of the Anglican Communion, but not in any way, shape or form dishonour the inclusive nature of our church. For we cannot go backwards. We are not a church that will turn around and walk away from our decisions. The Episcopal Church shall not be one that backs up on this issue. Well, I guess I can't say that exactly. But the Diocese of Los Angeles will not back up. I have commitments from all my bishops to support the people of this diocese, regardless of their sexuality, to support their baptismal covenant ministry and what God calls them to do. /. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles - April letter to clergy

B033 means what it means, and that is that we are forbearing for a season - at least until after the next General Convention in 2009, perhaps longer if it takes that long for the Communion to come to a consensus - from electing or consenting to the election of any person whose life is problematical. The plain meaning of that would include gay and lesbian people. Ted Gulick, Bishop of Kentucky -March 22

In spite of our differences in opinion concerning human sexuality and other issues, a solid majority of the House view the recommendations of the Tanzania Communique as offensive to this church and disrespectful of the way in which we respond to God's will. I was heartened and encouraged to see so many of the House resist the Primates' call. Creighton Robertson, Bishop of South Dakota - April diocesan letter

Much like Peter in the Book of Acts, we have been moved by the Spirit of God to include those whom others consider unclean - but God through baptism has made each and every one of us beloved and clean. This is about Jesus' Lordship. This is about Jesus in the lives of our LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgen-der] brothers and sisters; and who are we to declare them unclean for God has called them chosen and his beloved. Orris Walker, Bishop of Long Island - April 11

For us, full communion has never meant the acceptance of external authority. .. Just as the patriarch of Constantinople doesn't have jurisdiction over the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, even though they're in full communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no jurisdiction over this church, even though we're in full communion. Ted Gulick, Bishop of Kentucky - March 22

Now this is...a diocese that recognizes that because of our policies we are discriminating by forbidding the participation of all the baptized in the ordained ministry. We recognize that we can bless dogs and cats, cars and all kinds of boats, homes and business, but we have to refrain from blessing our faithful believers in Christ that have lived in a monogamous respectable life for decades but happen to be of a different sexual orientation. .. We are supposed to find ways to ignore all the new evidence of science, and we have to show partiality with our sisters and brothers of different sexual orientations with whom we share this churchto inform them that they have to continue being second class Episcopalians. Leo Trade, Bishop of Southeast Florida - March 1

Therefore, I stand with those Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Lay Persons of this church who affirm that we cannot step back from our commitment to inclusion of all God's children as full participants in all aspects and levels of our life and work... In this context, I would say three things about the presenting issues of ordination of GLBT persons and blessing of same-gender partnerships. First, sexual orientation is not prima facie an impediment to any ordained Office. Secondly, sexual orientation is not prima facie a reason to bless or a reason not to bless relationships. Third, healthy, appropriate, responsible relationships and their sexual expressions by human beings are not prima facie either impediments to any ordained Office or sufficient reasons to bless or not bless a relationship. William Gregg, Bishop of Eastern Oregon - March 5

We are today the church that we are, informed by the Baptismal Covenant, and standing on the positions we have taken, including that on homosexual persons, and to be other than who we are is to fail the Communion by holding back from it the gift of who we are. Charles Bennison, Bishop of Pennsylvania - April 3

As much as we passionately value our relationship as members of the Anglican Communion, we cannot accept this suggestion [the primates' pastoral scheme] because it violates our canon law and our constitution and it would cause havoc from a legal standpoint. Ted Gulick, Bishop of Kentucky - March 22

For our bishops, the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people is integral to our mission and work to sustain a just creation. This clear, unambiguous stand is one we need to advocate for the benefit of the wider Communion... Unfortunately, there are elements in our communion who seem to be more committed to advancing their political agenda than to building up an inclusive, welcoming church devoted to serving God's mission for justice, peace and reconciliation. In conversations with African bishops I learned that conservative Americans are contributing money and working in Africa to support the election of a primate sympathetic to the American Anglican Council and Anglican Communion Network positions. William Persell, Bishop of Chicago - March 28

3. SAME-SEX BLESSINGS

SUMMARY

State-recognized same-sex unions

have been backed by Episcopal clergy and bishops across the country this past month, most notably in Connecticut, Iowa and New Hampshire, where Episcopal leaders have publicly lobbied for passage of legislation supporting same-sex unions.

Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe joined leaders on April 10 to pressure the Iowa state legislature to 'expand the state's civil rights laws to offer new protections for gays and lesbians,' including a ban on hiring and housing discrimination.

New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson was the first religious leader to speak in support of a bill legalizing same-sex unions in an April 10 open hearing by the state's Senate Judiciary Committee.

Connecticut priests Mary Anne Osborn, associated rector of St Paul's Episcopal, Fairfield, and her partner, the Revd Joanne Neel-Richard, both lobbied on April 19 for state legislation permitting same-sex marriage.

KEY QUOTES

In my mind, basically our reality is very parallel to the reality in the Church of England. For example, I found out that a very large parish in the Diocese of London has developed rites of the blessing of the civil unions, which are a matter of law in England... I don't think any bishop in the Church of England has approved the rites but I know they have been informed that they are going on. Functionally, on a day to day basis, the same reality is in our church that exists in the Church of England...so that is a matter easy to clarify. Ted Gulick, Bishop of Kentucky - March 22

It's not as if I put the Bible to one side and for secular reasons advocate for the blessing of same-sex unions. For me, it has emerged out of what the Scriptures are telling me about how Christians are expected and invited by God to live their lives. If people on both sides of this issue can truly affirm and show respect for the conscience of the other side, not deny their integrity as followers of Jesus and not assume that they are diminishing the authority of Scripture.. .then it's possible for each side to offer its gifts to the other. Then God can do something with the issue. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Southern Ohio -April 20

My partner and I look forward to taking full advantage of the new law. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, after a state bill passed legalizing same-sex unions

Leaders of the three Episcopal churches in Montclair believe that gay bishops should be allowed to be ordained. They also support blessings of same-sex couples. The Montclair Times, March 28

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