SPEECH TO DALLAS VIA MEDIA
OCT. 1, 2006
First of all, I want it on record that I’m not here tonight to give THE answer to the problems plaguing the Anglican Communion.
But as a long time observer of secular and churchly politics, what I CAN do is offer some information and analysis.
Much of this will be bullet points, so I can cover as much information as possible in the time we have.
First, the Windsor Report:
Our church is now moving through what many describe as a time of turmoil. There are those who are working hard to keep things as stirred up as possible in the wake of the actions of General Convention 2003. One tool they are using to great effect is the Windsor Report. They make loud and repeated demands that The Episcopal Church “submit” to it and use disinformation to stir up as much anxiety as possible.
So information is our best weapon against the fog of words being put out by those threatening schism.
Here are facts:
* The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is a fellowship of highly autonomous provinces.
* The Archbishop of Canterbury has no power to do anything or order any action taken in any province of the Anglican Communion except the Church of England.
*Lambeth has no legislative power. In “The Study of Anglicanism,” John Booty and Stephen Sykes wrote, “The Lambeth Conference has remained a deliberating body convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whatever the respect according to its deliberations, it has no canonical or constitutional status.”
* Lambeth degrees are not only not binding, they are reversable. In 1920, Lambeth issued a resolution strongly forbidding birth control. At its very next meeting in 1930, Lambeth reversed itself. In 1888, Lambeth held that polygamists could not be received for baptism until they became monogamous. In 1988 Lambeth said that polygamists could be baptized but could not take another wife as long as any of their wives were living -- offering pastoral means to resolve the polygamy issue in those Provinces whose cultures condone it.
* The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting were first grouped in the 1997 Virginia Report which preceded Lambeth 1998. In that report these entities were called “World-Wide Instruments of Communion” in a chapter discussing ideas that the bishops at Lambeth might choose to explore. The authors of the Windsor Report introduced the term “Instruments of Unity” for the first time in 2004.
* The Primates have met regularly only since 1979. At that first meeting, the Primates themselves defined the meeting’s purpose as “not being a higher synod but a clearing house for ideas and experience through free expression, the fruits of which the Primates might convey to their churches.”
* Who decides who is a member of the Anglican Communion and who is not? We might look for an answer in the Canons of the Church of England. Rule 54(5) of the Church Representative Rules provides that “if any question arises whether a Church is in communion with the Church of England, it shall be conclusively determined for the purposes of these rules by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.”
Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, says in his introduction:
"This report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a
pilgrimage toward healing and reconciliation."
Let’s repeat that – it’s a report. It’s not a judgment. It’s not legislation. It’s not Holy Writ. You can’t submit to a report.
[Note: Since this speech was given, The Most Reverend Barry Morgan, “Archbishop of Wales and one of the drafters of the Windsor Report said in his September Presidential Address, "... we did not have in mind a covenant that was prescriptive and detailed and intrusive. What we did have in mind was what ECUSA did at its convention in July."]
Now for the Windsor Report itself. This Report that is being held over the head of The Episcopal Church like some flaming sword of a vengeful god is a very flawed document that focuses so tightly on Institutional Preservation that I fear it leaves no room for the workings of the Holy Spirit.
It does recognize that The Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church acted within the bounds of their Canons and Constitution, but after that, it goes downhill.
The Windsor Report – according to its own creators – was supposed to start a discussion, not end one. But it did so in such a clumsy ham fisted way that it short-circuited the discussion it hoped for.
Among its deficiencies is its laughably inaccurate account of the history of the ordination of women and its reception in the Communion. It also skates very lightly indeed over the way the Communion historically has dealt with anyone other than white males.
It proposes a completely un-Anglican confessional document and calls for a highly centralized non-elected authority of clerics to run the Anglican Communion. It also calls for a convoluted process by which all Episcopal elections anywhere – and one assumes appointments in the places where bishops are appointed, not elected – would have to be approved by the entire Communion, as would other controversial matters. One assumes this unelected Curia would get to decide what is “controversial” and what it not.
And, as we all know -- it calls on The Episcopal Church to impose indefinite moratoria on the episcopal election of any more gay people living in committed relationships and on same-sex unions, quite offensively placing the entire burden on one small of group of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
So deficient is this document that at their first meeting after it was issued, the Primates dismissed it as “inadequate” as did all – all – of the conservative groups in The Episcopal Church.
It was only after they realized that the Windsor Report was all they were going to get out of Lambeth that they began to represent it as a legislative judgment passed on The Episcopal Church by the rest of the Communion.
But no matter how much sturm und drang they keep raising, and no matter how many meetings various groups of bishops may have, the General Convention is the only body in The Episcopal Church with the authority to respond to the Windsor Report.
Bonnie Anderson, the new President of the House of Deputies points out in her recent letter in response to the Camp Allen meeting and the Kigali Statement that “The Windsor Report was issued as one part of a process. The responsibility for the response to the Windsor Report belongs to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a bicameral legislature with representation from lay and clergy as well as bishops. At the 75th General Convention, our response was made. Our bishops certainly can and do meet together. However, when decisions affecting the whole Episcopal Church are made, representatives of the whole Episcopal Church need to be present for the conversations as well as the possible decision making.”
The Windsor Report was written to the whole communion, not just The Episcopal Church. Its purpose was not to explore the subject of homosexuality, but to explore ways to remain in communion with one another while holding serious disagreements.
To this end, it strongly urged bishops to stop interfering in provinces and dioceses other than their own.
It also repeated the urgings of Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998 for the entire communion to engage in a listening process in which they would listen to the experience of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.
Out of that list, the Episcopal Church has done more to participate in – or if you prefer, to “comply” with -- the Windsor Process than any other province.
So when bishops start calling themselves “”Windsor compliant” because they forbid same sex blessings and have condemned the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, one might ask about the listening process in their dioceses and the letters they have written to admonish fellow bishops who have continued to make extra-territorial incursions – such as ordaining a priest of the Episcopal Church a bishop in the Church of Nigeria with the mandate to minister to people in The Episcopal Church.
Unless they have done all these things, they are not “Windsor compliant.” Our bishops are not “Windsor compliant.” They are “partially Windsor compliant.” You and I live in “partially Windsor compliant’ dioceses.
Events began overtaking the WR within weeks of it being issued. Many Primates ignored its request that Primates not interfere with the business of Provinces not their own. Meetings in Cairo and Pittsburgh made it clear that many already had decided to split from The Episcopal Church no matter what General Convention did in Columbus.
So it was no surprise that many began to fling accusations that General Convention “thumbed its nose” at the Windsor Report even before Convention was over. This is not helpful. Such rhetoric insults the hard thoughtful and prayerful work done by bishops, priests and deputies on the resolutions dealing with the report. Yes, GC 2006 didn't do absolutely everything that the WR suggested, but as several have noted, neither has anyone else. As many have pointed out, we're more “Windsor Compliant” than most.
The last minute passage of B033 was handled badly, and many people felt spiritually beat up, not only by the passage of the resolution, but by the manner it which it was presented and the pressure put on both houses by the presiding bishop and the presiding bishop elect.
And within minutes of its passage, conservatives were issuing loud complaints that it was not enough to satisfy them.
I believe the most faithful want to work this out. But I also believe the reason so many Episcopalians are instinctively uneasy with The Windsor Report is that it is a very institutional-centered document reflecting the highly hierarchical nature of some Provinces of our Communion. For instance, it has taken more than three years for much of the Communion to "get" that we elect bishops, we don't appoint them. This is the kind of misunderstanding that has caused the Scottish Episcopal Church and New Zealand and Australia to share our skepticism.
Another reason for this unease for us, I believe, is our Baptismal Covenant, which since 1979 has become part of our spiritual DNA.
As a friend of mine pointed out, unlike the very hierarchical Windsor Report, the Baptismal Covenant is crafted to reflect a pre-hierarchical Church: the Church of Paul, where we have different functions rather than more or less power.
That's a very significant distinction.
The Windsor Report is all about the institutional church, not about the Gospel. It’s good to remember that Jesus never envisioned a "church" at all: he preached exclusively about the Kingdom of God.
So when people say – as many have in the wake of General Convention – that “the Baptismal Covenant trumps Windsor" they are saying that "Jesus and Paul trump religious institutions".
Another reason for our unease is that the recommendations of the WR are being so obviously selectively accepted and selectively "enforced."
Which brings me to the impact the Windsor Report has had on the leadership of Rowan Williams.
The Archbishop of Canterbury apparently has no problem with everyone being “partially Windsor compliant.” Michael Russell has pointed out that while Rowan has made some mild statements about stopping foreign incursions by some bishops in Africa, he has never strongly encouraged them to stop the incursions nor has he even suggested they initiate a meaningful listening process. Williams’ worst sin of omission is his shameful failure to challenge the actions of the Church of Nigeria in its vociferous support of the criminalization of homosexuality in Nigeria – laws that can lead to the imprisonment and death of gay and lesbian people, as well as the imprisonment of anyone who speaks out in their behalf!
All of his admonitions have been aimed at The Episcopal Church, and to a lesser degree, The Anglican Church in Canada. But if anyone has thumbed its nose at the Windsor Report, it is those in the Anglican Communion who have ignored the provisions of the report aimed at them. The Episcopal Church is at least struggling with it.
What the Archbishop of Canterbury has tried to do is articulate in his indirect oh-so-British way is that he has no authority to make anyone do anything outside the Church of England, so he’d like us to work this out amongst ourselves.
Because no matter how much some Primates may act like it, there is no actual structure to enforce decisions made by any extra-national group in the World Wide Anglican Communion.
In the end, the integrity of The Windsor Report has been lost because the Archbishop of Canterbury has held us to one standard and the rest of the Anglican Communion to another.
Now to CAMP ALLEN.
I think there are two reasons why the announcement of the meeting at Camp Allen raised concerns.
One was that it was bishops only who were meeting, and Episcopalians always get nervous when bishops are in a room by themselves. It increases the chances of bishops behaving badly.
And two, the admissions test. Bishops were required to accept as doctrinal and authoritative not only the recommendations of The Windsor Report but also the actions of Lambeth. Michael Russell reminded us that physics and other sciences teach us that outcomes are often quite controlled by initial conditions.
The truth is, as Ann Fontaine pointed out on the HOB/D list, Camp Allen was just a group of 21 bishops who have an opinion. Bishops are welcome to meet and to lobby the church in whatever direction they wish. She pointed out that that is what those who have worked for full inclusion of women in all orders of ministry and gays' and lesbians' full participation in the church have done. Their view has prevailed within the rules of order and the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. That has outraged many who were used to having things done “their’ way.
Camp Allen looked to many like yet another attempt at an end run to achieve goals they couldn’t get at General Convention. But there is no "body" that can enforce what they want except General Convention.
Jim Stockton of Austin figured out that, with five additions, these were very same bishops who signed off in April of 2005 on the urgent plea to the ABC, thereby contradicting their participation less than a month earlier in the House of Bishops Covenant Statement.
Two of the new additions were new bishops following in their predecessors' footsteps: Lillibridge following Folts and Love following Herzog. Keith ackerman of Quincy was no surprise. The only two ‘new” names since April 2005 are Mark MacDonald of Alaska and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island. And so far, with the exception of Ackerman, these names merely represent the bishops, not the dioceses. This distinction is very likely to be addressed at upcoming diocesan councils and conventions.
I fear that instead of being reconciling, this was a meeting aimed at further dividing The Episcopal Church. More than one person pointed out that the most shameful part of the Camp Allen statement is that it includes no acknowledgement of the responsibility of the African bishops to respect the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori. The lack of an affirmation of her election by the non-Network bishops present is inexcusable.
Jim Stockton's analysis of The Camp Allen meeting pointed out that it also had to affect the meeting the ++PB and ++PB elect had in New York. While they are working to come up with a pastoral solution for those distressed by Katharine’s election, the Camp Allen meeting was working to divide the church into Windsor compliant and Windsor non-compliant camps.
Moreover, Camp Allen was gathered around an agenda that dismisses the obligation of dioceses and their bishops to abide by the Constitution and Canons of the Church.
One observer described it as “an attempt to construct an alliance comprised of those bishops fiercely committed to a puritan revision of the Episcopal Church with those bishops who have recognized their own misgivings around certain policies of the Church and who are willing to entertain non-canonical means of challenging them.”
After all, claiming the right to seek direct relationships with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Primates, effectively inviting the ABC to violate jurisdictional boundaries, is in direct contradiction of the recommendations the WR.
It has been pointed out that trying to create a new category of bishops entitled 'Windsor Compliant,' and to foment non-compliance to our Constitution and Canons is to foment also non-compliance with the spirit and letter of the ever-exalted Windsor Report. “The only compliance left is compliance to one's own prejudices.”
Here is what Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has to say about the Camp Allen meeting:
“With regard to the gathering in Texas, advance and follow-up information about this meeting suggest an involvement by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is important for you to know that the Texas meeting was in no way held at the Archbishop's initiative nor was it planned in collaboration with him. The two bishops from the Church of England did not attend as delegates of the Archbishop, nor were they empowered to speak on his behalf except to give the message that "the bishops meeting are bishops of the Catholic Church in the Anglican Communion."
“The letter from Texas said it is the clear sense of the signers that "the General Convention of 2006 did not adequately respond to the request made of the Episcopal Church by the Communion through the Windsor Report and the Primates at Dromantine." It says that this view is "consistent with the Archbishop of Canterbury's Holy Cross Day letter to the Primates." Given the very nuanced and cautious way in which the Archbishop expresses himself, I think it is important here to refer back to that letter and what Rowan actually said, and I quote: "It is also 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. 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, there remain some that have not."
“I note here that Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, says in his introduction: "This report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage toward healing and reconciliation." As such, I believe the "Windsor process" is a process of mutual growth which calls for patience, mutual understanding and generosity of spirit rather than stark submission.
“It also needs to be said that the assessment of the responses of the Episcopal Church to the Windsor process is not the responsibility of self-chosen groups within the Communion. At the April 2006 meeting of the Joint Standing Committee of the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council a small working group drawn from different parts of the Communion was identified to consider the actions and decisions of our General Convention. They will communicate to both the Joint Standing Committee and then the Primates Meeting in February. The Archbishop has repeatedly underscored the need to allow this process to unfold.
“The General Convention in Resolution A165 affirmed our commitment to the Windsor process. From my perspective, being faithful to the Windsor process – and the Covenant process which is integral to it – calls for patience and rules out actions which would preempt their orderly unfolding. In my view, portions of the Kigali statement that take issue with the actions of the Episcopal Church in advance of hearing from the advisory group, and before the Covenant has an opportunity to be developed, are inconsistent with the Windsor process, as are continuing incursions of bishops from other provinces into our dioceses. Patience and respect for one another and our provincial structures are required on the part of us all.”
And that brings us to the KIGALI STATEMENT
Perhaps the best response to the meeting in Kigali came from Bonnie Anderson, the president of the House of Deputies.
She wrote: “The Global South Primates who recently met at Kigali have a right to meet, but
no right to make decisions for the Anglican Communion. They have expressed concern about the perceived unilateral actions taken the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003. However, their statement is truly a unilateral act.”
She points out that, “In their statement they distance themselves from Bishop Jefferts Schori for holding views that are similar to those held by Bishop Griswold, Bishop Browning before and other Primates currently. There is nothing unique in her views. What is unique is her gender in the circle of primates. That seems to be their biggest objection. I note with sadness that the Kigali communiqué does not extend the courtesy of referring to Bishop Jefferts Schori as a bishop, where everyone else is referred to with titles. It adds a low note that is not worthy of the faith espoused in the document.”
Here it is important to point out that questions are emerging as to just how many bishops who were at the meeting in Kigali actually signed on to this statement, or indeed, even knew about it. Anglican Church of Southern Africa Archbishop Ndungane has said that while he and Canon Livingstone Ngewu were present in Kigali, neither of them was made aware even of the possibility of a communiqué in the name of the Primates of the Global South, prior to its release. That was followed by a September 28 statement from the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) which clarified that its Prime Bishop, the Most Rev. Ignacio C. Soliba, "did not attend the meeting and was not a signatory to the so-called Kigali Communiqué." There are 38 Provinces in the Anglican Communion. So now we’re down from 20 primates to 18. That’s not even half of the provinces in the Communion, must less a majority. The Philippine statement also offered greetings on behalf of the province to Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori and welcomed her election. "The Episcopal Church in the Philippines will extend an invitation for her to visit the Philippines in early 2008 for the renewal of our historical ties and covenant relationship," the statement said.
However many Primates really signed on to the statement and the question of just how much of the Communion really is in tune with the statement, it DOES raise concerns.
This is interference in the Episcopal Church's affairs of the most outrageous sort - essentially this communiqué asks for an alternate Primate to be sent from the Episcopal Church.
The Communique also proposes active planning for a structure that they clearly intend to be accepted as the official Anglican province representing the USA.
The Episcopal Majority spoke for many of us when they said that most of us were – and still are -- hoping that the various actors within Anglicanism were in good faith looking for a solution to our present difficulties. If the meeting in Kigali doesn’t obliterate that hope, it certainly dims it. The meeting revealed a large group within the Church determined to mold the Communion in their neo-Puritan image.
Forget the Windsor Process. The Rt. Reverend Peter Akinola and his Global South buddies want to establish a new Anglicanism.
The Episcopal Majority blogsite has very clearly laid out how it looks:
They plan to soon produce an Anglican Covenant, their definitive statement of what Anglicanism is.
They were at work even before the official process, prompted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, began. Indeed, their document is almost finished. It certainly will adhere strictly to their stated views on homosexuality – which is "an evil" and a "perversion," according to their statements. Further, they will forbid the ordination of homosexuals to the diaconate and clergy, even though the Windsor Report never suggested they should be.
They will submit this material to the official Anglican Covenant Committee chaired by the Rt. Rev. Drexel Gomez, an outspoken supporter of an Anglican realignment who opposes the inclusion of gay men and lesbians in the Church.
The communiqué also discussed alternative primatial oversight. According to the process currently in place, these matters and others dealing with similar conflicts were to be referred to the Panel of Reference set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to the communiqué this matter will now be taken up by "the Global South Steering Committee" to "develop a proposal identifying the ways by which the requested Primatial oversight can be adequately provided." The Committee will "meet with the leadership of the dioceses requesting Alternative Primatial Oversight, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Network and the ‘Windsor Dioceses’."
Why are they doing this? Because of the "slow response from the Panel of Reference." Not only have they dismissed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s panel, they have decided the Archbishop himself is now one of many to be consulted in the matter of primatial oversight.
The communiqué then speaks of their intent to set up, under their sole guidance, a parallel ecclesiastical structure in America:
"We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA. We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop such a proposal in consultation with the appropriate instruments of unity of the Communion. We understand the serious implications of this determination. We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to
historic Anglican faith.”
The communiqué announced, "At the next meeting of the Primates in February 2007 some of us will not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a primate at the table with us. Others will be in impaired communion with her as a representative of The Episcopal Church."
The alliance arrogantly demands that some other bishop represent the Episcopal Church.
The best thing that can be said about the Kigali Statement is that it has given us clarity. First, any hope that there can be some accommodation with Archbishop Akinola over the matters which divide us is gone. Many are beginning to fear that the trajectory set by Akinola is more likely to end up looking like extremist fundamentalist Islam and Christianity than anything Anglican.
One primate who was at the meeting -- Archbishop Ndungane, shares these concerns:
“I am unable to understand why there seems to be a deliberate intention to undermine the due processes of the Anglican Communion and the integrity of the Instruments of Unity, while at the same time we commit ourselves to upholding Anglican identity, of which these, as they have continued to evolve over the years in response to changing needs, are an intrinsic part. Thus, for example, recent meetings of the Primates, in which the Global South played a very full part, requested various actions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, which he has been assiduous in pursuing; such as setting up the Lambeth Commission, the Panel of Reference, and now the Covenant Design Group. Yet there seems to be an urgency to obtain particular outcomes in advance, pre-empting the proper outworking of the bodies for which we called.
“I must also say that I am disturbed by the apparent zeal for action to be taken against those deemed not in compliance with Lambeth Resolution 1:10, with a readiness to disregard ancient norms of observing diocesan autonomy. Though this was upheld within the Windsor Report’s recommendations, it is of course a practice that was adopted in earliest times by the universal church . . .We are in danger of giving the impression of being loyal Anglicans, and loyal members of God’s One, Holy and Apostolic Church, only where, and insofar, it suits us!
“I am also more than a little wary of calling into question the election processes of another Province in the way the Communiqué suggests, in relation to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. This introduces a completely new dimension into our relationships within the Communion, the reciprocal implications of which we have not considered.
“An added concern for me is the apparent marginalization of laity, clergy and bishops in the debate within the Global South. I long for a consultative process that fully engages the whole Body of Christ . . . Primates do not have sole monopoly on wisdom and knowledge at this crucial time, nor indeed at any other!
“And so I also offer a call to my brother Primates, that we step back from the brink at which the Kigali Communiqué appears to place us.”
And here is what our own Frank Griswold has to say about Kigali:
“The communiqué from Kigali recommends that there be a separate ecclesial body within our province. The suggestion of such a division raises profound questions about the nature of the church, its ordering and its oversight. I further believe such a division would open the way to multiple divisions across other provinces of the Communion, and any sense of a coherent mission would sink into chaos. Such a recommendation appears to be an effort to preempt the Windsor process and acting upon it would create a fact on the ground, making healing and reconciliation – the stated goal of the Windsor process – that much more difficult to achieve.
“Having said that, I am well aware that some within our own Episcopal Church are working to achieve such an end. Efforts, some more overt than others, toward this end have been underway since before the 1998 Lambeth Conference …
“The Kigali communiqué questions Bishop Jefferts Schori's ability to represent all of our dioceses. The role of primates is to bear witness as fully as possible to the life and complexities of their own provinces. I have sought to bring to the primates' meetings the wide range of opinions and the consequent tensions within our own church. I have every confidence that Katharine will do the same. Furthermore,” Griswold says, “the voices from dioceses that the Kigali communiqué fears will not be heard seem to be well represented among the primates themselves.”
I agree with Michael Russell that our problems boil down to – and I know this is completely simplistic -- We've never done it that way and Most people don't approve. Like many in The Episcopal Church I personally do not think that the Church exceeds her authority by ordaining or blessing the relationships of gay and lesbians. Homosexuality is not a moral condition. It is an existential one. This means the behavior is only immoral if it is not done in love and mutuality and with consent -- as is the case with heterosexuals.
Otherwise those two criteria -- we’ve never done it this way and most people don’t approve -- are the same we used for approving slavery, racism and the subjugation of women. As Micheal reminded us, just because 70% of the Anglican Communion lives in cultures that stress the subordination of women doesn't make it right, any more than the suggestion that 70 percent of the Anglican Communion does not include gay and lesbians in the life and ministry of the church makes that right.
Something new is emerging. That means we live in a scary time. We must be careful not to let fear over ride faith in a loving God.
We have two things on which to hang our hope for the future.
One is the rule of law.
The job of those in the Via Media is to keep the issue of the rule of law in front of every one -- all of us, liberal, conservative, moderate – all of us.
And the second, of course, is our faith in a loving God.
I want to close by talking about what I consider the issue that underlies the Windsor Report, the Camp Allen meeting and the Kigali statement -- and that is impaired communion.
It’s a phrase that’s tossed around with alarming ease these days for such a serious matter. It’s always presented as a prelude to that other serious sin – schism.
I’m very familiar with the phrase, because every since it was founded, my diocese has been in “impaired” or “broken” communion with all bishops who ordain women, with all Primates who ordain women, with all bishops who are women and, of course, with all priests who are women.
We are in broken or impaired communion with Bishop Gene Robinson and with all bishops and deputies who voted to confirm his election.
We are in broken or impaired communion with all bishops who participated in his consecration. We are in broken or impaired communion with any bishop anywhere who allows same-sex blessings and with any priest anywhere who performs one.
We also are out of communion with any male priests ordained by bishops who are women.
EXCEPT, we are in communion with any of the above who are in the Network.
It gets confusing.
Now some of the primates are saying they are not in communion with our presiding bishop elect. To say that many of the Primates either cannot be in communion or are in "impaired communion" with Katharine Jefferts Schori represents what the English group Inclusive Church calls “a theological and ecclesiological nonsense. . . The sacrament of Holy Communion is a sacrament given to us by God. It is not capable of impairment.”
We who trust in God must give thanks to God for the gift of communion; it is as the Body of Christ that we exist. Communion is God’s gift to give, not ours to hand out only to those of which we approve or with which we agree.
The place where this comes clear to me is the altar rail. If my bishop is celebrating, I make a point to take communion from his hand, because we are in communion with one another whether we like it or not. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. That doesn’t mean we have to like each other – but we are commanded to love one another.
If we can strive to do that, and more importantly, trust in a God who loves us beyond all we deserve or can understand, all will be well.
All manner of things will be well.