Nothing resolved

Religion | ECUSA passes a watered-down response to the Windsor Report and sets itself on a collision course with the Anglican Communion

Issue: "Books and Movies 2006," July 1, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio- Memo to new Episcopal Presiding Bishop-elect Katherine Jefferts Schori: Don't bother packing your bags; it appears you and most of your fellow bishops won't be invited to the next Lambeth meeting of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The full fallout from actions and inactions at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) last week in Columbus, Ohio, is still unknown. But one thing seems clear: Despite desperate last-minute maneuvers and arm-twisting at the convention, the church failed to pass the test for remaining in the Anglican Communion.

The crisis had its origins in a long drift away from biblical authority and traditional Anglican teaching, according to many conservative bishops and other clergy. In the every-10-years Lambeth gathering of the world's Anglican bishops in 1998, the majority adopted a tenet that said homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching. But in 2003, ECUSA approved the consecration of priest Gene Robinson, a divorced and long-time partnered gay, as bishop of New Hampshire.

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Conservative ECUSA bishops appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Many primates-top archbishops-also expressed displeasure. They instructed Canterbury to form a Lambeth Commission on Communion to deal with the issue. The Commission released what became known as the Windsor Report. It spelled out conditions ECUSA would have to meet to remain in the Communion. Among them: an affirmation that it wanted to remain in the Communion and would abide by a consensus of Anglican teachings, an expression of repentance for allowing the Robinson consecration, and a moratorium on any further such consecrations and same-sex blessings.

ECUSA presiding bishop Frank Griswold, primate of the American church, appointed a special commission to draft a response in the form of resolutions and present it for approval at this year's convention.

ECUSA's legislative convention is structured like Congress, with two houses-a House of Deputies, divided into clergy and lay orders, and a House of Bishops. A committee tasked to shepherd the Windsor response through the houses became mired almost immediately, with committee members rewriting drafts almost from scratch.

Once the resolutions belatedly hit the floor, they were further debated and amended. The resolution intended to deal with the issue of halting same-sex blessings and further consecrations of gay bishops was so gutted that it was defeated by a large margin on the next-to-last day of the convention. The bishops wouldn't get to see it at all.

Bishop Griswold called for a special joint session of the convention the next morning. Meanwhile, the bishops had one of the Windsor resolutions on their docket. He instructed the five bishops from the special committee to have a late-night session to rework the pending resolution into one that would meet Windsor's demands for a moratorium on consecrations.

At the joint session the final morning, he was almost shrill in his call for both houses to adopt the resolution now before them: "Resolved . . . that the . . . convention receive and embrace the Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation [and] that this convention therefore call upon the Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

The bishops rejected attempts by liberals, including Bishop John Chane of Washington, D.C., to water it down further. At Bishop Griswold's behest, Bishop Jefferts Schori reluctantly agreed to appeal for a yes vote. She apologized to gays and lesbians, and told the bishops she was voting yes only on the condition that the non-consent condition was temporary-until 2009.

Both houses voted to accept the measure, although some conservatives voted no on the grounds that it wasn't strong or clear enough.

Bishop Chane gathered some reporters and announced he and about 20 other bishops would ignore the resolution and would vote to consecrate another homosexual.

Leaders of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), a coalition of conservative churches and dioceses, also held a press conference. Its leader, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, handed out a statement asserting that the responses to Windsor are "clearly and simply inadequate." He pledged the ACN's allegiance to the Communion and full compliance with its requests.

Archbishop of Canterbury Williams sent a message thanking the leaders for their work. He closed with:

"It is not yet clear how far the resolutions passed this week and today represent the adoption by the Episcopal Church of all the proposals set out in the Windsor Report. The wider Communion will therefore need to reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided before we respond more fully."


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