I have just returned several hours ago from the meeting of the Primates in London. It was a difficult but very truthful meeting in which our understanding of one another’s contexts and the burdens each one of us must bear were made abundantly clear. I have ever greater respect and affection for these brothers of mine and for the ministry they carry out, often in the most difficult and seemingly hopeless circumstances.
The effects for our Anglican brothers and sisters of our action taken at General Convention giving consent to the ordination and consecration of the bishop coadjutor-elect of New Hampshire were described in very stark terms. Many spoke about ridicule they had received within their provinces and the threat to their ability to proclaim the gospel, particularly in places where other religions are dominant.
The statement issued from our meeting reflects hours of intense conversation and confrontation, always in the spirit of mutual respect. It is too soon to draw out all the implications contained in the statement or to see exactly how its provisions might best be articulated. I will have more to say at a later time.
One paragraph of the statement reads as follows: “Whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to made adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates.”
On this coming Monday I will be meeting with the Pastoral Development Committee of the House of Bishops to begin to consider how best we can honor this concern, building on the already expressed willingness of our bishops to make provision for extended episcopal ministry in particular circumstances.
I returned home with a sense of gratitude for all of the members of our church, regardless of our various points of view. I am grateful even for our struggles in which we so openly and honestly engage. I pray they may be a gift. I believe that what has occurred in the Episcopal Church is the work of the Spirit. As difficult as this moment may be, if this is, in fact, a work of the Spirit it will contain some yet to be revealed way in which communion in that same Spirit is made stronger and deeper. This is my hope and my prayer.
This brief word to the church comes with my love and my blessings.
The Most Revd Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire met today in response to the London meeting of the Primates from the 38 autonomous Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion for prayer, bible study and discussion. We acknowledge and affirm the wisdom of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in their statement. We echo their affirmation that “what we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us in proclaiming Good News to the world.” We commend their resolve to follow the 1998 Lambeth resolution calling for the Church to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons, and .. to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”
We warmly invite the Primates, and anyone else in the Anglican Communion, to come to New Hampshire and experience our shared communion here. We invite them to join us in worshiping, praying, studying scripture, breaking bread and celebrating our unity in God’s love and mercy. We grieve that others in the Anglican Communion have felt deep pain with these issues. Despite our differences, we pray that we can move forward together in service to our Lord. Much energy and many resources have been expended over the issues of sexuality in the life of the Church. We long for a time when the Church can focus her ministries on the many urgent needs in so many other places.
We reaffirm our belief that the Diocese of New Hampshire faithfully and prayerfully considered and followed a Spirit-led process for the election of our new bishop. Canon Robinson was elected based on his nearly three decades of ministry in the diocese, his considerable pastoral skills, and his vision for ministry. His sexuality was incidental to his call to serve as our bishop. We look forward to focusing on our mission and ministry, addressing the pressing needs within and beyond the Diocese of New Hampshire. We look forward to the consecration of Bishop-elect Robinson on November 2, believing that God has called him to this ministry, a call confirmed by diocesan election and by the consent of General Convention, in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. We believe the Spirit is calling us forward into an ever-deepening relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we might reach out to all of God’s children, and become God’s loving arms in a world that hungers for that relationship.
The Bishop of New Hampshire
The Bishop Coadjutor-elect of New Hampshire
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Hampshire
The Primates’ statement from Lambeth today should be welcomed by members of the Diocese of New Westminster.
Pressures from certain parts of the Communion to have dioceses such as ours and provinces like ECUSA expelled from the Communion have been firmly rejected by the Primates.
Efforts to seek legitimation for schismatic attacks on the fundamental structures of the church – by such bishops as Terrence Buckle of the Yukon – have received no support whatsoever.
Instead, the Primates have reaffirmed “the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own.”
We should welcome the strong recommendation that special care be taken in every part of the Communion for “dissenting minorities.” In many places, this must mean that gay and lesbian Christians may now expect to be given the episcopal pastoral care they have not been receiving.
I hope conservative bishops in Canada will now make provision for the dissenting minorities within their own jurisdictions, as we have done here in New Westminster for those who disagree with their own Synod.
The statement speaks of the pain caused in some places by the actions of New Westminster in supporting permanent, faithful relationships between persons of the same sex. We acknowledge this. We have taken great care in our deliberations to listen to the voices of others in the church. Our concern has not been to cause pain, but to end discrimination and prejudice.
We call upon others to do the same for gay and lesbian Christians, and in this respect we welcome the Primates’ commending of the entire report of the Lambeth Conference (not merely Resolution 1:10) “valuing especially its emphasis on the need to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and to assure them they are loved by God.”
We continue to believe that discrimination against homosexuals, not inclusivity, is dividing the church. We hope the Commission being established by the Archbishop of Canterbury will examine this too, and especially that it will include gay and lesbian Christians in its membership.
I am writing this note on my return journey from the meeting of Anglican Primates at Lambeth Palace called by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This as you know was as a result of the controversy created by the election of Canon Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in the USA and the decision by the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada to authorise a liturgy for the blessing of those in committed same sex relationships.
I have been very grateful to many of you who have in recent weeks sent me messages assuring me of your prayers and sharing with me your own concerns and convictions from both sides of the argument. The tone of such messages has always been generous and considerate – in contrast I have to say to some I have received from other parts of the world!
The full statement of the Primates meeting is to be found on the Anglican Communion website www.anglicancommunion.org and I would encourage you to read this alongside any newspaper reports. If you are not on the Internet then Lorna Finley at the General Synod Office can ensure that you have a copy.
The meeting itself was one in which strong views were expressed and especially by those Primates mainly from the global south who have felt particularly upset by the decisions taken in Canada and the USA. I sometimes felt that we were locked in a struggle out of which there would be no resolution. Some of us experienced what might be described as being on a ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions as the mood of the meeting changed on a number of occasions. Yet through the sensitive and, as Robin Eames commented, ‘prayerful’ guidance of Rowan Williams we found a way to say that “what we had in common is greater than that which divides us in proclaiming Good News to the world”. Serious problems and divisions still exist, of course, and it is very likely that some provinces will take their own action after the ordination of Canon Robinson as indicated in the statement. The challenge is in whether we allow these problems to be destructive of our common life together as Christians within the Anglican Communion. The statement identifies some ways forward for the Communion to address this matter.
In our own Scottish Episcopal Church we have often described ourselves as seeking to be a church which reflects the Gospel through a welcoming, open and inclusive attitude; which values the rich diversity that exists within our shared Christian journey; and which is ready to explore the difficult issues of faith and order with, I hope, honesty and love. None of that, I believe, is compromised by this statement. But I hope it may also challenge us to take more seriously the study of scripture, acknowledging as the statement says ‘a legitimate diversity of interpretation’ ; and to continue, as the Lambeth Conference 1998 resolution on human sexuality asked us, to listen to the experiences and struggles of homosexual people in the church.
Finally, whatever happens in the coming weeks in ECUSA regarding the ordination of Canon Gene Robinson I hope that we will uphold in our prayers all those in our sister church with whom we have strong historical and continuing friendships.
I could say more – and indeed will write an article for the ‘Scottish Episcopalian’ after I’ve had some more time to reflect on these past two days. But given that the press will inevitably put their own particular ‘spin’ on the event I felt it important to share with you as soon as possible my own initial reflection. Do feel free to share this with others.
Once more my thanks for your prayers and support
It is with great gratitude to God and appreciation to the people of the Anglican Communion and other churches that we greet you in the name of Jesus Christ.
As we met this week at Lambeth we experienced the power of the Holy Spirit moving among us. We are so grateful to God for hearing the prayers and cries of his praying people to preserve both the truth and the unity of the Anglican Communion. We urge continued prayer that the whole Anglican Communion may continue by God’s power to witness to the transforming love of Jesus for all people.
The Most Revd Peter Akinola – Archbishop of Nigeria
The Most Revd Yong Ping Chung – Archbishop of Southeast Asia
The Most Revd Emmanuel Kolini – Archbishop of Rwanda
Australian Anglicans will today debate calling on North American colleagues to “repent” for blessing same-sex marriages and appointing a practising homosexual as a bishop.
In a statement, the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney said it would discuss a motion on the “future shape of ministry”, which also commends Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen for speaking out against the moves. “Anglican Communion Synod affirms its commitment to the authority of scripture and recognizes that the Anglican Communion has traditionally maintained its adherence to that authority and that of the 39 articles of religion,” the draft motion says. It notes “the departure from biblical authority” by the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada by agreeing to bless same-sex unions and by the Diocese of New Hampshire in the US Episcopal church by electing practicing homosexual Gene Robinson as a bishop. “Synod therefore dissociates itself from such actions which are contrary to biblical teaching and calls on those involved to repent, and to reverse their decisions,” it says. Synod also commends our archbishop for his public comments on these issues and for standing with other leaders of like mind in their desire to maintain the truths of scripture.”
Archbishop Jensen, an outspoken conservative, is expected to address the meeting in Sydney before the debate begins. Jensen has called for the church to expel liberal North Americans who endorsed such moves. He has admitted that action could split the church but said there was no option, warning that Anglicans, particularly in Africa and Asia, could be driven away from the church and convert to Islam instead.