American bishops meet to discuss Windsor report

Church of England newspaper

The Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in Salt Lake City agreed to express “regret” for the church’s 2003 consecration the denomination’s first openly gay bishop without full consideration for overseas Anglicans who objected, and said they prayed for forgiveness so they could maintain ties with sister churches around the world. However they took no action on requests from Anglican leaders for a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops in same-sex relationships and on authorizing official prayer services for same-gender couples. The bishops said they did not want to “act in haste.” Instead, the bishops asked for more time to debate the matter at their meeting in March.

Statement expresses regret

A statement released by the House of Bishops did express “our sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church. We express this regret as a sign of our deep desire for and commitment to continuation of our partnership in the Anglican Communion.” However, it added, the decision to elect Bishop Robinson was made by the entire Episcopal denomination at its triennial meeting in Minneapolis in August 2003, a decision the House of Bishops cannot undo. Moreover, the statement said, Presiding Episcopal Bishop Frank Griswold had already established a committee to offer a theological explanation of how “a person living in a same-gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ.” “We need to be far more intentional in conversing with people across the Communion and not to simply make decisions on our own without taking into the count the sensibility,” he said.

Twenty-one bishops dissent

Twenty-one bishops immediately dissented, led by Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who approached the microphone to note that “the Episcopal Church USA often uses graceful language but our behaviour [‘the politics of power’] contradicts the words.” In response, he said, the 21 bishops would sign a statement of “submission,” promising to make only decisions with which the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is one part, agrees. “The response of the House of Bishops did not rise to level expected by the Communion,” said South Carolina Bishop Edward Salmon, one of the signers. “We heard a call for submission, and we who are unequivocally prepared to submit have responded accordingly.”

Utah Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish said the statement was not an apology for consecrating New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives with his long-time male partner, but for the tensions that his election created within the Communion.

Despite that distinction, Bishop John Chane of Washington, D.C., said Robinson told the bishops that “this is probably the most difficult meeting he’s ever been in.”

Robinson, through his spokesman, declined to comment.

Susan Russell, president of the LGBT Episcopal group Integrity, said, “I deeply regret the pain we caused, but I don’t regret us consecrating one of the best bishops in the church. I would draw a parallel for a gay person who comes out and upsets his Aunt Millie. He regrets she’s upset, but he does not regret coming out.”

Conservatives threaten to walk out

The conservative bishops had threatened to walk out of the meeting if Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold continued to frustrate attempts to address the Windsor Report. They had accused the Presiding Bishop of manipulating the meeting’s agenda, hoping to forestall any substantive response to the Windsor Report’s recommendations.

The Rt Rev John W Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, warned: “An unclear or ambiguous response [to the Windsor Report] would be a pastoral disaster. Even worse would be for us to create the perception that we are dodging the Report altogether or trying to ‘buy time’ by employing delaying tactics.” Bishop Howe stated that he would seek to amend the agenda asking “that the House consider addressing those specific portions of the Report that are directed to us as Bishops of ECUSA” and “express our regret”, “agree to a moratorium on same-sex blessings and the consecration of non-celibate homosexual persons”, and ask those bishops who participated in the Robinson consecration to “refrain from representing the Anglican Communion in international and ecumenical gatherings”. One bishop said that if Bishop Howe’s plea to respond to the Windsor Report is rejected, a minority resolution will be brought forward splitting the House while other bishops would “just get up and go”.

The Anglican Primates gather next month in Northern Ireland to consider the report further.

Traditionalist bishops from Forward in Faith, as well as those affiliated with the American Anglican Council and Anglican Communion Network, attended a special closed-door meeting, which was scheduled to “reflect” over the Report. They issued the following communiqué.

A Statement of Acceptance of and Submission to the Windsor Report 2004

January 2005

We the undersigned Bishops:

(1) Accept the Windsor Report’s key idea of “autonomy-in-communion, that is, freedom held within interdependence”
(2) Pledge in the future to maintain the bonds of affection by only making decisions that are “fully compatible with the interests, standards, unity and good order” of the Anglican Communion
(3) Acknowledge that as a province we have “acted in ways incompatible with the Communion principle of interdependence, and our fellowship together has suffered immensely as a result”
(4) Seek for ECUSA to comply in full with the unanimous recommendations of The Windsor Report by:
a. Expressing its regret for its own role in breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire and for the consequences which followed
b. Calling on the Executive Council, and recommending to the next General Convention, that they express their own regret in these terms
c. Effecting “a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges”
d. Effecting a moratorium on all public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions and calling on those bishops who have authorized such rites to withdraw their authorization and express their regret that by such authorization they breached the proper constraints of the bonds of affection
e. Endeavoring to ensure commitment of all bishops to the common life of the Communion
(5) Reaffirm our commitment to engage with the Communion in our continuing study of the biblical and theological rationale for recent actions because “these potentially divisive issues…should not be resolved by the Episcopal Church on its own” (General Convention 1991 B020)

Signatures of Bishops (as of January 13, 2005):

Henry Scriven (Assistant, Pittsburgh)
David J. Bena (Suffragan Albany)
Gethin B. Hughes (San Diego)
Keith L. Ackerman (Quincy)
John W. Howe (Central Florida)
William J, Skilton (South Carolina)
Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh)
James Adams (Western Kansas)
Stephen H. Jecko (Assistant, Dallas)
Daniel W. Herzog (Albany)
James Stanton (Dallas)
Bertram Nelson Herlong (Tennessee)
Edward L. Salmon, Jr. (South Carolina)
Jack Iker (Fort Worth)
Don A. Wimberly (Texas)
James B. Folts (West Texas)
Gary R. Lillibridge (Coadjutor, West Texas)
John David M. Schofield (San Joaquin)
D. Bruce MacPherson (Western Louisiana)
William C. Frey (Colorado, retired)
Peter Beckwith (Springfield)

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