The 21 “Windsor-compliant” (to use the inaccurate title they have bestowed upon themselves) bishops who met at Camp Allen, Texas have sent a letter to the House of Bishops. The full text and the names of those who signed it are beneath the “Continue reading” button.
I can’t get past this sentence:
“We accept and affirm the Windsor Report and view adherence to it as furthering the vocation to heal the breaches within our own Communion and in our ecumenical relationships.”
Um, no you don’t. It simply is not the case that all of these bishops affirm all of the Windsor Report. Several of them have actively facilitated border crossings by prelates from other provinces, or sent their priests into other bishops dioceses without permission. You can argue that this practice is justified if you like, but you can’t argue that it is Windsor-compliant.
The bishops also write that the General Convention did not adequately respond to the requests of the Windsor Report because it did not legislate an “explicit moratoria regarding church discipline and order.”
The obfuscatory phrase “regarding church discipline and order” might best be translated “on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops.” Perhaps it is too much to ask that bishops understand the church law well enough to know what the General Convention can and can’t do. It can’t tell the people of a diocese whom to elect as bishop, and it can’t tell diocesan bishops and standing committees how to vote when the time comes to gather consents.
So General Convention has failed these bishops in that it did not do what it could not do.
The bishops also say that they understand resolutions of the Lambeth Conference to be “the mind of the Communion for teaching and discipline. (italics mine.) Discipline is an ambiguous choice of words here. Discipline as in an accepted way of life, or discipline as in do this or pay the price?
That aside, the bishops “understanding” is akin to understanding that two plus two is five. The Lambeth Conference cannot express the “mind” of the Communion. It can only express the mind of the bishops in attendance. Its resolutions have no canonical standing in any provinces of the Communion, and such authority cannot be granted retroactively.
If what’s in the letter is troubling, consider what isn’t in the Ietter. As I mentioned above, the bishops couldn’t even bring themselves to use the word “gay.” They express sympathy for congregations that “need a safe space within which to live out the integrity of their faith in compliance with the Windsor Report.” (Exactly what are a congregation’s responsibilities under the Windsor Report?) But there isn’t a word about the difficulties of attempting to live a Christian life in a Church that gives you the choice of embracing either celibacy or quack therapy as a sexual discipline. (Apparently if he hits a pillow with a tennis racket while shouting his mother’s name, a young man’s desire for Brad Pitt will morph into an attraction to Jessica Simpson.)
The bishops plan to meet again next year. I fear they will feel compelled to tell us about it.
On a personal note, I was tickled to see the names of Bishops Edward Little, John Lipscomb and Geralyn Wolf on this letter. In just a few short weeks this trio has gone from telling the people of one diocese what kind of person should not be allowed to speak in their cathedral to telling the people of all dioceses what kind of person should not be elected as bishop. Their expertise allows them to dictate terms to others on issues ranging from Middle Eastern diplomacy to moral theology. One can only admire their intellectual range.
A Letter to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
St. Matthew’s Day, 2006
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
We, the undersigned bishops, have met together at Camp Allen in the Diocese of Texas from September 19-22. We understand ourselves to be catholic bishops within the Anglican Communion and have met to contribute to our future life within this Communion. We are writing to you as fellow bishops in The Episcopal Church, in the knowledge that many others in our Province and around the world have expressed an interest in this meeting.
We have gathered with a common desire to work for the unity of the Church, as well as for the integrity and vitality of our own Province and the Anglican Communion as a whole.
We are grateful for the helpful briefing from the Archbishop of Canterbury, brought to us through the Bishops of Durham and Winchester. We have corresponded in turn with the Archbishop and communicated our hopes with respect to continuing in full constituent Communion membership. It is our intention to offer a faithful and dynamic witness within the Episcopal Church.
We confess our faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life – the faith that is uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures, set forth in the catholic Creeds, and to which the historic Anglican formularies bear witness.
We are committed to the conciliar character of our Communion. Consistent with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Holy Cross Day letter to the Primates, it is our clear sense that 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. These requests include explicit moratoria regarding church discipline and order. We express our regret, on behalf of ourselves, for those actions with which the Windsor Report was concerned.
We accept and affirm the Windsor Report and view adherence to it as furthering the vocation to heal the breaches within our own Communion and in our ecumenical relationships. Furthermore, we endorse the recommendation of the Windsor Report, as supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the development of an Anglican Covenant.
The Windsor Report properly belongs within the larger framework of Anglican teaching, as expressed, not least, in successive Lambeth Conferences, including the resolutions of Lambeth 1998 (among which is Resolution 1.10). We understand this to be the mind of the Communion for teaching and discipline.
We recognize that many congregations within The Episcopal Church need a safe space within which to live out the integrity of their faith in compliance with the Windsor Report. We also recognize that there are some congregations that do not accept the provisions of the Windsor Report. We pledge ourselves to work with our Episcopal colleagues to care for all God’s people in our dioceses.
Within our group are needs for various levels of response to the conflicts in the church. While here we have worked diligently to achieve unity across these lines. We recognize the need of some among us for an alternative primatial relationship. This recognition does not weaken our fundamental theological and ecclesial commitments. Rather, our unity has strengthened them, and for this we thank God.
It is our hope and prayer that through our fellowship we can contribute to the renewal of our Province’s life within the Communion. We invite others who share our concern and position to join us in our common work on behalf of the church, and we plan to meet again early in the new year. We hope that those of you who share our commitments will find yourselves able to join us then, as we continue our work.
We ask for your prayers and assure you of ours.
In the name of Christ Jesus,
The Rt. Rev. Mark L. MacDonald
Diocese of Alaska
The Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe
Diocese of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton
Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker
Diocese of Forth Worth
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith
Diocese of North Dakota
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little
Diocese of Northern Indiana
The Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr.
Diocese of Northwest Texas
The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan
Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman
Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf
Diocese of Rhode Island
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson
Diocese of Rio Grande
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield
Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon
Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. John B. Lipscomb
Diocese of Southwest Florida
The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith
Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Bertram N. Herlong;
Diocese of Tennessee
The Rt. Rev. Don A. Wimberly
Diocese of Texas
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams
Diocese of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson
Diocese of Western Louisiana
The Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge
Diocese of West Texas