A quick look at the report of the Windsor Continuation Group

The report of the Windsor Continuation Group may well be a more important document than the communique released earlier today by the Primates of the Anglican Communion. Click Read more to see some of the highlights, along with a little commentary.

2. The Anglican Communion is a family of autonomous Churches. It finds its identity in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The report is at pains to erode the autonomy of these churches, but at least this fact is acknowledged up front. The paragraph ends as follows:

It remains to be seen if the circumstances in which the Communion finds itself today – externally and internally – might require over the years a shift of emphasis from “autonomy with communion” to “communion with autonomy and accountability.

The desire of its authors for a greater centralization of authority is evident. If you are a lay person, the effect, and perhaps the intent of this report, written by five bishops and one retired cathedral dean, is to disenfranchise you.

5. It is an escapable consequence of living in the world that issues will arise from time to time where the conflict between continuity and change – continuity in doctrine and in pastoral practice and change in the discernment of new insights – raises urgent (and potentially divisive and destructive) questions concerning the received tradition, the consensus fidelium, and the limits of the diversity that can be sustained within the life of the Communion.

This seems a fair and sensible description of the current situation.

9….The resolutions at General Convention (June 2006), the mutual Covenant of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) at Camp Allen (March 2005), and the Bishop’s Statement at New Orleans (September 2007) all point in the direction of accepting the recommendations of the Windsor Report (TWR), and yet some dioceses still proceed with the development of Rites of Blessing for same sex unions. There were serious undertakings and affirmations by the primates at their meetings in Dromantine (January 2005) and Dar es Salaam (February 2007) concerning interventions in other provinces, the spirit of which have not been honoured.

Here and in other places, the consecration of a gay bishop who lives with his partner, the authorization of Rites for blessing same sex relationships and cross border interventions are treated as equally problematical. This is not necessarily helpful to Episcopalians who favor full inclusion of all of the baptized in the life of the Church, but it makes clear that TEC and the Church of Canada are no longer being treated as the only problem children.

20. While they remained recommendations of the Windsor Report, they carried only the authority of the members of the Commission. But many of these recommendations were picked up and adopted by the Primates, either in the Communiqué of the Dromantine Meeting (January 2005), or at the Dar es Salaam Meeting (February 2007). This does not entirely answer the question of their continuing authority in the Communion (see further the section below on Ecclesial Deficit) but it does at least give them purchase in the life of the Communion: these recommendations carry the weight of being the unanimous advice of the primates of our Churches – at the very least, the recommendations carry the authority of our chief pastors carrying back these recommendations to their own Church or Province with the voice of authority which they carry in that Province.

Not exactly. Many of those primates are no longer primates and many who are primates have changed their views. It is extremely unlikely the report as modified at Dromantine would pass unanimously at a primates meeting today.

21. The 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 remains fundamental as the standard of teaching on matters of sexuality in the life of the Communion; but the Windsor Report also offered an acknowledgement that while there are divergent views on this, the discussion has to go on (TWR §146).

There is no such thing as “the standard of teaching on matters of sexuality in the life of the Communion.” We have no magisterium. Thank God.

23. The Listening Process has so far produced a significant amount of resources – an overview of the reflection on this issue taking place in each of the Provinces, which is set out on the Anglican Communion website5, and a book of resources to encourage and inform the discussion6. Yet the listening process has not been totally embraced consistently across the Communion.

Yet the authors of the report are willing to have LGBT people wait and wait and wait for the Listening Process to be embraced, thereby giving a permanent veto to the most intransigent opponents of the process. That said, the following paragraph is encouraging.

25. We request that the Instruments of Communion commit themselves to a renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.

This also seems a fair assessment of the current situation:

29. It was the judgment of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion (JSC)9 that the first moratorium (On the Consecration of Bishops) is effectively in place in the communion. Although there continues to be some debate whether the wording of the resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention and its subsequent interpretation by the TEC House of Bishops at New Orleans in 2007 exactly meets the wording of the recommendation in the Windsor Report, such a moratorium does, in fact, exist; an interpretation agreed by both the strongest supporters and opponents of B033.

This, maybe not so much:

30. It is the judgment of WCG (Windsor Continuation Group) that the same is significantly, but not universally, true of the second moratorium on the authorization of public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions. In The Episcopal Church up to a dozen dioceses out of the 110 dioceses of the Church are actively pursuing the exploration of such Rites within the life of the Church (10%). They do this with only the passive consent of General Convention10, which has until now refused to take positive steps towards the recognition of such Rites. The remainder of the dioceses of TEC either explicitly or implicitly are living by the Windsor recommendation.

“Up to a dozen diocese.” Names, please?

31. Of course, the situation could change with a Resolution of a future Convention – as indeed General Convention could decide to revoke B033 – but for the present WCG believe that TEC should receive some credit for substantially holding back from the development of such Rites. We note however that the structures of TEC have not shown any inclination to discipline those dioceses in which further steps have been taken.

So just to return to the top of the report: You are an autonomous church, but unless you discipline bishops who do things that upset people who are not members of your church, but get to write reports on behalf of the Communion, there should be some consequences.

33. It is in respect to the third moratorium (on interventions) that there has been the least discernable response.


34. One of the aggravating factors in these circumstances has been the fact that a fourth moratorium requested by the unanimous voice of the Primates at Dar es Salaam in 2007 – to see the end of litigation11 – has also been ignored.

So, again, you are an autonomous church, but people who have no material stake in the litigation through which you are attempting to maintain your assets should be able to tell you to stop the litigation and give away your property to people who will then use it as a base from which to inflict further damage upon you.

35…It is here that actions have been taken that exacerbate the sense of hostility and persecution perceived by some conservatives, including the recent action of the TEC House of Bishops to depose Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh

. Bishop Duncan was deposed after making it clear he no longer intended to function as a bishop in the Episcopal Church. How would the authors of the report have handled that situation?

40. Faced with the fact that despite several calls for observance of the moratoria …. the moratoria have not received comprehensive support, WCG has to ask how to achieve genuine progress. Has the time come when it has to be recognised that the moratoria cannot be enforced absolutely in the life of the Communion? Does it therefore follow that the focus will have to be on holding the degree of restraint that can be achieved,while acknowledging that reversing some of the recent developments may not be possible?

A fair question.

48. In cases where a see has, by its actions, impaired Communion, it has now become appropriate to explore what relational consequences should be formally expressed or put in place by the Instruments of Communion.

49. Although breaches of the three moratoria may not have moral or doctrinal equivalence, as acknowledged by the Primates at Dar es Salaam15, yet the WCG agrees with the assessment of TWR that breaches of the moratoria are equal threats to our life in Communion, and that therefore there must be seen to be an equal and commensurate response in addressing breaches of all three moratoria.

I am not sure this is desirable, but if it were desirable, would people trust the Archbishop of Canterbury, who put together this ideologically lopsided panel to proceed in an evenhanded way in dishing out discipline.

55. The principle of autonomy-in-communion described in the Windsor Report makes clear that the principle of subsidiarity has always to be borne in mind. If the concern is with communion in a diocese, only diocesan authority is involved; if communion at a provincial level then only provincial decision. But if the matter concerns recognising one another as sharing one communion of faith and life, then some joint organs of discernment and decision, which are recognised by all, are required. It is this necessity which led the WCG to articulate the move to “communion with autonomy and accountability” as being a better articulation of the ecclesiology which is necessary to sustain Communion.

This way of thinking leads directly to a centralization of authority because almost any issue can be made to seem central to the life of the Communion if you make enough noise about it.

76. IASCUFO (The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order – for which, see below), as a priority, should be invited to produce a concise statement on the Instruments of Communion, their several roles and the authority inherent in them and to offer recommendations for developing the effectiveness of the instruments. This statement should be discussed by the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC and sent jointly by them to the provinces for study and response. Although provincial responses could be collated by IASCUFO and brought to the next Lambeth Conference for expressing the mind of the Communion, it will be important to move to a common articulation of the role of the Instruments as swiftly as possible, and consideration should be given to whether these reflections could be incorporated into an ongoing development or revision of the text of the Covenant.

Paragraphs 60-76 deal with the instruments of communion and break no new ground, but this paragraph, which enfranchises yet another (probably unrepresentative) commission to produce another report that will soon acquire the force of doctrine, is worrisome.

82. Some of these ideas have found favour, some have not; those which have been established that have experienced varying degrees of success. The WCG wish to commend their proposal for a Pastoral Forum has some similarities with all of the foregoing, and yet it is distinct from them. Before describing what the Pastoral Forum could be therefore, it may be helpful to begin by saying what it is not:

the Pastoral Forum is not envisaged as a juridical or quasi-juridical body in the life of the Anglican Communion with a constitutional or quasi-constitutional nature or authority;

the Pastoral Forum would not have any jurisdiction;

the Pastoral Forum would not act as a “ court of appeal”;

the Pastoral Forum could not override or supersede the Canons and Constitutions of any Province or the role of any of the Instruments of Communion.

I can’t make up my mind about this proposal. It seems like unnecessary meddling, and I can’t imagine the American or Canadian right agreeing to mediation of any kind. On the other hand, what’s wrong with trying to talk all of this over once again?

On the new church that wants to be a province:

95. If indeed it is the desire of the “province-in-formation” to seek formal membership of the Anglican Communion, the WCG foresees formidable problems in the way ahead. They believe that such a proposal should only be entertained through the official channels which exist, namely according to the principles which were established and set out by ACC-9. Any move to recognise the new Province outside of these formal channels would further undermine our common life in Communion.

96. For such an approach to be successful, there would be very significant obstacles to be overcome. In the first place, the Communion would have to decide whether it could live with a parallel non-geographical Province based on theological ideology. This would be a significant change in the Catholic ecclesiological tradition upheld by the Communion throughout its history.

97. In the second place, the new Province-in-formation would have to reassure the Instruments of Communion that it does have the “ecclesial density” appropriate to the life of a Province: that is, a Province is more than a loose confederation. Does the new Province-in-formation have a unified jurisdiction, a common canon law, and shared norms of worship and liturgy?

98. Thirdly, if it can be successfully argued that a new Province can be formed on doctrinal and ideological lines, what reassurances can be given about its relationship to the existing jurisdictions in North America, particularly in the life of those dioceses where bishops and synods have expressed their solidarity with the standards commended in the Windsor Report. TWR set its face against the concept of parallel jurisdictions20; it would be especially tragic if a generous accommodation of the new entity were to be seen as carte blanche for the new Province to establish a presence in localities where no cogent theological basis for differentiation could be advanced.

These two additional nuggets from paragraph 101 will, I think, be impossible for the breakaway churches to accept:

It is not for individual groups to claim the terms on which they will relate to the Communion.


Any scheme developed would rely on an undertaking from the present partners to ACNA that they would not seek to recruit and expand their membership by means of proselytisation. WCG believes that the advent of schemes such as the Communion Partners Fellowship and the Episcopal Visitors scheme instituted by the Presiding Bishop in the United States should be sufficient to provide for the care of those alienated within the Episcopal Church from recent developments.

Past Posts