House of Bishops: The Cliffs Notes

By Susan Fawcett

Since all kinds of uninformed reporters in the secular media have been adding their opinions to the mix, I thought I’d throw mine in there, which may be worth all the money you’ve just paid to get to see it, and may be just as objective as your hometown newspaper.

Here’s a short, slanted, and totally oversimplified summary of what the House of Bishops’ response to the Primates’ Communique says (which, for the record, is nothing new at all):

Dear Primates:

First, we still love our gay and lesbian people. We agreed last summer not to consecrate them (though we’re not making promises about anyone who might be single), or authorize any prayer book revisions for them, so that you would not write us off entirely. But only for a while. And yes, there are some of us who are doing everything we can short of those two promises to speak up with and for them. (If that troubles you, please see point The Fourth).

Second, we still love you and all of our Anglican Brothers and Sisters (though we’re seriously peeved at a particular set of you who are using some seriously sketchy funding to put forward a massive smear campaign, take away buildings that were pledged to us, and give away a bunch of purple shirts to people who couldn’t be duly elected to earn them). We love learning from you and with you. We want to follow Jesus right alongside you. We think we have a few things to contribute to you, too. Please don’t stop speaking to us.

Third, even though we really do love you, we aren’t going to let you push us around and change the rules of how the Anglican Communion works. No, you may not come into our house and tell us how to do things. That was never what we agreed to.

Fourth, since we agreed way back at Lambeth in 1998 that we should ALL be listening to the experiences of gay and lesbian people, and making sure they are treated with the dignity and respect that human beings tend to deserve, we’ve decided to make that ‘Listening Process’ a priority. So should you (since you said you would).

Fifth, we’d like to remind you that the Anglican Communion was never meant to be a legislative body. We’re more like a family. You keep complaining that we’re being ‘colonialist,’ and thrusting our ways upon everyone else. We think that (how do we say this pastorally? Sigh.) in this situation, perhaps that might be the pot calling the kettle black.

See you at Lambeth!


Bishops, Episcopal Church USA

And, again, totally oversimplified, here is my assessment of the Important Things that happened at the House of Bishops last week. Note that there is no mention of their response to the Communique in this list.

1. Our Bishops underlined for the Primates, for the umpteenth time, that they do not have the authority to make decisions for the Episcopal Church (that would be the job of General Convention, which is made up of lay people and clergy, who are elected to their positions at General Convention. We shan’t go into how post-colonial this is compared to other

structures around the world, Thus, there’s no sense in getting your knickers in a twist over what the House of Bishops writes to some Primates. If you’re going to get upset about something, pick something that matters a little more.

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury joined them, and made some very interesting and refreshing remarks. For one, he suggested that members of disaffected parishes here in the US should look for signs of grace in the Episcopal Church (rather than creating some sort of other structure outside of it). The fact that he spoke candidly to the situation at all was a great gift. You can watch a video of his responses at a press conference here.

3. Our Bishops got out of their purple shirts and out of their offices and out of all the ridiculous yammering about politics, and did something to actually help people on the ground in New Orleans. Thank you.

The Rev. Susan Fawcett keeps the blog This Passage. She serves a parish the Diocese of Virginia, and supports the work of the General Convention publication The Center Aisle.

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