Thus far, most of our discussion of the Primates’ Communiqué has focused on the issue of human sexuality. For the weekend, I’d like to shift the focus to the proposals for a Pastoral Council and a Primatial Vicar. What do we make of these?
Speaking just for myself, these are the proposals about which I’ve been most willing to heed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s call for patient listening. It’s much more appropriate here than in regard to issues of human sexuality, which we’ve been debating for more than 30 years.) Additionally, bending toward the will of the Primates on this issue doesn’t require great sacrifice from an isolated minority while asking nothing from the rest of the Church.
Which isn’t to say that I necessarily like this proposal, only that it doesn’t strike me as a cut and dried matter of conscience.
In my own reading, I’ve noticed one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere. In the discussion of the duties of the Pastoral Council, the Primates say this body should: “consider whether any of the courses of action contemplated by the Windsor Report §157 should be applied to the life of The Episcopal Church or its bishops, and, if appropriate, to recommend such action to The Episcopal Church and its institutions and to the Instruments of Communion.”
The relevant language in the Windsor Report reads:
“There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart. We would much rather not speculate on actions that might need to be taken if, after acceptance by the primates, our recommendations are not implemented. However, we note that there are, in any human dispute, courses that may be followed: processes of mediation and arbitration; non-invitation to relevant representative bodies and meetings; invitation, but to observer status only; and, as an absolute last resort, withdrawal from membership. We earnestly hope that none of these will prove necessary.”
Part of the Council’s charge, then, has nothing to do with providing adequate care for theological minorities. Rather, it is authorized to act as an external body to police our internal activities and recommend sanctions against the Church and against individual bishops. The potential for mischief making is apparent and unlimited. This is Dromantine’s Panel of Reference with an even more meddlesome brief. And considering how little research the Panel does before making its pronouncements, this provision alone is enough to make me extremely skeptical about the Council and the Vicar.
A Pastoral Council
The Primates will establish a Pastoral Council to act on behalf of the Primates in consultation with The Episcopal Church. This Council shall consist of up to five members: two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council.
The Council will work in co-operation with The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of the bishops participating in the scheme proposed below to
o negotiate the necessary structures for pastoral care which would meet the requests of the Windsor Report (TWR, §147–155) and the Primates’ requests in the Lambeth Statement of October 20031;
o authorise protocols for the functioning of such a scheme, including the criteria for participation of bishops, dioceses and congregations in the scheme;
o assure the effectiveness of the structures for pastoral care;
o liaise with those other primates of the Anglican Communion who currently have care of parishes to seek a secure way forward for those parishes within the scheme;
o facilitate and encourage healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church, between The Episcopal Church and congregations alienated from it, and between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion (TWR, §156);
o advise the Presiding Bishop and the Instruments of Communion;
o monitor the response of The Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report;
o consider whether any of the courses of action contemplated by the Windsor Report §157 should be applied to the life of The Episcopal Church or its bishops, and, if appropriate, to recommend such action to The Episcopal Church and its institutions and to the Instruments of Communion;
o take whatever reasonable action is needed to give effect to this scheme
and report to the Primates.
A Pastoral Scheme
We recognise that there are individuals, congregations and clergy, who in the current situation, feel unable to accept the direct ministry of their bishop or of the Presiding Bishop, and some of whom have sought the oversight of other jurisdictions.
We have received representations from a number of bishops of The Episcopal Church who have expressed a commitment to a number of principles set out in two recent letters2. We recognise that these bishops are taking those actions which they believe necessary to sustain full communion with the Anglican Communion.
We acknowledge and welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop to consent to appoint a Primatial Vicar.
On this basis, the Primates recommend that structures for pastoral care be established in conjunction with the Pastoral Council, to enable such individuals, congregations and clergy to exercise their ministries and congregational life within The Episcopal Church, and that
the Pastoral Council and the Presiding Bishop invite the bishops expressing a commitment to “the Camp Allen principles”3, or as otherwise determined by the Pastoral Council, to participate in the pastoral scheme ;
in consultation with the Council and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop, those bishops who are part of the scheme will nominate a Primatial Vicar, who shall be responsible to the Council;
the Presiding Bishop in consultation with the Pastoral Council will delegate specific powers and duties to the Primatial Vicar.
Once this scheme of pastoral care is recognised to be fully operational, the Primates undertake to end all interventions. Congregations or parishes in current arrangements will negotiate their place within the structures of pastoral oversight set out above.
We believe that such a scheme is robust enough to function and provide sufficient space for those who are unable to accept the direct ministry of their bishop or the Presiding Bishop to have a secure place within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion until such time as the Covenant Process is complete. At that time, other provisions may become necessary.