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THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION AND HOMOSEXUALITY

The Windsor Report by the
Lambeth Commission on Communion

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Sponsored link.


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Overview:

The Lambeth Commission on Communion was created by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- in 2003-OCT. Its basic goal was to find ways by which Anglicans can agree to disagree by preventing schism of the Communion over the question of homosexuality. On 2004-OCT-18 the Commission's 92 page "Windsor Report" was released to the public. 1,2

Reactions were not long in coming.

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Conclusions of the Commission:

Quoting from the report:

"The Commission regrets that without attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider Communion:

bulletthe Episcopal Church (USA) proceeded with the consecration of Gene Robinson.
bulletthe 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) declared that 'local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.'
bulletthe Diocese of New Westminster approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions.
bulletthe General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships.
bulleta number of primates and other bishops have taken it upon themselves to intervene in the affairs of other provinces of the Communion." 8

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Comments and recommendations:

bulletOn elections to the episcopate:

Referring to the election and confirmation of Bishop Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, they stated:

bullet"By electing and confirming such a candidate in the face of the concerns expressed by the wider Communion, the Episcopal Church (USA) has caused deep offence to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion."
bullet"In view of the widespread unacceptability of his ministry in other provinces of the Communion, we urge the proposed Council of Advice to keep the matter of his acceptability under close review.....to exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting him to the councils of the Communion."
bullet"We recommend that:
bulletthe Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion.
bulletpending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion....
bulletthe Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect 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." 9

Considering that:

bulletIt was in 1975 when the first province -- the Anglican Church of Canada -- authorized the ordination of women. And yet over 30 years later only a bare majority of provinces will allow female priests.
bulletIt was in 1989 when the first province -- the Anglican Church of New Zealand -- consecrated the first female bishop in the Communion. Yet by 1997, only five out of 38 provinces -- Aotearoa, Canada, New Zealand, Polynesia and the U.S. -- had actually consecrated bishops.

It would probably take a sizeable fraction of a century at least before one might expect a "new consensus in the Anglican Communion" concerning bishops in a loving, committed, same-sex relationship.

bulletOn public rites of blessing of same-sex unions:

They stated:

"The clear and repeated statements of the Instruments of Unity have also been to advise against the development and approval of such rites. Whilst proponents of actions in the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA) may argue that such advice has only moral authority, we believe that it must be recognised that actions to move towards the authorisation of such rites in the face of opposition from the wider Anglican Communion constitutes a denial of the bonds of Communion. In order for these bonds to be properly acknowledged and addressed, the churches proposing to take action must be able, as a beginning, to demonstrate to the rest of the Communion why their proposal meets the criteria of scripture, tradition and reason. In order to be received as a legitimate development of the tradition, it must be possible to demonstrate how public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions would constitute growth in harmony with the apostolic tradition as it has been received.

They recommended:

bullet"...a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation."
bullet"Pending such expression of regret, we recommend that such bishops be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion."
bullet"...that provinces take responsibility for endeavouring to ensure commitment on the part of their bishops to the common life of the Communion on this matter."
bulletthat "...all provinces that are engaged in processes of discernment regarding the blessing of same sex unions to engage the Communion in continuing study of biblical and theological rationale for and against such unions."
bulletthat "...any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care. We urge provinces to be pro-active in support of the call of Lambeth Resolution 64 (1988) for them to 'reassess, in the light of study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude toward persons of homosexual orientation'." 10

Civil rights for homosexuals, of course, do not include being considered for senior positions of authority in the provinces.

bulletOn care of dissenting groups:

The Commission recommended special action be taken for those individual dissenting Anglicans, parishes and dioceses "as a result of decisions made and actions taken by autonomous provinces within which there is profound disagreement."
bulletThey recommended that

"In only those situations where there has been an extreme breach of trust, and as a last resort, we commend a conditional and temporary provision of delegated pastoral oversight for those who are dissenting. This oversight must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community, so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership. While the temporary provision of pastoral oversight is in place there must also be a mutually agreed commitment to effecting reconciliation." 11

This arrangement would typically have two bishops functioning in the same diocese: -- a "home" bishop for most of the membership, and an "intervening" bishop who would minister for those persons unable to handle equal treatment of gays and lesbians. This is a unique arrangement in which two bishops would be ministering in the same geographic area.

The intent in this accommodation would be to have the intervening bishop withdraw as soon as possible.

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Initial responses:

bulletThe Most Rev'd Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa:  He wrote: "I welcome the publication of the Windsor Report. I was privileged to be part of the Lambeth Commission, and despite some very honest exchanges, we were able to come together as a Commission to offer what I believe represents a genuine way forward for the future of the Anglican Communion....I am glad to see a recognition in this report of the fact that the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) and the Diocese of New Westminster, in acting as they did, did breach the bonds of affection that hold us together.....I hope that we will all pray for God's help in finding his way forward, and that everyone will read the report with careful consideration of our proposals." 3
bulletThe Most Rev'd Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA: He wrote: "As Anglicans we interpret and live the gospel in multiple contexts, and the circumstances of our lives can lead us to widely divergent understandings and points of view. My first reading shows the Report as having in mind the containment of differences in the service of reconciliation. However, unless we go beyond containment and move to some deeper place of acknowledging and making room for the differences that will doubtless continue to be present in our Communion, we will do disservice to our mission....For at least the last 30 years our church has been listening to the experience and reflecting upon the witness of homosexual persons in our congregations. There are those among us who perceive the fruit of the Spirit deeply present in the lives of gay and lesbian Christians, both within the church and in their relationships. However, other equally faithful persons among us regard same gender relationships as contrary to scripture. Consequently, we continue to struggle with questions regarding sexuality....As Presiding Bishop I know I speak for members of our church in saying how highly we value our Communion and the bonds of affection we share. Therefore, we regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans....Throughout our history we have managed to live with the tension between a need for clear boundaries and for room in order that the Spirit might express itself in fresh ways in a variety of contexts." 4
bulletThe Most Rev'd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury: The Commission has not only produced a report but a unanimous one and that in itself counts as a considerable achievement and a sign of hope....I hope...that everyone with the well being of our Communion at heart will now take time to study the report - and to pray and reflect upon its proposals which, as the Commission has made clear, offer neither easy nor simple solutions to real and demanding challenges. If we are serious about meeting those challenges, as I know we are, then we have to do all we can to continue to travel this road together....there is plenty to digest and there should be no rush to judgement. We want voices round the Communion to be heard and we will be putting in place a careful and wide-ranging process for gathering responses. 5
bulletThe Most Rev'd Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa: He wrote: "This is a substantive Report which requires careful consideration. It provides the Anglican Communion with space for reflection, dialogue and reconciliation. I call on all parties involved to take that process seriously, so we can restore a deeper unity to our Communion, and continue, with increased concord and purpose, the mission of Christ's Church....I am particularly struck by the emphasis that has been given to the delicate relationship we must sustain between autonomy and interdependence. As the Report says, 'Communion is, in fact, all about mutual relationship.' ....Our God promises to work for good in all circumstances, for those whom he loves and calls. Let us respond to his loving call by working with him so that he may bring a greater good out of the pain of our current circumstances."
bulletThe Most Revd Andrew Hutchison, Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church of Canada: He wrote: "...The Commission['s]...mandate was to maximize Communion within the worldwide Anglican family despite significant theological differences....It is significant that the Commission has submitted unanimous recommendations in spite of the cultural and theological differences of its members. This indicates that there is a positive will to maintain the unity of the diverse Anglican Communion. The fact that Commission members can speak with one voice holds open the door of hope that our Church can, with prayer and dialogue persevere in seeking unity."
bullet The Most Revd Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria: He wrote: "...the report falls far short of the prescription needed for this current crisis. It fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers. We have watched in sadness as sisters and brothers who have sought to maintain their allegiance to the 'faith once delivered to the saints' have been marginalized and persecuted for their faith. We have been filled with grief as we have witnessed the decline of the North American Church that was once filled with missionary zeal and yet now seems determined to bury itself in a deadly embrace with the spirit of the age. Instead of a clear call for repentance we have been offered warm words of sentimentality for those who have shown no godly sorrow for their actions and harsh words of condemnation for those who have reached out a helping hand to friends in need of pastoral and spiritual care....Where are the words of 'deep regret' for the impact of ECUSA's actions upon the Global South and our missionary efforts? Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behaviour? The imbalance is bewildering. It is wrong to use equal language for unequal actions....We have been asked to express regret for our actions and 'affirm our desire to remain in the Communion'. How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help."

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References:

  1. The text of the "The Windsor report 2004," is at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  2. "A brief summary of the Windsor Report's main findings," The Jamestown Cross, at: http://www.southernvirginia.anglican.org/
  3. "Statement by the Most Rev'd Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa, on the release of the Windsor Report 2004," Anglican Communion News Service, 2004-OCT-18, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  4. "Statement from The Most Revd Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church..." Anglican Communion News Service, 2004-OCT-18, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  5. "Statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Windsor Report," Anglican Communion News Service, 2004-OCT-18, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  6. "Statement on the Windsor Report from the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane....," Anglican Communion News Service, 2004-OCT-18, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  7. "Statement on the Windsor Report from the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada," Anglican Communion News Service, 2004-OCT-18, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  8. "General Findings," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  9. "On elections to the episcopate," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  10. "On public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  11. "On care of dissenting groups," Commission on Communion, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/

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Copyright 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-JUN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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