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Rebuff for Episcopal Green Light: CEN 10.12.07 p 8. October 10, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, CAPA, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, House of Bishops.

The New Orleans statement of the US House of Bishops has “clarified all outstanding questions” posed by the Primates to the American Church, a report prepared by the Primates/ACC joint standing committee (JSC) has found.

However, the 19-page Sept 30 report has been dismissed as dishonest by US conservatives, and its conclusions rejected by the African churches.  Observers note the clumsy attempt of the JSC to usurp the prerogatives of the primates, and to become a de facto fifth “instrument of unity” has served to worsen the already bitter climate within the Communion.

The primates had asked the US Church to clarify the statement of its 2006 General Convention that it would not permit the election of further gay bishops or authorize gay blessings, that an autonomous scheme for pastoral oversight be given traditionalists, and that the lawsuits against breakaway conservative parishes would cease.

At their March meeting the US bishops invited Dr. Williams and the members of the primates standing committee to meet with them face to face to avert a blow up.  Over the summer this invitation was enlarged by the ACC staff to include itself and the ACC standing committee.

In New Orleans the US Bishops pledged “as a body” to “exercise restraint” in electing gay bishops, pledged not to authorize “public rites” of same-sex blessings, and agreed to delegated pastoral oversight for traditionalists under the supervision of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  It declined to address the issue of lawsuits, and chastised Global South primates for violating their jurisdictions in providing support for traditionalist congregations.

The JSC concluded that this response satisfied the Primates’ requests and added the US was correct in citing the “ancient councils of the Church” in protesting border crossings.  The primates were hypocrites in demanding the US church refrain from implementing gay bishops and blessings while they permitted the border crossings to go on.

“[W]e do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them. We recommend that the Archbishop remind them of their own words and undertakings,” the report said.

Crafted in a late night session on Sept 24 by Bishop Jefferts Schori and the JSC, the statement was adopted with amendments by the bishops on Sept 25.  Critics of the report charge it is ingenuous of the ACC to give an independent endorsement of a report that it helped write, and question the US Presiding Bishop’s role as defendant, judge and jury in the process.

Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda called the report “severely compromised, and the gross conflicts of interest it represents utterly undermine its credibility.”

He said the primates did not envision the ACC inserting itself in the process while the US was “considering our requests.  Yet, members of the [JSC] met with Presiding Bishop Schori in the course of the preparation of their House of Bishops’ statement in order to suggest certain words, which, if included in the statement, would assure endorsement by the [JSC].  Presiding Bishop Schori’s participation in the evaluation of the response requested of her province is a gross conflict of interest. We wonder why she did not recuse herself.”

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, a member of the JSC delegation in New Orleans repudiated the report saying the US had given an inadequate response.  “Instead they used ambiguous language and contradicted themselves within their own response.”

The African archbishops also questioned the integrity of the JSC report, stating on Oct 5 that “on first reading we find it to be unsatisfactory. The assurances made are without credibility and its preparation is severely compromised by numerous conflicts of interest. The report itself appears to be a determined effort to find a way for the full inclusion of The Episcopal Church with no attempt at discipline or change from their prior position.”

The JSC report will be forwarded to all of the members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the primates for consideration.  Archbishop Rowan Williams has asked for their responses by the end of October.


1. Mike Watson - October 13, 2007

In the opening remarks from +RDW’s September 21 news conference in New Orleans, he said: “The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week. After this I shall be sharing what they say, along with my own assessments, with the Primates and others, inviting their advice in the next couple of weeks.” http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_90250_ENG_HTM.htm

This makes it sound as though the JSC were to relay “their thoughts” to the Archbishop _privately_ and that he would combine them with his own assessment and send them to the Primates and unspecified others. If that had been the process, the appearance of the usurpation of the Primates’ prerogatives would have been to some extent avoided.

An examination of the pdf metadata in the file containing the JSC’s report, as revised October 4, shows the internal title of the document to be The Confidential Report on [sic] the Joint Standing Committee to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The designation “confidential” appears consistent with the above reading of the Archbishop’s remarks. Apparently at some point there was a decision to have an immediate public release of the JSC’s “thoughts” in the form of a formal report.

For what it is worth, the pdf metadata lists the author as Gregory Cameron of the ACO. Of course this could signify only that he was the scribe. (I accessed this portion of the metadata with the standard version of Acrobat. I think it may not appear using the Acrobat Reader.)

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