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ACC-14: Moratorium on property disputes fails to win support: CEN 5.22.09 p 8. May 22, 2009

Posted by geoconger in ACC 14, Church of England Newspaper, Windsor Continuation Group.
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ACC-14 has reaffirmed the Anglican Communion’s moratoria on gay bishops and blessings, and the integrity of diocesan boundaries, but has turned aside a plea to back a ban on further property litigation in the US and Canada.

Meeting at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica delegates to the 14th triennial meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council voted to maintain the status quo, rejecting pleas from the Episcopal Church to relax the ban on gay bishops and blessings, while also turning aside a request to condemn the Episcopal Church’s litigation campaign against breakaway dioceses and congregations.

By affirming the recommendations of the WCG, ACC 14 have asked the Primates, the ACC, Dr. Williams and the Lambeth Conference to “commit themselves to the renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.”

It asked Dr. Williams to “revisit the idea of a bishop, appointed from a wider Communion, to work closely with him and act on his behalf in Communion affairs;” revise the schedules, agenda and guest lists of the Lambeth Conferences; clarify the role of the Primates Meeting; study how the ACC’s “effectiveness and confidence in its work can be enhanced;” and give the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order a mandate 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.”

The WCG further recommended the creation of a “Pastoral Forum” and a “Pastoral Visitors” programme to assist in “any given situation of tension;” establish a scheme of professionally mediated conversation to deal with the issue of parallel jurisdictions; and back an Anglican Covenant “as an essential element in rebuilding the confidence in our common life.”

The chairman of the resolution committee, Dr. Anthony Fitchett of New Zealand opened the proceedings drawing the delegates attention to changes made by the committee to a draft resolution prepared earlier in the week by the ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee.

Rather than affirm the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group, the committee urged that the ACC note the recommendations, thereby receiving but not endorsing the committee’s recommendations. An eighth clause was also added to the resolution that acknowledged the “gracious restraint” of the Episcopal Church in abiding by the moratoria despite the “deep costs” such forbearance had had.

Bishop William Godfrey of Peru asked the chairman of the meeting, Bishop John Paterson of Auckland, New Zealand for a break to study the new revised resolution which was not being seen for the first time for the delegates. Bishop Paterson declined the request for a recess and a vote was taken on the first clause thanking Dr. Rowan Williams and the WCG for their recommendations. This passed without debate by a vote of 64 to 1 with 1 abstention.

Bishop Andrew Curnow of Melbourne rose to ask that the original language of the resolution affirming the WCG be restored. “This counsel should give some warmer feeling” to the resolution and a “bit more indication of how it feels” about the WCG report, rather than rely on the bloodless language put forward by the committee.

American delegate Josephine Hicks urged the ACC not affirm the WCG’s recommendations, but only note them, arguing that “there are many recommendations” put forward in the document. Following a vote by secret ballot, Bishop Curnow’s amendment was accepted by a vote of 36 to 29 to 1. No vote on the amended clause was taken, however, before debate began on clause c, an endorsement of the communion’s moratoria on “the consecration of bishops living in a same gender union, authorization of public rites of blessing for same sex unions, and continued intervention in other provinces.”

Ms Hicks returned to the microphone and asked that the moratoria be rejected. She said the “stated reason” for “cross border” violations was the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson. However, “they began three years earlier” as the Anglican Mission in America was active in 2000, while Bishop Robinson was not elected until 2003.

The supporters of the third province movement in North America “had no intention of stopping, regardless of what took place” at ACC-14, she argued. It was “time to move on” and allow the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to be “true to themselves.”

The President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr. Mouneer Anis of Egypt asked that the moratorium on litigation that had been backed by the primates at their 2007 meeting in Dar es Salaam be added to clause c. Dr. Fitchett stated the fourth moratoria had not been included in the resolution as it was a “later addition,” not mentioned in the Windsor Report.

Bishop Godfrey stated he shared the concerns about “intervention,” but noted that “when good and godly men choose to set aside” church tradition, “one must ask why.”

“If we ignore the question of litigation, we are just postponing addressing the ills that affect the communion,” he argued. The moratorium on gay blessings was “not being kept by Bishop Bruno” of Los Angeles, Bishop Godfrey observed, recommending that “everything that is a problem be put on the table.”

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori rose to object to Dr. Anis’ amendment, saying the “reality is that those who have sought to remove property” had “done so without consultation, with an unwillingness to be in dialogue.”

A ban on litigation would also effect the diocese of Harare, the cathedral in Khartoum, and the dispute in Jerusalem “where the last bishop” had “sought to remove property” of the diocese.

When “leaders assert that the property of the church is personal property and are unwilling to discuss the issue,” there is a “fiduciary and moral duty” to engage in litigation to recover the property, Bishop Jefferts Schori said.

The Rev. Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Church also urged the delegates to reject a fourth moratorium, but took a different tack than the presiding bishop. He argued the meeting was in danger of “moratorium creep” that would dilute the work of the drafting committee. His concerns found support from the Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan and Canadian delegate Suzanne Lawson, who claimed that it was the rule “across the communion” that “dioceses own the property.”

However, the Bishop of Khartoum, the Rt. Rev. Ezekiel Kondo stated the presiding bishop’s argument linking the dispute between the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and a deposed renegade bishop who had gone over to the National Islamist Front government was fallacious, and urged the delegates to endorse Dr. Anis’ amendment.

The Bishop of Iran also urged the delegates to accept the Anis amendment, adding the presiding bishop had misstated the facts in the dispute between the current and former bishops of Jerusalem, and that that case was not on par with the doctrinal disputes the US church sought to settle by use of the secular courts.

Stanley Isaacs of Southeast Asia urged the delegates “not to be afraid of moratoria.” “It speaks of restraint,” he argued, as there “should be no limit on restraint when it is for the good of the church.”

After the Rev. Maurice Elliot of the Church of Ireland spoke in support of the Anis amendment, Bishop Paterson put the matter before the meeting for a vote. The delegates rejected the Anis amendment adding a fourth moratorium on litigation by a vote of 32-33, and then endorsed the original clause endorsing the three original moratoria by a vote of 43-19 with 1 abstention.

No debate was offered on clause d, and thanks to those who exercised “gracious restraint” was endorsed by the delegates by a vote of 55-12.

Debate turned to clause e, asking that “urgent conversation” be facilitated where the “applications of the moratoria gives rise to concern.”

Rising to speak on a point of order, Bishop Godfrey said that he had spoken with Bishop Jefferts Schori and she was agreeable to participating in a “listening process for those involved in litigation.” It was essential to get “to the roots of what is troubling the communion,” he argued, and “unless justice is done” litigation would continue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury rose in response to Bishop Godfrey, saying “we have no affirmed the WCG overall,” including mediation between the communion’s warring parties. However, Dr. Williams said he was “not in favor of spelling it out further.”

Bishop Catherine Roskam of New York stated she was concerned that the one “conversation that had not been heard” had been the “joyful conversation with the liberal and conservative congregations in the faithful reconstituted dioceses” of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Quincy and Fort Worth. Bishop Roskam’s words elicited no response from the meeting, and the clause was put to the vote and adopted 60 to 4 with 2 abstentions.

The remaining three clauses of the resolution were quickly adopted by votes of 64 to 2, 66 to 0, and 65 to 1. They called for Dr. Williams and the JSC to carry forward the WCG recommendations, create a commission whose mandate would be to find an “ecclesiological rationale” for the current structures of the Anglican Communion, and call the communion to “pray for repentance, conversion and renewal.”

As the proceedings came to a close, Irish clergy delegate Maurice Elliot rose on a point of order and told the meeting that he was concerned with “language problems,” suggesting that some delegates may not have been able to understand the nuances of “notes” versus “affirms” or some of the other language used in the meeting. The chairman declined to address Mr. Elliot’s concerns and the meeting moved on to announce the results of elections.

Speaking to delegates during the tea break, members of the conservative Global South coalition stated that while they regretted having lost the vote on a fourth moratorium, it had been a good morning, nonetheless. The Archbishop of the West Indies Drexel Gomez and Dr. Anis told The Church of England Newspaper they were pleased with the outcome, while Dr. Douglas said he felt the mood of the meeting had been to work with what was before them, and not add extraneous moratoria.

However, the Irish delegates concerns over “language problems” appear to have been borne out, in one case. When asked how he had voted on the moratorium on litigation, one Francophone delegate told CEN he had voted “no”, as he did not know what litigation meant.

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