Ruth Gledhill, the religion correspondent of The Times, claims to have learned from someone in, or closely connected with, the Archbishop's Commission on the Gene Robinson affair in the U.S.A. of a major proposal to be placed before that Commission concerning what to do with the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. The commission meets at Windsor Castle, England, next week, for its final meeting where the content and style of its Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury will be finalized.
Ruth has been at her job for a long time and usually leaks given to her turn out to be substantially true, even if the whole context is missing from the leaked information.
She claims that a proposal on the table will effectively exclude the Episcopal Church from the institutions and meetings of the Communion, until such time that Bishop Gene Robinson retires, resigns or is removed and, further, that the ECUSA has not any other bishops of the same "commitment" in place and has not nationally passed canons allowing the blessing of same sex couples or the ordaining of persons in same-sex active partnerships.
In other words, the proposal is not to exclude permanently but only temporarily in the hope that the exclusion will cause a change of mind and restore the ECUSA to where it was before the summer of 2003 in terms of its approval of "gay" bishops and "gay" partnerships.
Something similar, but less demanding, is being proposed for the Anglican Church of Canada, but she does not know the details of this.
Let us assume that this proposal will be in the final Report, and reflect upon it for a while.
- The Proposal is only a proposal within a long Report.
- After being received by the Archbishop of Canterbury, copies of it will be sent to the Primates of the other 37 Provinces and to members of the Anglican Consultative Council.
- The only real authority that the Archbishop of Canterbury has in relation to the ECUSA is a negative one -- not to invite its Bishops to the next Lambeth Conference in 2008. His "moral" authority to date has proved powerless to slow down the ECUSA agenda.
- Each Province of the Anglican Family is autonomous and each one will need to debate and either pass or not pass this proposal for it to be effective for that Province. No Province can legislate for any other Province.
- Whatever the Primates' Meeting and the Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council may decide by a majority vote only has moral authority, for no Primate and no Representative can speak for his Province unless the Province has already addressed the matter, voted and given him the authority.
- It is highly unlikely that such a Proposal will be passed by a majority vote in the Provinces of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and even England. Thus any discipline imposed will be only by part of the Communion.
- There will be free movement of clergy and people in the "West" and "North" and ECUSA and Canada will be fully a part of this movement for it will be in large part business as usual, even as traditionalist exclaim with horror.
- Therefore, the effort to implement such a proposal will probably lead to a major division within the Anglican Communion and even, in the cases of some provinces, division within them.
- It is highly probable that there will be a growing number of parishes in the ECUSA applying to be part of dioceses in Africa or South America. This is already the case now but the stream will become a flood. And thus determining what is the Anglican Way or Anglicanism in north America will need great discernment and wisdom.
And a final comment:
Singling out from all its innovations that of consecrating a homosexual man and making that into the basis of temporary exclusion (not, we note, full blooded excommunication) has the effect of giving a sense of approval, or at least "an OK", to the other most serious innovations of the ECUSA since the 1960s ( innovations that effectively laid the foundation of the acceptance of the LesBi Gay agenda) -- e.g., its general approval of the divorce and remarriage culture with virtually no marriage discipline in place now; its incorporating a falsehood into the title & name of its chief Formulary [that is the calling of a Book of Varied Services, "The Book of Common Prayer" in 1976/79]; its rejection of the Eames Report on Reception and its making acceptance of women's ordination into part of the required creed of church officers; its excessive use of inclusive language for Deity and humankind in its post 1980 liturgies; its making of the language of rights into its primary moral talk; and so on.
If Ruth Gledhill is right, and if the Commission makes this proposal, then it seems that the Communion of Churches will be split in deeper ways than it is now, and further, and most seriously, the innovation of approving homosexual partnerships as blessed of God will have become the major heresy. Thus people who are heretics according to the old definitions, that is in terms of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Son of God, will be accepted and acclaimed as orthodox because they simply oppose this innovation in sexual relations. Let it not be forgotten that from a fully Christian perspective, one needs to be genuinely Trinitarian in mindset in order to see why homosexual and heterosexual sins of fornication are wrong and why chastity is right in the sight of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, one God, who made man in his own image and after his likeness, and further made man as "male and female" (Genesis 1:27).
The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon September 2nd 2004