An evaluation of the Statement of The Anglican Communion Institute of the USA of November 2 – Is it a Papering over the cracks; Treating the symptoms; Avoiding the basic problems; A failure to recognize the apostasy and An attempt to declare that the ECUSA before 2003 was orthodox in Faith & Order?
First of all, here is the Statement in full. It will be followed by comment offered in the spirit of charity and reasonableness at a time when there is a major requirement that we all seek to be honest but in as charitable a way as we can.
A Call to Life Together: The Choice facing the Episcopal Church--USA, November 2, 2004
The Windsor Report offers a clear choice to North American Anglicans: "walking together" with the Anglican Communion, or "walking apart". It is important to understand that this choice is not part of the Report's "recommendations." It is a description of what in fact lies before the churches of our Communion at this point in time.
"Walking together" literally represents an actual life of "synodality." "Synod life in Christ" means taking counsel together, mutual subjection in matters that concern the whole Communion, self-restraint from acts of destructive autonomy, and a commitment to "repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation" among churches in the Communion. "Walking apart" constitutes a continued adherence to actions that "deny the bonds of communion," and "breach the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican communion have received it," and which, finally violate the "principle of interdependence."
The choice between walking together and walking apart is thus not something the Report considers properly subject to some process of local discernment within various Provinces - as might be the particulars of its recommendations. Rather, the choice stands as the fundamental starting point for this process of discernment itself. It cannot and must not be put off, if the Communion's life is to be respected and upheld. And those bishops, priests, and leaders of our North American churches are thereby either naïvely or irresponsibly distracting their flocks from this basic decision by deferring its articulation to some point beyond the present. No one should be under any illusion but that the shape of this choice - already made or deferred - will inform the outcome of the Primates Meeting in February, 2005, and thus the very shape of the Anglican Communion of the quite immediate future.
Just as the Report itself "calls on" Anglican churches around the world to "halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion," so we call on bishops, diocesan standing committees, diocesan conventions, and local parishes within the American Anglican context, to make their choice for "walking together," and to do so formally and publicly without delay.
To this end, we offer the following two resources:
• First, a draft "Statement of Regret": to be signed and issued by any bishop, diocesan standing committee, diocesan convention, or congregation who has either openly affirmed the acts of General Convention 2003 (and related actions) that have contributed to the current crisis in the Communion, or who has failed to state their public opposition to them. The Statement could rightly be issued by any bishop, diocese, or other representative group or individual in these churches who are committed to being identified with the ongoing life of the Anglican Communion.
• Second, an Affirmation of Compliance to the Anglican Communion's common life, to be made by a bishop, diocesan standing committee, diocesan convention, or congregation, most suitably within the context of a liturgical act.
This Affirmation calls on all members of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada to encourage their leaders to adopt some appropriate version of these statements and affirmations as soon as possible, before the gathering of the Primates' Meeting in February 2005.
I. Proposed Statement of Regret
We, as [a] bishop[s]/diocese/congregation of the Episcopal Church (USA) wishing to signal our desire that the Episcopal Church (USA) remain within the Anglican Communion, welcome the Windsor Report and its call to the imperatives of communion - the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ.
We see in the Report's vision of life in communion under the supreme authority of Scripture a commitment we share. We recognize in its account of our current illness, symptoms within our part of the body of Christ. We welcome its call to respond to the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events in order that we may walk together rather than walk apart.
We regret that, in consenting to/affirming the election and consecration of Gene Robinson to the See of New Hampshire, we in ECUSA have breached the proper constraints of the bonds of communion.
We also regret the hurt and alienation and other painful consequences that followed from our breaching of the bonds of communion in this way.
We recognize that ordination is to the whole church and so we commit ourselves not to repeat this breach.
We affirm we will neither ordain nor consent to the consecration of any unmarried, non-celibate persons.
We regret that General Convention declared it within the bounds of our common life to explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.
We recognize that to proceed unilaterally with the authorization of public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions before such time as there is consensus within the Communion permitting this constitutes action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it and a breach of the bonds of affection in the life of the Communion.
We affirm that, as [a] bishop[s]/diocese/congregation of the Anglican Communion, we will honor the Primates' Pastoral Letter and the call of the Windsor Report and not authorize public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions.
II. An Affirmation of Compliance to Life in Communion
This Affirmation can be made in a number of contexts, but is properly done within the context of corporate prayer. We suggest doing so as part of the Prayers of the People in the Eucharist; as part of a formal Litany before the Eucharist; or as part of the prayers during the Daily Office prayed in common. (Advent of this year is an obvious season for repentance and renewed commitment to Christ in Communion.)
The following suggested prayers are based on various elements in the Windsor Report itself as it discusses the reality and character of communion itself.
A brief litany of commitment to life within the Anglican Communion (to be adapted in form of address as appropriate)
We give thanks for the communion we share in Christ, offered to us in this fellowship of Anglican churches around the world, and rooted in the common life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We gratefully accept the divine obligations of this gift of communion, and beseech God's grace in complying with their purpose and in fulfilling them before the eyes of the world.
We repent of all words and actions on our part and on the part of our churches that would put in question the divine authority under which we live, deny the fabric of our communion and breach the bonds of our mutual affections.
We commit ourselves to a life worthy of the communion we share: avoiding actions of our own that would break our relations with others, submitting to common counsel within the Anglican Communion on matters that touch the larger body, nourishing the marks of our common identity, respecting the instruments that maintain our unity, and seeking amongst one another a common mind in Christ.
We ask God to bless the Anglican Communion of which we are a part, to use it faithfully as a sign of God's own mission in the world, and to preserve our own ministries in charity and truth within its midst.
Were the ECUSA to do what is recommended here and to do it in a true spirit of contrition and humility it would certainly make most of the Provinces of the present Anglican Family think that “Communion” is restored.
However, what this Statement and such action do not take into account in any obvious way is that the ECUSA innovations in sexuality are merely – to use the jargon – a presenting problem. They point to a serious, deliberate and planned move away from the standards of worship, faith, discipline & order that the PECUSA held before the 1970s – the very standards which are still the basic standards in most other Provinces to this day.
Therefore, if there is to be any genuine regret (repentance) for the pursuing of the latest innovations by the ECUSA, what will become gradually clear in the truly contrite heart and mind, is that the sexual innovations are an expression of a general apostasy by a denomination which chose four decades or so ago to be of this world, in this world and for this world, and thereby to disregard the authority of Scripture for worship, doctrine and morals.
And if such contrition actually occurs then it will surely also cause those who have written this Statement and all Episcopalians like them, who do not see themselves right now as in need of public repentance and change, to see that repentance and making a U-turn is what God requires of all Episcopalians, whether or not they are for or against the latest sexual innovations. The cancer is universal.
Apparently what those who have produced this Statement and the constituency they represent and lead find it hard to see and accept and repent of is the fact that they and their kind have made major contributions to the apostasy of which the latest sexual innovations are the most recent terrible evidence. They seem happy to be in the ECUSA and to declare it and themselves to be “orthodox” if it sheds its latest innovations in the sexual realm and returns to the position it had in 2000 or 2002. Thus they are as much part of the problem as are the bishops and others who support the gay agenda for they embrace the earlier innovations!
Here are some of the innovations since the 1960s that those who produced and endorse this Statement apparently support or do not oppose:
(a) the deployment of divorced and remarried clergy;
(b) the general acceptance of the marriage of divorced persons in churches [what the embracing of the divorce culture in the ECUSA has done apart from the undermining of family life is to prepare the way in a rights culture for the embracing of homosexuals in “committed relationships” as their right];
(c) the support and use of the 1979 Prayer Book, whose title of “The BCP” is a lie and whose content contains at best doctrine which is below the classic standards of the Anglican Way; further, the acceptance of additional liturgies since the 1980s approved by the G.C. which undermine both the Scriptural doctrine of the Name, the Nature and Attributes of the LORD God and the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith;
(d) the active suppression for years from 1979 of the most recent classic BCP of the Anglican tradition – the edition of 1928, and the persecuting of those who attempted to use it;
(e) the positive embracing of the ordaining of women, the defending of it by attempting to supply argument from Scripture, tradition and reason, and the doing do without necessarily realizing that it opens the door to the rights of homosexual persons for full recognition in the churches -- further, the mandating of belief in the ordination of women by all officers of the ECUSA as if it were an article of the Creed.
It would appear that the Anglican Communion Institute has a strong desire to hold on to the ECUSA not in its post 2003 form, but in a form from the 1990s that offers to its membership and supporters a minimally demanding style of Anglican worship, doctrine and discipline, a style that reflects and contains some basic apostasy from the high standards of the classic Anglican Way, but a style which is sufficiently respectable for it to be described by themselves and others as “orthodox”. There can be no genuine orthodoxy when the 1979 Prayer Book is the basic Formulary of the Episcopal Way – something assumed in this statement! At best it should be regarded as a Book of Varied Services and the title of The BCP restored to the1928 edition of the classic BCP and formulary! Suggestions for repentance and change should be based on services in what is truly the real Formulary, the BCP edition of 1928, rather than on the 1979 Book which was a major creator of the apostasy!
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon November 5, 2004