The Windsor Report (2004), accepted by three of the four Instruments of Unity of the Global Anglican Communion (Lambeth Conference not yet having met), has been much quoted in terms of what it laid as a moral requirement upon the two North American Provinces, especially The Episcopal Church [TEC]. However, it has been much less cited in terms of the moral requirement it laid upon other Provinces, which have been taking a particular interest in the internal affairs of these two North American Provinces.
First of all, the Report states what has always been a generally held doctrine by Anglicans since the sixteenth century.
The Anglican Communion upholds the ancient norm of the Church that all the Christians in one place should be united in their prayer, worship and celebration of the sacraments. The Commission believes that all Anglicans should strive to live out this ideal….We do not therefore favour the establishment of parallel jurisdictions.
We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:
• To express regret for the consequences of their actions
• To affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
• To effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops whose parishes they have taken into their care.
The Report also rightly goes on to call upon the American bishops to be much more cooperative with parishes that hold a different view of the Anglican Way to their own.
Since the publication of the Report and its acceptance by the Instruments of Unity, the call of the Commission has not only NOT been heeded, but the number of interventions from abroad in North America has rapidly increased. Where only Rwanda had bishops in “Networks” in the USA in 2004, now in 2007 the Provinces of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda have bishops with “convocations” or “dioceses” in the USA and Canada. And over and above these groupings, various congregations are directly related to a foreign bishop in South America or Africa—and there are associations of Indian congregations having visits from Indian bishops.
Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya could have stood behind Rwanda’s Anglican Mission in the Americas and given it full support in order to maintain unity in intervention, but instead they choose to set up their own jurisdictions and ordain half a dozen or so bishops. And, let us be clear in their defense, that this rapid increase in foreign intervention has occurred as TEC and ACC have shown little or no inclination to express regret for and turn from their commitment to innovations in doctrine and practice, especially in sexual ethics. Further, at the local level some TEC and ACC bishops have acted totally against the spirit and letter of the Report in their treatment of traditional Christians. (In fact, many North American bishops see their role as prophets of a new form of Christianity with a world mission to implement the millennial goals as set forth by the United Nations and to establish the full dignity of all people whatever their “orientation” sexually.)
Without doubt both those who have intervened on a massive scale along and those who both invited and welcomed them believe that the infidelity and apostasy of TEC and ACC justify this innovative action (which in their clearer moments they recognize is totally against—in normal times—the received understanding of Church unity and of Bishops as the sign and symbol of unity, for right now Bishops are clearly the sign of chaos and disunity in American Anglicanism).
Living within crisis and chaos and dysfunctionality, it is most difficult for even the wisest amongst us to discern when asking for intervention or engaging in intervention in another’s territory is justified.
And because of the pressure of modern communication, especially e-mail, the ancient virtues of careful discrimination and godly patience have been made nearly impossible to exercise. At the same time the internal recognition by the African Provinces that their position has been totally reversed from being the subjects of colonialism to calling the tune in the Global Anglican Family has caused a kind of irrational euphoria to arise in their midst and cause them to take actions that they may regret down the line.
Thus though Lambeth Conference 2008 (the chief Instrument of Unity of the Anglican Communion) is not far away there is not the readiness amongst the seceders in North America or by their friends abroad to restrain actions until that date—in fact there is not the readiness on the part of four African Provinces to wait even until September 30, 2007, when TEC Bishops are required by the Primates’ Meeting to come clean on where they stand and will stand.
There were all kinds of other possible ways of caring for the seceders from TEC and ACC by overseas bishops as we all waited patiently for Lambeth 2008, after which there could have been if necessary concerted action. Though TEC and ACC have behaved badly and continue to do so, the exercise of Christian virtue by the displaced and the seceders could have been increased by the abundant grace of God in this crisis. Perseverance and patience (see Romans 5:1ff) could have been in place in the relatively short wait until Lambeth 2008—and as long afterward as necessary to set in motion healing and edifying actions and institutions.
It is much easier to destroy a house than built a new one; it is much easier to consecrate bishops and send them into the vast territory of the USA and Canada than it is, in a couple of years time, to bring them all together into unity in a new province—unity together with former bishops of TEC, of REC, of APA, of the Canadian Church and of various Continuing Anglican Groups.
It is possible—in fact likely if we take the history of religion in the USA as a guide—that we are now witnessing the permanent multiplication of Anglican jurisdictions in North America, adding to those caused by the schisms of 1873 and 1977 (the REC and the variety of Continuing Anglican Churches).
This is extremely sad and brings grief and sorrow to genuine Anglican hearts. It seems as though the whole Anglican Way has been blown apart not only by the infidelity of leaders in TEC & ACC but also by the excessive zeal of African Provinces. (Lest anyone should doubt my evaluation of TEC as being in infidelity let him/her read my Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-727-1928.)
I deeply feel for Archbishop Rowan Williams (who like others has made some serious errors of judgment in this whole crisis but who is of tender heart) as he encounters TEC House of Bishops in a few days time. In fact I implore the almighty Father to have mercy upon that whole gathering in New Orleans.
Sept 16 2007 Dr Peter Toon