Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ECUSA Bishops' Covenant - critique

Comment by Peter Toon on 'the Covenant Statement' of the ECUSA House of Bishops in response to the Windsor Report and the Communiqué of the Primates' Meeting of Feb 05. The Comment is inserted in italic.

House of Bishops adopts 'Covenant Statement'

House of Bishops' Spring Meeting
Camp Allen, Texas
March 15, 2005

A Covenant Statement of the House of Bishops

We have received the Windsor Report as a helpful contribution to our relationships with Anglican brothers and sisters across the world. We recognize its recommendations as coming from a broadly representative commission inclusive of bishops, clergy, and laity and as an attempt to speak as equals to equals. We experience it as being in the best tradition of autonomy within communion and as helpful in our efforts to live into communion. Likewise, we appreciate receiving the communiqué from the February meeting of the Primates and take seriously the perspectives and convictions stated therein.

It is our heartfelt desire to be responsive and attentive to the conversation we have already begun and to which we are being called and as a body offer the following points.

We reaffirm our commitment to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 and each of its individual points. We reaffirm our earnest desire to serve Christ in communion with the other provinces of the Anglican family. We reaffirm our continuing commitment to remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and to participate fully in the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference, and the Primates' Meeting, and we earnestly reaffirm our desire to participate in the individual relationships, partnerships, and ministries that we share with other Anglicans, which provide substance to our experience of what it is to be in communion.

Commitment to the Quadrilateral is merely a commitment to what the American House of Bishops many years ago saw as the minimum basis for union with other Churches by Churches of the Anglican Way. The Primates' Communique/Meeting made a major mistake by allowing the possibility that this Quadrilateral can be the basis for unity amongst Anglican Provinces, rather than the historic unity based upon the received, classical Formularies of the Anglican Way.

We express our own deep regret for the pain that others have experienced with respect to our actions at the General Convention of 2003 and we offer our sincerest apology and repentance for having breached our bonds of affection by any failure to consult adequately with our Anglican partners before taking those actions.

There is sorrow and repentance for lack of consultation and causing trouble BUT no repentance before God for breaking His Holy Law. There is no sense that consulting would have caused the House to go in a different direction that it actually did.

The Windsor Report has invited the Episcopal Church "to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report, para. 134). Our polity, as affirmed both in the Windsor Report and the Primates' Communiqué, does not give us the authority to impose on the dioceses of our church moratoria common life offers the opportunity for extraordinary action. In order to make the fullest possible response to the larger communion and to re-claim and strengthen our common bonds of affection, this House of Bishops takes the following provisional measure to contribute to a time for healing and for the educational process called for in the Windsor Report. Those of us having jurisdiction pledge to withhold consent to the consecration of any person elected to the episcopate after the date hereof until the General Convention of 2006, and we encourage the dioceses of our church to delay episcopal elections accordingly. We believe that Christian community requires us to share the burdens of such forbearance; thus it must pertain to all elections of bishops in the Episcopal Church. We recognize that this will cause hardship in some dioceses, and we commit to making ourselves available to those dioceses needing episcopal ministry.

There is no commitment not to ordain deacons and priests who are homosexually active and there is no commitment not to consecrate bishops after the 2006 Convention who are likewise active.

In response to the invitation in the Windsor Report that we effect a moratorium on public rites of blessing for same sex unions, it is important that we clarify that the Episcopal Church has not authorized any such liturgies, nor has General Convention requested the development of such rites. The Primates, in their communiqué "assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship" (Primates' Communiqué, para. 6). Some in our church hold such "pastoral care" to include the blessing of same sex relationships. Others hold that it does not. Nevertheless, we pledge not to authorize any public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, and we will not bless any such unions, at least until the General Convention of 2006.

It is true that the General Convention has not authorized any Rites but there are many such rites available and being used in dioceses. Priests can bless homosexual partnerships, bishops as such are not needed. There is no sense here of forbidding what already is common place and the way is open for there to be an approved liturgy in 2006.

We pledge ourselves not to cross diocesan boundaries to provide episcopal ministry in violation of our own canons and we will hold ourselves accordingly accountable. We will also hold bishops and clergy canonically resident in other provinces likewise accountable. We request that our Anglican partners "effect a moratorium on any further interventions" (Windsor Report, para. 155; see also 1988 Lambeth Conference Resolution 72 and 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution III.2) and work with us to find more creative solutions, such as the initiation of companion diocese relationships, to help us meet the legitimate needs of our own people and still maintain our integrity.

This seems reasonable but in effect does not provide immediately for the pastoral care of parishes which do not desire the ministry of the local bishop, due to his having embraced innovations and the LesBiGay agenda. African, Asian and S American Primates will hardly give up on their adopted parishes in the light of this vague kind of promise.

As a body, we recognize the intentionality and seriousness of the Primates' invitation to the Episcopal Church to refrain voluntarily from having its delegates participate in the Anglican Consultative Council meetings until the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Although we lack the authority in our polity to make such a decision, we defer to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church to deliberate seriously on that issue. The bonds of affection are not ends in themselves but foundations for mission.

What are really and truly these bonds of affection? The Windsor Report made a lot of this phrase but is there really affection, and has there been in recent years, between ECUSA bishops and bishops of Africa? In some personal cases, yes, but in general no. The fact of the matter is that around 16 provinces are not in eucharistic communion with the ECUSA because they believe it is apostate!

Therefore, we re-commit ourselves to work together throughout the communion to eradicate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and to address the other efforts mentioned by the Primates' Communiqué (para. 20). We dedicate ourselves to full and open dialogue in every available venue through invitations for mutual visitation, intentional exploration of the theological perspectives and spiritual gifts that our diverse cultures offer, and collaborative partnerships for the purpose of shared mission in Christ.

The House knows that it is in an extremely difficult position and expresses its desire to be kept in the Family, not to be cast out, and does so again in what seems a spirit of reasonableness. Regrettably nothing has yet come from the House of Bishops to indicate that it has changed its religion, that it is really and truly seeking to embrace the Faith held by the same House of Bishops, fifty years ago, 100 years ago, back to 1789! Or the Bishops who composed the Quadrilateral over a century ago!

This Covenant will keep the Anglican Churches of the West/North in communion with the ECUSA (because they are on the same route as the ECUSA has taken) but it will make most of the African & Asian Churches realize that there is no real change of mind and heart in the ECUSA, merely window-dressing, politics and deception. The House of Bishops it seems has lost the art of speaking the truth on major matters, indeed of speaking the truth in love at all! The ability to claim to be truth-telling when in fact it was lying began in earnest with the calling of the 1979 prayer book 'The Book of Common Prayer' when it was, and is merely and only, a Book of Varied Services! Falsehood before God leads to falsehood in all areas of religion.

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