Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Friday, February 23, 2007

How different views are accepting the Primates Communique

It has been interesting to see the various statements of how the plan from the Primates meeting is being received by various factions in the Episcopal Church.

The traditionalists have some issues with how it will play out, but for the most part are grateful that the Primates have heard their plea and expect the Episcopal Church to repent of its deviance from biblical teaching on marital relations and to set up some oversight plans for traditionalist parishes/dioceses/priests.

Others with the opposite theological views have responded with a "how dare you tell us what to do, you don't understand how the Episcopal Church works, and it is a justice issue that we are changing biblical teaching in the name of being 'inclusive' ". Of course, this so-called inclusion in earthly terms (not calling ALL to repentance) ends up being exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Below are two examples of these views. Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and Bonnie Anderson, an laywoman in the Diocese of Michigan who is the President of the House of Deputies at General Convention, and as such defends the polity of how the Episcopal Church works, against the intrusion of the Primates.
These, and many other statements are found at www.titusonenine.classicalanglican.net


Beloved in the Lord,
We continue in an extraordinary moment in church history. It is my conviction, with St. Paul, that “He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it to the end.” [Phil. 1:6]
Resolution III.6 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference authorized the Primates’ Meeting to include among its responsibilities both “intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution within provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies.” At Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Primates Meeting of 15-19 February exercised these mandates in most significant fashion.
Following up on the historic appeal for intervention 20 other bishops and I made on August 5, 2003 – and responding directly to the Appeals for Alternative Primatial Oversight (or Relationship) lodged by eight Network dioceses between July and November of 2006, as well as to requests from the Windsor coalition of Bishops conveyed in a letter of January 2007 – the Primates Meeting acted to address the crisis in our Province, The Episcopal Church. The result can surely be described as an answer to prayer.
I was joined in Dar es Salaam by Bishop Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana from the wider Windsor Coalition (a coalition of some two dozen diocesans that includes all the Network diocesans among its members). We were given the opportunity to provide testimony and entreaty as to how the situation in the United States could be addressed. Among the matters covered were:
–Our assessment that the Episcopal Church’s official response to the Windsor Report and Dromantine Communiqué was inadequate, grudging and calculated.–Belief that the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop had to be seen as a significant aspect of that official response, especially in light of her consent to New Hampshire’s election, to her authorization of same-sex blessings as diocesan bishop, and to her theological heterodoxy.–Observations on the majority’s emerging theological construct where 1) claims of justice replaces morality, 2) many ways replaces the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ, and 3) experience replaces “Holy Scripture as the ultimate rule and standard of the Christian Faith.”–Testimony as to the extent, expense and acrimony of the civil lawsuits under way across the country, most significantly noting the scandalous involvement of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor in suits brought not only against parishes but also against individual clergy and lay leaders.–Statistics bearing out the assertion that the Network and Windsor Dioceses, together with AMiA, CANA, and Network Convocation and Conference parishes across the country, represented a number equal to one-quarter of The Episcopal Church’s membership, minimally some 500,000 souls, a number larger than 18 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.–Clear discussion of the particular hostility of the “majority Episcopal Church” to the Forward in Faith Dioceses, as well as its failure to work with them and all those who hold to the Communion’s older “integrity” concerning Holy Orders.–Evidence of the increasingly unlikely confirmation of the Bishop-elect of South Carolina by diocesan standing committees, on grounds including the revealing mis-use of the “manner of life” language of TEC’s supposed acceptance of Windsor (Resolution B033, General Convention 2006).–Request for recognition of all those who accept the Camp Allen Principles concerning full acceptance of the Windsor Report as the Communion’s unquestioned partners in the United States.–Appeal for some means of suitable and sufficient separation of the majority and minority parties of the Episcopal Church, including a practical “cease-fire,” until the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant process will have run its course and determination of which of the parties in the U.S. dispute are to be viewed as the “constituent” members of the Communion.–Our willingness as Network and Windsor Bishops to participate in a Primates-proposed domestic structure that could take the first steps toward addressing the escalating crisis.
Clearly we were heard. The Communiqué from Dar es Salaam, together with the “Key Recommendations of the Primates” and the transcript of the “Archbishop of Canterbury’s Comments at the Final Press Conference,” all speak to address the American crisis. The Episcopal Church has been given another chance to make an “unequivocal” response to Windsor and to Communion Faith and Order. Those of us who have already made clear our willingness to submit to the Windsor Report and to the Anglican Communion have been given the proposed Pastoral Council and a Primatial Vicar, to be nominated by the participating bishops and responsible to that Council. We have a call for the cessation of all civil legal actions. We can work with this. We will work with this. It is not perfect and there are a number of potential obstacles. We will enter in good faith. The Primates spent so much of their meeting on our concerns that we can do no less in response to their best assessment of a path forward. What we have is an interim proposal for an interim period with interim structures, while the Episcopal Church majority has one last opportunity to turn back from its “walking apart.”
For the Network parishes of the International Convocation (congregations under Uganda, Kenya, Central Africa and Southern Cone) and for the churches of the Anglican Mission in America and of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, there are particular concerns about relating to those still within the Episcopal Church, even if under the Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar.
For the Alternative Primatial Oversight appellant dioceses, not least the Forward in Faith dioceses, there are still concerns about the role of the Presiding Bishop, about how the working relationship with the wider Windsor Coalition develops, and about whether “good faith” will characterize the other side. All we can do is be ourselves at our best. That is certainly, by God’s grace and your intercession, what two of us, on behalf of all of you, were within the Primates’ Meeting. Even though it is Lent, let Te Deum be said and sung. And let’s keep on, faithful to the Scriptures, focused on the mission, and submitted in unity, till the work is done, whatever the cost, always in prayer.
St. Paul speaks of the trust that is mine and yours and ours: “He who has called you is faithful, and He will do it.” [I Thess. 5:24]
Faithfully in Christ,
(The Rt. Rev.) Robert Duncan - Bishop of Pittsburgh

As I read the Communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I am deeply troubled by its implications for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
I continue to offer the Primates my affection, prayer and companionship along the way of the Cross and I respect their leadership of our Communion. Their Communiqué, however, raises profound and serious issues regarding their authority to require any member Church to take the types of specific actions the Communiqué contemplates and whether they have authority to enforce consequences or penalties against any member Church that does not act in a way they desire. The type of authority for the Primates implicit in the Communiqué would change not only the Episcopal Church but the essence of the Anglican Communion.
The polity of the Episcopal Church is one of shared decision making among the laity, priest and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops does not make binding, final decisions about the governance of the Church. Decisions like those requested by the Primates must be carefully considered and ultimately decided by the whole Church, all orders of ministry, together.
Some are asking whether the Primates can ask our House of Bishops to take certain actions and put a deadline on their request. Yes, they can ask. There are larger questions that need to be addressed, including: Is it a good idea for our House of Bishops to do what they have asked? Is the House of Bishops the right body within the Episcopal Church to respond to the Primates’ requests?
Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit’s call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin.
To honor all of the Primates’ requests would change the way the Episcopal Church understands its role in the Communion and the way Episcopalians make decisions about our common life. Our church makes policy and interprets its resolutions and Canons through the General Convention and, to a lesser extent, the Executive Council.
As president of the 800-plus member House of Deputies, it is my duty to ensure that the voice of the clergy and the laity of our Church will be heard as the Church discusses and debates the Primates’ requests and that that process will not be pre-empted by the House of Bishops or any other group. I have already begun to work toward that end.
All Anglicans must remember that the second Lambeth Conference in 1878 recommended that “the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members.”
This has been the tradition of the Anglican Communion. To demand strict uniformity of practice diminishes our Anglican traditions.
Our tradition of autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion, that come together because of our love of Christ and our common heritage, has allowed us to focus on mission and evangelism to our broken world which is in desperate need of the Good News of God in Christ. In recent times, however, we have spent too much of our time, talent and treasure debating if we ought to deny some people a place at the table to which Jesus calls us all. Instead, we must listen to each other – really listen and not just read reports – so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving through all of us and calling us to be more faithful.