Response to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Primates
The Reply of the American House of Bishops
The JSC has determined that the American HOB has responded adequately to requests from the Anglican Primates for clarification of their response to the Windsor Report both in terms of the approval of additional bishops in committed same-sex relationships and the approval of same-sex blessings.
The JSC concludes that a majority of bishops have committed themselves to withhold consents to election of candidates for bishop in same sex relationships. This is I believe actually the case. The meeting in New Orleans did express a consensus that consents would be withheld at least until after the next General Convention. I suspect that if there is a Lambeth Conference in the offing the HOB will in all likelihood refrain from giving the necessary consents until after Lambeth.
The JSC has accepted the declaration of the HOB that TEC has not authorized public rites for same-sex blessing though reserving the right for private pastoral response. The JSC makes clear that “we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of the private personal response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority, ‘until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action.’”
At this point the statement becomes really an exercise in subterfuge. The JSC accepts the undertaking made by the HOB in terms that the HOB never set and which are contradicted by numerous facts on the ground and the explicit statements of many bishops. By saying that such blessings when they take place are “without the bishop’s authority” the JSC is replaying on the communion wide stage the comical picture of LA bishop Bruno denying that the same-sex blessing described in the New York Times announcement page was going forward with his knowledge or authority. This is an attempt to finesse an issue that even the secular press will find duplicitous. It is inconceivable the HOB would discipline any of its members for allowing public same-sex blessings. A real undertaking not to authorize would mean to discipline those who take unauthorized action. This seems an attempt to generate a legal fiction for the purpose of giving TEC a pass by virtue of living into a legal fiction that it did not in its deliberations agree to. Meanwhile the spirit of Windsor cooperation which is what is really needed has been simply repudiated. The JSC is trying to give the HOB a way of playing the character Sargent Schultz from the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. Schultz the German guard turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of the prisoners and when asked by his superiors about transgressions said famously, “I know nothing, I know nothing.” By its finesse and fine parsing of language the JSC is helpfully feeding the HOB this line. They are saying in effect, “we are going to say we take it in this way, you don’t protest and you will be able to say, ‘we know nothing.’”
The JSC also takes up the issues of alternate Primatial Oversight. It encourages the Presiding Bishop to consult further with dissenting groups but “we believe the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal (the plan announced at NOL) the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties could meet their needs.” So they ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to use his office to bring together the leaders of TEC and the dissenting dioceses for further negotiation but put their prestige behind what the PB has put on the table. They suggest that possibly the Panel of Reference might be resurrected.
They encourage the ABC to use his office to discourage law suits on all sides. This is the single positive contribution in the report.
The JSC scold those primates who have offered emergency pastoral care to American parishes for not abiding by the Windsor Report and call for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end. They ask the ABC to convene talks between the intervening bishops and the TEC bishops of the diocese in which the interventions occur.
The JSC commends the listening process called for by Lambeth.
The JSC suggests that the there is an emerging consensus in the communion “which says that while it is inappropriate to proceed to public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions and to the consecration of bishops who are living in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage, we need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of discrimination, persecution and violence against them. Here The Episcopal Church and the Instruments of Communion speak with one voice.”
The essence of the JSC report is to try to sell on a Communion wide basis the American HOB fiction that because no new liturgies have been authorized and no new elections consented to the American Church is Windsor compliant.
There is a willful distortion of reality in this report that raises the most serious questions about whether the Primates can themselves be an instrument of unity and exercise meaningful authority in the communion. This report will not help the communion stay together. It is in every way a clever and artful (in the sinister sense of that word) document designed to deceive and cry peace where there is no peace. It can only seem odious to plain speaking people looking for plain talk about the really somber prospect of the break up of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The ABC and the Primates have been badly let down by this report. I look with anticipation for a minority report from Bishop Mouneer Anis.