COLUMBUS, OH: The Episcopal Church intends to walk alone
By Peter Toon
"The Anglican Communion is not ready for it, but we are," said a male member of the House of Deputies as he spoke in favor of the acceptance of the Bishop of Nevada, Mrs Katherine Jefferts Schori, who is to be the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA. Her election by the House of Bishops and confirmation by the House of Deputies was together a very clear sign that the Episcopal Church cares little for its relation with the Anglican Communion. This Church knows where it is going and it intends to get there and implement its full liberal, progressive agenda that may be called the New Episcopal Religion.
As Presiding Bishop, Mrs Jefferts Schori will have the task of being chief pastor of this mainline denomination, of commending and defending its teachings, especially its controversial ones in sexual ethics and ordination policies, and of initiating new mission and outreach in her Church. As she is enthusiastic about the innovations in progressive liberal religion of this Church, her domestic leadership will not be controversial, at least amongst the majority of Episcopalians. She is a very intelligent person and a good communicator and this will count for a lot in the USA.
Yet in representing the Episcopal Church to the Anglican provinces and their Primates overseas, at this time of crisis for the Communion, she will undoubtedly have a hard time, maybe an impossibly difficult time.
This prospect arises from two factors. First of all, she is an enthusiastic supporter of the consecration of Gene Robinson and of the blessing of same-sex couples, and is not apologetic about these things. In the second place, she is a woman whom the Episcopal Church has ordained deacon, priest and bishop and now elected as Chief Pastor, and there are still many provinces in the Anglican Communion, where a majority is opposed to the consecration of women as bishops, for they hold to the biblical doctrine of headship in family and church, and hold that only a man can be the icon of Christ at the altar.
Not only will she personally have great difficulties to face, but all bishops who are consecrated by her as the chief consecrator will also most probably face real problems. Nowhere else in the Communion is a woman the Archbishop or the Presiding Bishop of a province and so there are no bishops yet in existence who were consecrated by a woman as the chief consecrator. It is entirely possible that henceforth - at least for the next few years - bishops consecrated in the USA with Mrs Jefferts Schori as chief consecrator will only be acceptable in the USA as bishops. Certainly the Church of England, the mother church of the Communion, cannot as yet receive them as bishops for it does not yet have any women in the Episcopate. And this will be true of many other dioceses and most provinces.
Much has been written and said about how the Episcopal Church will respond to the requests of The Windsor Report. In a sense that response does not now matter all that much except for the record, as it were, now. For in this election of Mrs Jefferts Schori the Episcopal Church has very clearly stated that it is ready to, and actually chooses, to walk alone as a province. It is stating that it does not regard the historical "bonds of affection" of the Anglican Communion to be more important than the implementation of its New Episcopal Religion. It is not ready to slow down its agenda and its trajectory of innovation.
Turning now to the response to the request of The Windsor Report, it now seems most likely that the Convention will express regret for everything to do with the consecration of Gene Robinson except the actual consecration itself.
The final draft from the committee going to the House of Deputies reads:
"Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of 'the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ' (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."
It is yet to be debated.
And in regard to a moratorium on further consecrations of actively gay persons and the blessing of same sex couples, it again appears that the Convention will attempt through carefully crated Resolutions to find a way to appear to be compliant to Windsor, while leaving open the possibility for each to occur if not today then tomorrow.
It seems clear on this day, Trinity I, that the Protestant Episcopal Church, which provided for the Anglican Communion the text of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral for Church unity, has now decided to walk alone away from full life in the Anglican Communion! For liberal progressives this is a day of gladness, occurring on the 30th anniversary of the Convention's decision to ordain women, but for traditional Anglicans it is a day - indeed a week -- of great sadness, making nearly inevitable the speeding up of the separation of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion.
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