COLUMBUS, OH: "The Windsor Process" Is this a substitute for The Windsor Report?
By Peter Toon
In the Special Committee, which produced the Resolutions arising from responding to The Windsor Report, and in the House of Deputies, which has been considering them (up to this time of writing), many speakers have used the expression "the Windsor Process." It seems that the expression has become for some a way of saying more than the basically simple thing that there is an ongoing response to the requests made in The Windsor Report.
No doubt for some, it is used in a straightforward way and means something like this: that after the Report was published, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a Pastoral Letter to the Communion about it, and then the Primates' Meeting followed by the Anglican Consultative Council made public statements about it. Further, it was received by the Episcopal Church, discussed in the Executive Council, studied by a special group who produced a report for General Convention, debated in dioceses and congregations and eventually brought to General Convention. As to what happens after General Convention is a process that is not yet in motion and is wholly unknown.
I am told by an ECUSA bishop that he has heard the Archbishop speak of "the Windsor process" and, from the context, it appeared to have a meaning such as that just stated.
What I sense is that for some in General Convention the phrase is a way of making it clear that what the Convention ought to focus on is not simply the fact of the consecration of Gene Robinson; but everything that occurred before it and after it, including the reaction abroad and the work of the special commission which produced the Report. That is, what the Anglican Communion needs to learn and hear is that there was a process within the Episcopal Church, which led to the choice and the ordaining as bishop of Robinson, and that there was then a process in the Anglican Communion in response to it, followed by a process within the Episcopal Church that is ongoing and will certainly not end when Convention ends. By talking of process, it is possible to let the consecration stand as a fact to be celebrated, and then express great sorrow and regret for all the pain and problems it has caused.
In other words, to emphasize process and to give the impression that the Report itself is calling for process, is a way of making it possible to draft Resolutions and then have them passed, in a form of words, and, in a way, that does not express regret for the fact of the consecration itself but abundantly expresses regret and repentance for the way in which the process has caused all kinds of problems for Anglicans and Episcopalians.
Further, to emphasize process is also to open up the possibility that "Gays and Lesbians" have been, are and should be a necessary part of the ongoing process, for, it is stated, they need to be heard and understood and they need to be present in all conversations. So what is envisaged is an ongoing situation where the Episcopal Church will explains itself, its Resolutions and mind to the provinces of the Anglican Communion and listens to what these say to it.
Such an interpretation of ongoing process without a specific center or a known goal probably fits into a larger philosophical and theological picture. Not a few Episcopalians these days have been taught and have embraced either in a sophisticated or popular way what is known as process philosophy and process theology based upon it. Here the fact of cosmic evolution is taken for granted and God is seen as involved in an ongoing, evolutionary relation to the world. In this cosmic and historical process God actually changes, the world changes and the church is called to change as it follows the God of evolution and process. So right now the church is in process of receiving God's latest revelation; that of the right of same-sex persons to live together in covenantal, holy unions.
In conclusion, may I express my fear that "the Windsor process" is understood one way at Lambeth Palace and in the Primates' Meeting and in yet another, more complex and convoluted way, by many in leadership in the Episcopal Church. This may well mean in the months ahead that in reading the Resolutions passed by this Church and the explanations offered, people outside the ECUSA will gain a wrong understanding and a false interpretation of what is intended. They may think that regret is being offered for the event and its consequences when it is being offered only for the process of consequences.
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