FLORIDA RECTOR LOOKS AT WINDSOR REPORT
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Like many of you, I have been pouring over the Windsor Report. I offer the following as my reflections on the document. Where I quote or steal from others' insights, I will do my best to give them credit for their work. I will also try to steer you to other sources so you can get a more balanced perspective on this important issue.
First, I am assuming that every word in the report, every turn of phrase, is carefully chosen. The report is very well-written from a stylistic point of vew. It was a year in preparation and the people who prepared it are very smart people. The actual report (minus appendices and introductory material) is 50 pages long. Given a year for preparation, that works out to roughly one week per page. That's time enough to get it right. Therefore, every word or phrase is fair game for deep analysis.
Second, even though all the 'authors' speak English, we need to remember that English is not the native language for many of them, especially those from the Global South. Therefore, we need to keep in mind that it is possible for those more fluent in English to accidently or purposefully slip nuances into certain places which are not easily apparent to those who don't live and breathe the language.
Third, I am assuming that the people who wrote the report are good people trying to do a good job at a tough time on a hard subject.
Fourth, I believe this is a vital issue in the life of the church. The hope of wholeness and holiness of life is integral to the Gospel message. Jesus didn't die on the cross to save us from throwing gum wrappers on the sidewalk or using the wrong fork to eat our tofu, he died to save our deepest selves from our darkest sins. And, because we are created with human bodies full of hormones and fallen psyches full of what my friend Bill Stafford calls "disordered affections," many of those deepest sins will involve our sexuality. We are not given new life and new power in Christ so we can do what we darn well please. We are not our own, we are bought with a price, says St. Paul. Therefore, he says, we are to glorify God with our bodies.
Background of the Report
In August of 21003, ECUSA's General Convention created an uproar when it decided to endorse and bless the consecration to the office of bishop a man publically and proudly living a homo-erotic relationship. This unprecedented decision--made in the face of international pleas that it not take place--created an uproar in the whole Christian and, indeed, the entire mono-theistic world. The Anglican Communion, under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, created a commission to explore how the communion could and should respond to this provocative, unilateral action by one small branch of the Anglican Communion. The Commission was initially called the Eames' Commission (after its chair, Archbishop Robin Eames of Ireland), then the Lambeth Commission (for it was authorized by the Archbishop of Canterbury who resides at Lambeth Palace in London) and finally the Winsdor Commission for several of their meetings were held at St. George College in Windsor, England. The Commission was formed in the fall of 2003 and given until October of 2004 to complete its work. The Windsor Report was released by Lambeth Palace on October 18, 2004 and is widely available in print form or as a download file from various Anglican Communion web-sites.
The report is 93 pages long with about a third to a half of that length being devoted to introductory material and/or appendices. It is very well written and very 'user-friendly' for the average, motivated, and interested lay person.
Structure of the Report
The meat of the report was divided into four sections. (A) The Purposes and Benefits of Communion articulated an analysis of the undercurrents within our communion that allowed the current problems to fester for so long. (B) Fundamental Principles articulated those foundational institutions and convictions which can provide a basis for rebuilding and reforming the communion. (C) Our Future Life Together articulates what tools are available with which to build a new future for the communion. (D) The Maintenance of Communion articulated specifically what issues need to be addressed for a communion to have honesty and integrity. Four large appendices offered reflections and supporting materials.
Findings of the Report
Regarding (A), The Purposes and Benefits of Communion, the report identified various 'symptoms' of the current distress. It pointed to what it called 'surface symptoms'--same sex union, consecration of actively homosexual bishops, crossing geographic boundaries--and 'deeper symptoms:' flawed and inadequate theological formation, arcane and archaic ecclesiastical procedures, misunderstandings and misapplications of the principles of 'adiaphora' and 'subsidiarity,' and a breakdown in trust and authority within the communion.
Regarding (B), Fundamental Principles, the report identified four what it called 'bonds of communion:' the authority of scripture, the interpretation of scripture, the role of the episcopate as a symbol of unity, and the discernment and reception [of theological innovation]. This section also addressed the issue of diversity vs. unity by discussing autonomy and, again, adiaphora.
Regarding (C), Our Future Life Together, the report lifted up four what it called 'instruments of unity:' the ministry and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the deci-annual Lambeth Conference (which meets every 10 years on the 8's), the Anglican Consultative Council, and meetings of the Primates. The report recommended forming a 'council of advice' for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the creation of an Anglican 'covenant' which would provide a binding compact or agreement between the various constituencies of the Anglican Communion.
Regarding (D), The Maintenance of Communion, the report had recommendations in four major areas: That there be a binding moratorium on the consecration of any active homosexual persons to the episcopacy, that there be no rites for the blessing same sex unions, that 'dissenting groups' receive adequate pastoral care from a bishop whom they trust, and that bishops stop the practice of crossing geographic boundaries to help beleaguered parishes and clergy.
Some Paradigms Through Which to View the Report
I want to offer five paradigms through which to view the report. I intend these to be parabolic overviews of the report, ways to see what's going on here so that we don't get mired in detail.
1) Reconciliation of a Penitent
The 1979 American Book of Common Prayer has a wonderful, brief, powerful service for the Reconciliation of a Penitent. It is a clear call to clarity of thought, and repentance of heart, mind, and soul. The penitent is to kneel before the priest and say, "I have sinned by my own fault in thought word, word and deed, in things done and left undone; especially _____________.....I pray God to have mercy on me. I firmly intend amendment of life, and I humbly beg forgiveness of God and his church..."
There are polite circumlocutions about 'invitations to express regret.' There is no fumbling for mitigating circumstances or appeals to 'but everyone else was doing it' or 'maybe it was a sin twenty years ago or when the Bible was written, but not now.'
The Episcopal Church needs to be called to just the sort of repentance and humility it says it believes. Only that sort of clear, forthright repentance can lead to reconciliation.
The remedies commended in the report heal the people too lightly. The report asks little of those who should be penitent and, as a result, little will be achieved by way of reconciliation.
2) Jesus and the Woman at the Well
The report makes a large deal about honoring and maintaining a thing called 'Anglican identity.' Honoring one's heritage, learning from it and working to maintain its integrity are important values. But, where does the role of 'denominations' fit into God's hopes for His Church? A reading of the sacred text of Holy Scripture does not lead on to believe that 'denominational distinctives' rank real high on God's priorities.
Jesus once had an opportunity to get into a discussion of 'denominational distinctives' and their role in God's work in the world. As the old spiritual goes, Jesus met the woman at the well. She wanted to engaged him in a discussion of 'denominational distinctives." After all, the Samaritans were a kind of 'denomination' of Jerusalem and Temple-based Judaism. The woman was essentially asking Jesus to either affirm her denominational distinctives or those of his Jerusalem-based 'denomination.' Jesus would have none of it.
The true worship of God is not about maintaining or affirming denominational identities. It was, and of course still is, a matter of the Spirit and the Truth. If the Spirit of God is there, if the Truth of God is there, it's a place where God is worshiped. If the Spirit of God is not in it, if the Truth of God is not in it, it is not an identity worth maintaining.
There are currently over 2,500 denominations in the United States alone. There are at least a dozen who claim to be true Anglicans. Is God the Holy Spirit equally committed to keeping each of these denominated faith communities alive and vibrant? Is the Holy Spirit more obligated to preserve the Episcopal Church than He is to preserve the First Assembly of the Odd Clods for God World Wide Church of I'll Love Jesus 'til I Die Stick a Needle in My Eye Fellowship of the Twice Born Brethren? Anglican theologians seem to talk as if God couldn't possibly do His work in His world without the distinctives of Anglicanism. That is not faith, it is damnable arrogance.
In the meantime, only terminally polite Anglicans could believe that not being invited to a party at a palace is a significant form of discipline.
3) Jesus' Two Uses of the Word 'Church'
It is instructive that the world 'church' only appears twice on the lips of Jesus. Whether place there by the early church as some liberal scholars would claim or Jesus' actual words, as most Christians believe, it is important to attend to these words. In Matthew 16 uses the word 'church' in the context of mission ('the gates of hell will not prevail against it'). There cannot be a church without mission. In Matthew 18, however, Jesus uses the word in the context of church discipline ('if he fails to receive a rebuke, take it to the church'). Just as there cannot be a church without mission, nor can there be a church without discipline. We hope and trust that the Windsor Report will be the beginning of imposing (exercising, identifying) the sort of discipline that is necessary to our common life.
It has been rightly, and wryly, observed that the Anglican Church has Canon Law but no Canon Jail. Nor, it may be added, does it have a Canon Jailer. This rather flip comments points to a profound truth: In a fallen world, and in a church run by and for sinners, if we are going to have canon law, there must be some mechanism for interpreting and enforcing those laws. It would be nice if it were not so, but this side of heaven, a community of disciples requires discipline.
The Windsor Report makes it very clear that if ECUSA and its leadership sees their unilateral actions as courageous and prophetic, they are sadly and tragically mistaken. The Windsor Report states that the overwhelming majority of the Anglican Communion (and, indeed, world- wide Christendom) has carefully and prayerfully reflected on these actions and regards them as destructive of communion and corrosive of The Christian Faith. Far from being prophetic witnesses to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Scriptures, the God of Jesus, and the God of the Anglican tradition, these actions drive people further away from this holy God and from other members of His Body.
4) Walking 'Apart' vs. Walking 'Away'
The last paragraph of the report paints a strong word picture. It says if we can't learn to walk together, we will need to learn to "walk apart." it is a phrase carefully chosen and it evokes a powerful image. Note, it does not say 'walk away from' each other.
The image evoked is obviously a reference to Amos 3:3 where the prophet, self-consciously speaking the word of the Lord, asks "Can two walk together unless they have agree to do so?" In other words, is there a covenant in place that makes the partnership (the 'mutual accountability, the 'communion' if you will) meaningful? This is critical to understanding the image for the verse just before if, Amos 3:2 says this: "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins."
The Lord is being very clear here. We must not turn this image of communion into a stroll in the park. Because there is a covenant relationship, because a price has been paid for the fellowship, there must be a high level of mutual accountability and--nota bene--a price to pay for breaking that communion. It is precisely because God has blessed us so much that we are held to such a high standard and our sins must be punished.
We cannot walk with those who thumb their noses at God. We must choose to walk apart if we are going to walk with God.
This is very different from being told to walk away. Recently our bishop's canon used exactly that phrase to me speaking to all conservatives in the diocese of Florida. He said, "You know, you could just leave your key under the mat and walk away." In other words, leave us the fruit of your decades of labor, leave us the heritage of your people, leave us the keys to your home for the last 120 years. We want you, he said, to 'walk away.'
Ironically, the liberals have walked away from The Faith, like Gomer they have abandoned the marriage covenant, yet they insist on keeping the house.
Yes, we may need to learn to walk apart, but we dare not simply walk away.
5) Two Dying Patients: Triage and Tough Choices
As a fan of M*A*S*H and E.R. I know a bit about triage, but just a bit. Triage is about tough choices. About deciding which patient gets how much attention and when. Sometimes its about who lives and who dies.
The Lambeth Commission was asked to perform triage on two dying patients: One patient was the unity and identity of the communion, the other was the Truth of the Gospel. The Windsor Report tells the story of how they chose to sacrifice the Truth of the Gospel to save the unity and identity Anglicanism. While unity is a high, biblical value, the decision to abandon truth for the sake of unity is tragic. This is so for unity and identity can be reborn from Truth, yet Truth is not necessarily the outgrowth of unity and identity. For the Christian, Truth is found in revelation, in Jesus and in the sacred text. Truth is not found in noodling things out together (aka/dba 'sharing') or in claiming an identity over and above that of simply being followers of Jesus Christ.
My [Sam's] Conclusions About the Report
1) Unity is a High Value:
In Ephesians 4:3 St. Paul commands his followers to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." "Make every effort" he says. For Christians, unity is not an option, it is a sure and certain outgrowth of living in the Spirit of God. As St. Paul remind us in Romans 15:5 "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,"
In Jesus so-called 'high priestly prayer' in John 17, Jesus twice petitions the Father for the unity of his followers (vv. 11 & 17) even going so far as to imply that if Christians cannot maintain their unity, the world may legitimately conclude that the Father did not send the Son.
We need to work for unity, but not at the expense of Truth. As I noted above, Truth is a higher value than unity for unity and identity can be reborn from Truth, yet Truth is not necessarily the outgrowth of unity and identity. For the Christian, Truth is found in revelation, in Jesus and in the sacred text. Truth is not found in noodling things out together (aka/dba 'sharing') or in claiming an identity over and above that of simply being followers of Jesus Christ, Who is The Truth.
2) Two World Views:
We are dealing with two very different ways of viewing the world and how God relates to the world. As one African bishop wryly observed, "You [Western Anglicans] brought us the Bible and now you're mad at us because we believe it." The pseudo-sophisticates of the western world, people like Spong, have disdain for those who believe the Bible and who seek to follow New Testament morality.
Note these quotes from an opinion piece by Bp. Spong published on October 19, 2004, titled, "The literal-minded are triumphing."
"Anglicanism will be straitjacketed by fundamentalists if the Windsor report is adopted . . . . Only those with a limited understanding of modern life could ever imagine that a debate about homosexuality could be settled by quoting the Bible.... Would Anglicans in the Western world be asked to subscribe to a pre-modern mentality that opposes evolution or demands that the Virgin Birth be interpreted as literal biology? Would we destroy the tradition of the great Anglican scholars of the past and try to place modern minds once again into the pre- modern straitjacket of the 39 Articles?...If this report is adopted, it will create a church ill-equipped to live in the 21st century. Death comes in many forms - the inability to embrace new reality is one of them." END OF SPONG QUOTES
Now, note these quotes from Archbishop Peter Akinola: "I welcome the sincerity and hard work of those who have prepared 'The Windsor Report 2004'. After an initial reading it is clear to me that the report falls far short of the prescription needed for this current crisis. It fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers. We have watched in sadness as sisters and brothers who have sought to maintain their allegiance to the "faith once delivered to the saints" have been marginalized and persecuted for their faith. We have been filled with grief as we have witnessed the decline of the North American Church that was once filled with missionary zeal and yet now seems determined to bury itself in a deadly embrace with the spirit of the age. Instead of a clear call for repentance we have been offered warm words of sentimentality for those who have shown no godly sorrow for their actions and harsh words of condemnation for those who have reached out a helping hand to friends in need of pastoral and spiritual care. Why, throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the global south, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible?"
END OF AKINOLA QUOTES
Simple question: Who would you rather follow into the 21st century: A person who thinks he knows better than God how to run the world or a person who realizes that without God's perspective and the wisdom of 4,000 years of Judeo-Christian heritage we are wandering blind. Give me Akinola any day.
3) Walking Apart:
Archbishop Frank Grisworld, on Monday, Oct. 18th edition of NPR's "All Things Considered" affirmed that gay and lesbian people have made contributions to church--a statement noone denies--and then went on to imply that this was a reason to bless their unbiblical lifestyle choices.
The issue is not, "Have gay and lesbian people ever individually made contributions?" as Griswold affirms. Of course they have. So have many adulterers and murderers. God only uses broken vessels. But God's ability to use people is not really the issue. The issue is what sort of openly sinful behavior and pseudo-covenants can the church tolerate, let alone bless and sanction!, before it has to do what St. Paul commands in I Cornithians 5:11-13 "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
Harsh words, indeed. Of course, the church does not turn anyone away who is willing to acknowledge their brokenness and sin and seek healing and restoration. On the other hand, the church is commanded, by both Jesus and St. Paul, to discipline and, if necessary, expel those who want to have God on their terms, not His, and who would Jude 1:4 "who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."
4) We Already Have Core Documents:
The Windsor Report calls for the creation of a core covenant that will bind all Anglicans. It seems to imply that such a document needs to be carefully created. The reality is that we already have such core covenant documents. They have been carefully created. They have been tested by time. They have served the Anglican Communion for centuries. The problem is, they are ignored.
They have been relegated to the basement of the Book of Common Prayer.
They are the historic creeds of Christendom, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, and the most important of all for the Anglican identity the report is so anxious to safeguard, the Articles of Religion. These documents articulate the core covenant of Anglicanism. They have all been accepted by our communion. None have ever been repudiated or repealed. Like it or not, they still stand as the official statement of our 'Anglican Identity.'
If they are out of date, fix them. But don't try to reinvent from whole cloth something which already exists.
5) Not all boundaries are geographic:
Note these thoughts from David C. Steinmetz in an article he wrote called "Damage Control in the Episcopal Church" published September 23, 2004. David C. Steinmetz is the Amos Ragan Kearns Professor in the Divinity School of Duke University.
"Classical Anglicanism, in [Griswold's] view, involves unity in baptism, prayer and the celebration of the eucharist. It does not involve doctrinal uniformity and is deeply suspicious of overly literal readings of Scripture. Moreover, it tolerates theological diversity, not out of weakness or indifference, but out of a deep conviction that evangelicals, liberals and Anglo-Catholics need each other in order to be as much as possible a self-correcting church of Christ.
"The question Griswold does not answer in his spirited defense of classical Anglicanism is where legitimate boundaries lie. At what point does diversity become incoherence?
"After all, what is usually called heresy is not simply a 'divergent opinion' that can readily be tolerated. Heresy is the rejection of a fundamental principle that has hitherto defined a group. The Sierra Club would undoubtedly be more inclusive if it accepted members who were eager to drill in the Alaskan wilderness, but it would not be more coherent. Not drilling in the Alaskan wilderness is part of a fundamental set of principles that defines the Sierra Club and makes it what it is.
"Which means diversity has its limits, even in the admirably tolerant world of classical Anglicanism. The question for liberals and conservatives alike is where to draw the line, not whether.
"For Griswold and his liberal allies, legitimate diversity includes the consecration of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions. For the majority of Anglicans worldwide it does not.
"Griswold is therefore right to be worried. No one has as yet suggested a compromise that can bridge these seemingly incompatible positions and the Lambeth Commission -- even with the best will in the world -- is unlikely to have found one.
"In the end, nothing may remain for Anglicans on Oct. 18 but to choose sides.
END OF STIENMETZ QUOTE
When church discipline is reduced to turf wars over geographic boundaries while, at the same time, pop-culture prelates are blithely bopping over boundaries of belief, who really cares about whose toes are tip-toeing through whose tulips.
6) Things ain't never gonna be like they was, never again:
Within the last 50 years, the "world-wide" Anglican Church has gone from being a polite and comfortingly omni-present place where ex-pats and Anglophiles could encounter God in a decidedly Western European way and at a Victorian pace. Now, however, the Anglican Communion is mostly Asian and African and what happens in Singapore or Kigali at 5:00 impacts the world-wide church by 5:30. The Windsor Report makes it clear that the 2/3 World (representing 90% of the Anglican biomass) is not content to uncritically received western values wrapped in pseudo-Christian jargon. Instant global communication means that those things done in secret will, indeed, be shouted from the rooftops--and sooner rather than later. Analysis cannot be spun only one direction. The Windsor Report makes it clear that the Anglican Communion is truly global and the North and West are now accountable to the East and South--and this can be nothing but good.
7) Invitations with "Regrets Only" RSVP's:
The Windsor Report, like any report coming from a palace, is full of royal invitations. Some invitations come with a "Regrets Only" form of RSVP. In other words, only reply if you can't comply. In this case, the North American Church was quick to reply: "We regret we cannot accept your gracious invitation to express our regrets."
Note these quotes from some key leaders of the Gay/Lesbian Movement
Bishop of Michael Ingham of the New Westminster diocese said on CBC Newsworld he apologizes to those who feel offended by the actions of his diocese but, "the actions we took in our synod are the right ones." . . . . Ingham says blessings of same-sex unions will continue.
Bp. Naughton of Washington D.C. said on the Monday, Oct. 18th edition of NPR's "All Things Considered" that he plans to continue authorizing such same-sex unions "under the radar."
[From the New York Times] "The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a telephone interview from London that he found the report "nuanced and balanced." Asked if he planned to apologize, Bishop Griswold pointed out that the report never used that word. He said the report asked only for an "expression of regret" that the American church's decisions caused such dissension..... I can regret the effects of something, but at the same time be clear about the integrity of what I've done," Bishop Griswold told the New York Times."
In Matthew 22 Jesus tells the parable of a king who creates a wonderful banquet and issues invitations to all the bishops, priests and deacons of the town. When the king's invitations are rebuffed, he reaches out to find other men and women who will hear his voice and respond to his invitation.
The North American church has already snubbed Lambeth's invitations. It is time to go to the highways and the byways and find those who will humble themselves and join the king. They may not initially be 'traditional Anglicans.' We can't always clean our fish before we catch them. But they are the sort of people who will not despise an invitation to fullness and wholeness as the North American Church has done.
8) DEPO a No-Go:
Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight is a "No-Go" from the start. The Windsor Report sadly trots out this old nag (drags out this dead horse) as a potential solution to the oversight (epi-scope) problem with the episcopacy (over-sight). The idea that the diocesan bishop who is creating the problem should be in control of authorizing the solution is ludicrous on it face. Fox-henhouse. Get it?
This 'solution,' which values geographic autonomy over pastoral healing and doctrinal integrity, is no solution at all. As Diane Knippers noted, to do is to try to establish a moral equivalence between the arsonist who tries to burn down a house and the fire-fighter who smashes down a door to put the fire out. Both did damage, but one was criminal while the other was helpful.
9) Property & Succession:
Finally, the two main issues facing the Episcopal Church today are "Who owns the property of the various parishes?" and "How can an orthodox parish ensure that once its rector leaves he (or she) will be replaced by one who preaches, teaches, and upholds the Faith once delivered to the saints?" Neither of these crucial issues was even addressed by the Report.
These two issues, more than any others, are where the people in the pew today live and move and have their being. To leave them unaddressed was a very serious omission and renders the whole report fairly useless as a tool for long-term healing and understanding.
Where Do We Go From Here?
October, 2004: The Council of Anglican Primates in Africa (CAPA) meets to discuss the Windsor Report. There should be a report on their meeting by early November.
January, 2005: Instead of our usual annual diocesan convention, delegates in the Diocese of Florida will have day and half of "convocation and conversation" about the issues we face and how to move ahead.
February, 2005: The primates of the Anglican Communion will meet to discuss their response to the Windsor Report. This will be a very, very important meeting.
May, 2005: The Diocese of Florida will have the convention it was supposed to have in January and will respond to all of the above. At that time, the diocese will decided whether or not it will, officially and as a diocese, join the Anglican Communion Network (ACN). At this time, there is no way that will happen. Even if the diocese votes to join, the bishop has said he will veto it. In the meantime, Grace Church continues to be a member and to work closely with the leadership of the ACN to promote Anglican orthodoxy to preach the Gospel of Jesus.
The Rev. Dr. Sam Pascoe is the rector of Grace Church in Orange Park, Florida.
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