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JAMAICA: The Fourth Moratorium - Report from ACC-14 Day 5 Part 1

JAMAICA: The Fourth Moratorium - Report from ACC-14 Day 5 Part 1

By Robert Lunday
American Anglican Council
May 6th, 2009

On a day when the cloud of litigation surrounding The Episcopal Church grows darker, many couldn't help but notice it even from the sunny shores of Jamaica. However this litigious church tempest seems to have escaped the sight of the 14th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council and some of the Anglican Communion's top officials.

Today, a pastor and his wife are being evicted from their home in Colorado Springs. At the same time, the individual members of the vestry of Saint James Newport Beach are being sued by the Diocese of Los Angeles for $500,000 a piece in legal fees for a total of $6 million being sought by the diocese.

This has been the state of affairs in North America for several years now. Like a small crack in the dam, churches started leaving TEC in 2000 and even earlier. TEC and its team of lawyers, bishops and bishops who are also lawyers attempted to squash those churches in court. Shortly after, what's turned out to be a longer yet more amicable process to shore-up the dam, began in the form of the 2004 Windsor Report.

According to Bishop Gregory Cameron, Bishop of Asaph and Secretary of the Windsor Continuation Group, this five year process is now concluded and the appropriate recommendations have been made as to how the Anglican Communion can stop the dam from breaking and The Episcopal Church from tearing itself and the Anglican Communion apart. These recommendations were made in the form of the Windsor Continuation Report, a report commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There is just one small problem with this report. It seems that when its authors, one of which was Bishop Cameron, wrote the 22 page paper that includes sections titled, "the Seriousness of the present Situation," "Breakdown of Trust," "Turmoil in The Episcopal Church," and "An Ecclesial Deficit," they left out any direct advice on how to deal with what some see as the most glaring and terrible result of this break-up, that black cloud of litigation.

The Windsor Continuation Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury and ACC-14 sets out nine recommendations that its authors felt would best deal with the present crisis in the Anglican Communion. Of the nine recommendations set forward, none of them pertain to the cessation of litigation by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

This omission would not be as ironic if it were not for the fact that the text of the WCG's report does directly refer to the litigation going on in North America. Paragraph 34 says, "...a fourth moratorium requested by the unanimous voice of the Primates at Dar es Salaam in 2007 - to see the end of litigation - has also been ignored."

However, when the report's authors decided to make recommendations as to the "four moratoria," they dealt with moratoria one, two, and three (on consecrations of bishops living in a same gender union, permission for rites of blessing for same sex unions, and interventions in provinces) but omitted moratorium number four. Why would they do that?

When asked why this "fourth moratorium" was addressed in the report's content, paragraph 34, but not in its recommendations, the highest level answer I could get was, "I can't tell you the answer to that question." Bishop Gregory Cameron, secretary of the Windsor Continuation Group, long-time friend of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and a man who has been critically involved in every major report coming out of the Anglican Communion for the past five years, could only answer "I don't know" when asked why the fourth moratorium on litigation was not among the most recent WCG recommendations.

Bishop Cameron was the sole speaker at an afternoon press conference today concerning the WCG. When asked if the Archbishop of Canterbury, the man who commissioned the WCG, could attend the press conference, reporters were told that he would not be available. As for Bishop Cameron not knowing why this fourth moratorium was not in the recommendations, it was not for lack of knowledge about the costly (both monetary and spiritual) litigation that was happening.

In 2007, Bishop Cameron was intimately involved in what has become the infamous Panel of Reference. This group, a mere speed bump along the Windsor process road, attempted to deal with situations of tension in TEC including situations where lawsuits between churches and their dioceses/province had arisen. In one instance, the case of Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, Florida, Bishop Cameron personally exchanged thoughts and recommendations to the parties involved and was well aware of the extent of the problems and level of emotion involved. In the case of Church of the Redeemer, the parish and its priest submitted to the recommendations of the Panel of Reference, however the Diocese of Florida, those who initiated the lawsuit, would not abide by the Panel's suggestions and preceded to sue the church and take its property.

Given the part he played and the light he tried to shine during this dark hour of Christian history, one would think Bishop Cameron would have insisted on the WCG directly addressing the ongoing litigation in North America. Even if the other members of the WCG rebuffed him, the bishop would at least know why the fourth moratorium wasn't addressed. To his credit, Bishop Cameron said that he was aghast at the thought of the lawsuits that were going on and that they should have made more of the fourth moratorium in the WCG's report. He went on to say "I think we ought to see a determined attempt to restrain litigation." The blame for this enormous pastoral oversight should not fall solely on Bishop Cameron but it was he who was the sole defender at today's press conference, despite requests for Archbishop Williams to be there.

This is the state of affairs in the Anglican Communion. Wise, learned, and, capable people abound in the councils of the Church. But when the time comes for them to address critical issues including ones of doctrine, morality, the authority of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ as Lord and saviour of all, and Christians suing Christians, they call for more conversations and delays, rather than action. There is a place for dialogue and reflection and restraint in the church, but it must be accompanied by a sense of the gravity of the situation. For five years the leadership of the Anglican Communion has thought, reflected and discussed the problems created by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. At the same time, Christians have been losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their churches. For them, the answer as to why this atrocity is not going to be addressed can not be "I don't know."

---Robert Lundy is Communications Officer for the American Anglican Council.

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