IS THE WINDSOR REPORT ALL TIED UP IN KNOTS?
By David W. Virtue
LONDON (10-17-2004)--On its surface, an early leak of the Windsor Report reveals real hope for the Anglican Communion especially for besieged orthodox bishops and clergy in the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The four areas of hopefulness are these:
1. No more consecration of avowed non-celibate homosexuals to the episcopacy.
2. The establishment of what might be dubbed a fifth instrument of unity to adjudicate when provinces have stepped over the line and performed unecclesiastical and unbiblical acts and
3. Alternative Episcopal oversight for besieged orthodox clergy in revisionist dioceses and provinces.
4. A full apology by Frank Griswold and all the bishops who consecrated V. Gene Robinson.
The outlawing of homoerotic bishops is clearly a step in the right direction, but the report makes no mention of the existing sitting diocesan bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson and whether the failure to deal with him directly in this report will endanger the fragile unity that now exists in the communion. As one observer noted, unless Robinson is forced to step down as bishop of New Hampshire, it is largely an empty gesture. As long as the proponents of the homosexual agenda are allowed to keep their foot in the door, and practicing homosexual clergy (including not only bishops, but also priests and deacons) are allowed to continue to function (and to proselytize their cause), the "disciplinary" mechanisms proposed in this report will do nothing to repair the damage has already been done to orthodox theology and ecclesiastical order. To borrow an old cliché, this report only closes the barn door after the horses have already escaped.
Furthermore the African bishops have made it abundantly clear that they would never tolerate Robinson at a Lambeth Conference and they would never break bread with him. Will Griswold and the HOB be obliged to nullify his ordination? We don't know. Furthermore Primate Akinola and his CAPA bishops have said quite bluntly that not only are they not "in communion" with Griswold they will not be in communion with anybody who is in communion with Griswold! How will this play itself out?
Nor does the report touch on the future ordination of openly homosexual and lesbian priests to the priesthood. Are they banned under this new rubric? Nor does it touch on whether a priest or bishop who cannot affirm basic doctrines of the faith such as were enunciated in resolution B001 at the last General Convention be permitted to step forward for ordination. The majority of the Episcopal Church's bishops no longer hold to
the 'faith once delivered' and this is potentially more disastrous than sexual issues.
It would seem fairly safe for Frank Griswold to sign this "unbreakable unity agreement" if he does not, ever again, be put in the situation of having to officiate at the ordination and consecration of a future gay bishop. As there are no gays in the pipeline he is, for the moment, safe. But the Rev. Michael Hopkins is beginning to make his moves up the ecclesiastical ladder and heading for a purple shirt, and you can be sure he will be weeping vast buckets of crocodile tears if his ambitions are thwarted.
The real issue is what happens when the next orthodox bishop is elected say in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, whether that much ballyhooed doctrine of inclusivity so revered by the revisionist House of Bishops will give its approval if such a bishop does not approve homosexual unions and rites passed at the last General Convention! Will Jeffrey Steenson get consents? We wait and see.
Each of the 38 Anglican provinces worldwide, we are told, will be asked to sign the covenant in a last-ditch attempt to save the Church from schism.
But we have already seen what little faith there is in such signatures especially from Griswold whose word we know cannot be trusted. He signed onto a statement at Lambeth a year ago saying he would not perform any communion breaking acts and promptly turned up in New Hampshire as the con-consecrator of V. Gene Robinson. Why should anyone, especially from the Global South, trust anything he says or signs onto?
[b]Fifth Instrument of Unity[/b]
And what of this new instrument of unity dubbed a "star chamber" by the British press set up to adjudicate those who break the agreement? They will be "suspended" from membership in the Anglican Communion until they come back into line, we are told.
In some cases this will mean little more than the withdrawal of invitations to meetings such as the 10-yearly Lambeth Conference and the annual meetings of the primates. But in extreme cases, rebel churches could be denied the right to claim they are "in communion" with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
Here it gets rough for Griswold who has made it clear that that is all he cares about. But here it gets tricky for other reasons. Dr. Williams says he does not want to play "pope" on such a committee to adjudicate who is in or out, but there might be more here than meets the eye. He may be resisting the role because he is a close friend of Frank Griswold, and they are both pluriformists and Affirming Catholics, though one doubts at this point in time if Griswold even qualifies for that moniker. His views are mystic pagan and he is more comfortable with Sufi the Rumi than the blood-stained cross of Jesus Christ, and notions of redemption and grace, sin and salvation.
Can we put faith in anything Griswold says or does? He prevaricates; he obfuscates, he uses language to make it mean whatever he wants it to mean and he lies; he also has all the charm of a raccoon on the hunt for live mice.
There is not a hint that Griswold or any of the 132 revisionist bishops both active and retired will repent, even though they said at their recent Oregon gabfest that they would be humbly open to whatever the Lambeth/Eames report asks of them.
Several news reports say the Windsor Report calls on Griswold and his fellow consecrating bishops to apologize for ordaining V. Gene Robinson and to make the apology public.
But an apology is not the same thing as repentance, even a measured repentance, and it is highly doubtful if an apology would appease or pacify the Archbishops and bishops of the Global South. Some 22 of 38 provinces are already "out of communion" with Griswold and will continue to do so.
The commission also wants the New Westminster diocese of Canada to be disciplined for authorizing same-sex blessing rites. Does this spell the end of the bully Michael Ingham? One can but hope. But don't count on it. He has the full faith and backing of the liberal hierarchs in Toronto and Ottawa and the orthodox are not strong or powerful enough to unseat him. In the end he and the Anglican Church in Canada may just snub their noses at the Windsor Report and raise the middle finger in anger at the Global South.
The bottom line is that rather than the Archbishop of Canterbury or a committee saying begone, recalcitrant provinces and churches will effectively suspend themselves if they are unable to sign up to the new covenant or cross the line. There is a certain amount of hand-washing sans soap going on here.
[b]Alternative Episcopal Oversight[/b]
The Windsor Report is also expected to propose a system of "alternative episcopal oversight" for those orthodox evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes in the US and Canada unable to accept the ordination of Bishop Robinson or same-sex blessings.
The US church will, we are told, be disciplined if it refuses to allow parishes to opt for alternative oversight and take their property with them.
If this is true it is momentous. But questions remain. Will the Dennis Canon be nullified or taken off the table. Will the Episcopal Church abide by these new rules and allow those parishes that wish to leave with their properties to do so without suing them? What will bishops Jon Bruno (Los Angeles) and Charles Bennison (Pennsylvania) do, who already have multiple lawsuits in the works? Will they be obliged to drop them? Furthermore the latest agenda of the diocesan chancellors meeting in Orlando reads like a legal brief for damage control.
And what of the present Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) plan the HOB has already passed. Of course we all know that it is a sham because it still allows the sitting diocesan bishop to retain control over who is allowed in, and he still retains the right to thrust himself on orthodox parishes at will. It is, after all delegated not alternative oversight.
Will the Episcopal Church accept such an arrangement? They may have no option if they want to continue to have a place at the Anglican Communion table. But error dies hard when friendships and bizarre sexualities like lesbitransgay are at stake and when the Presiding Bishop believes that such sexualities are "hard-wired."
[b]Canon law, Common law[/b]
Working behind the scenes is Canonist Norman Doe. Now it was Professor Doe of the Faculty of Law at the University of Wales who met with the Primates first at Kanuga four years ago, who advocated moving towards the establishment of canon law for all the Provinces of the Anglican Family, so that each one would be tied together with a common bond of canon law.
There is speculation that the Windsor Report, due out tomorrow will have his fingerprints all over it with the idea of a covenant to be accepted by each province and become part of its constitution.
But that was resisted mightily in the past by the Episcopal Church and there is no reason to believe that the ECUSA would ever give up its canon law with the Dennis Canon and submit itself to something more generic. It is precisely the American Church's Constitutions and Canons that is keeping everyone's toes to the fire.
This covenant will obviously state some minimal position with regard to worship, doctrine and discipline and not to accept it, or to set it aside after acceptance, will lead to automatic departure from the communion.
Professor Doe's book, canon Law in the Anglicans Communion: A worldwide perspective can be obtained from Oxford University Press (Clarendon).
One evangelical insider is reported to have said of the Windsor Report: "This could save the communion but it is a high risk strategy because any province could in effect put itself out of communion with the rest, even the Church of England."
Therein lies the rub. If logic plays any part at all, and the Church of England continues to broker in sodomites like Jeffrey John into ecclesiastical high office then the Church of England mortally wounds itself and the Global South may well be forced to disassociate itself from the mother church. The permutations are complicated to say the least.
And English liberals and American revisionists may well be unwilling to surrender even a part of their traditional autonomy. Is a war then inevitable? Is schism only a matter of time?
The Rev Martin Reynolds, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: "There will be many churches that will not be comfortable with this. If this is the only thing that will hold the Anglican Communion together, the result will be a body that is not what we now understand to be the Anglican Communion. It will be a new church." The covenant will be the fifth "instrument of unity" in the Anglican Communion.
One can only imagine that the American Episcopal Church's sodomite organization Integrity won't say much the same thing. Any diminishment of their growing power would be viewed as a capitulation to the orthodox and that will only happen when hell freezes over.
What it does is confirm the truth that there is a still a biblical standard that must be maintained on all matters of faith and morals, and that even a wealthy, though numerically poor church like the US Episcopal Church must abide by a common body of truth or find itself excommunicated."
In the end the fate of the Anglican Communion may depend less on what the Windsor Report says, or whether it is enforceable, but on the perceptions of the collective mind of the Global South bishops and primates.
When 350 of Africa's Anglican bishops meet at the end of the month in Lagos they may well be so disgusted by all the talk and non enforceable actions of the Windsor Report that they might simply walk away and start their own communion without a concern for Canterbury, the Queen or several hundred years of missionary history.
At the end, they might just say that the gospel cannot, under any circumstances be compromised and any terms of accommodation unacceptable. If as Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone suggests the report is not satisfactory, very serious action will be taken. There could be, at the end of the day, two Anglican churches, one in the Global South that includes American Evangelicals and another for the liberals.
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