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NOTTINGHAM: Orthodox Reaction Strong To Council's Call For Discipline

ORTHODOX REACTION STRONG TO COUNCIL'S CALL FOR DISCIPLINE
Griswold piqued by rejection of ECUSA

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

NOTTINGHAM (6/23/2005)--Miffed at being tossed off of two significant committees of the Anglican Consultative Council, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold lashed out at the decision saying that the vote was only lost because of the missing six votes of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, adding that it revealed a divide within the membership of the ACC.

Then in an effort to redeem the face slap he said, "I very much hope that the listening process now mandated by the ACC will be one step in healing this divide. I also hope that the report submitted by the Episcopal Church to the members of the ACC, "To Set Our Hope on Christ," will be a useful contribution to that process."

As events have developed being thrown off two committees was not a big deal. The two North American churches which had been asked to withdraw from the Consultative Council over homosexuality did not contain Canadian or U.S. members and does not significantly isolate them further. It was a ploy by the left to make sure that Griswold and Hutchison still remain players and payers in the ACC.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 30-28, (four abstained) with a key change - "all other official entities of the Communion" was replaced with a reference to the council's "standing committee and the inter-Anglican finance and administration committee." They are out for three years till the next Lambeth Conference in 2008.

Limiting damage control for its two liberal brethren is part of what the ACC does best.

Griswold tried to put a good face on it by playing up the "listening" aspect of the other resolution, conveniently overlooking the fact that "listening" means adherence to the Lambeth resolution 1.10 and subsequent statements that condemn homoerotic behavior and affirm marriage between a man and a woman.

The resolution was proposed by ACC member Stanley Isaacs of South East Asia with a list of 12 supporters including Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

The text noted that the Primates reaffirmed "the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion".

On the surface then the expulsion of the American and Canadian Churches from two of the Anglican Communion's top bodies appeared only to be a slap on the face or wrist.

The North American Churches refused to back down at the ACC meeting arguing that a changed understanding of sexuality demanded a reevaluation of what it means to be human.

The Bishop of New York, Catherine Roskam, had been among a group of observers sent to the council's meeting to explain her Church's willingness to ordain gay clergy and bless same-sex relationships, calling on all sides to put aside differences.

She told the meeting that she did not hope to change the mind of traditionalists - who believe homosexuality is inherently sinful - but to plead for the communion to live together with its differences.

ACC chair, Bishop John Paterson of Auckland, New Zealand, opened the session with an announcement that Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a leading conservative voice on human sexuality issues, sent a letter apologizing that he was unable to attend the morning's proceedings as he had to return to Nigeria to attend an interfaith event linking Christians and Muslims in tsunami relief.

But a number of selected Provinces did outline a 'listening process' with seven presentations made, mostly from the liberal provinces of Australia, NZ, Southern Africa, Ireland, Wales and Brazil with only one orthodox voice from South East Asia raised in opposition to Western pansexual acceptance.

Brazilian primate, Archbishop Orlando Santos de Oliveira, (arch liberal) read a statement from his House of Bishops explaining that lifestyles and contexts are currently in the process of change. "We believe in inclusiveness," he said. "We believe in new opportunities for the church [and in] God's justice and liberation ... We trust in the church because as Christians we believe in the healing power of God."

Bishop John Noble of North Queensland, Australia, underscored the importance of understanding the issues of interpreting scripture. "Our dioceses are required to listen to God, scripture, the spirit, and the cries of the people beyond our own shores," he said. "We have an obligation to listen to one another with respect."

The Venerable Alun Evans, Archdeacon of Carmarthen, Wales, said that his province has been working on a method and approach to human sexuality that is concerned with scripture, tradition and reason, concepts inspired by 16th-century English theologian Richard Hooker.

More recently, the province's governing body issued a guide on human sexuality for study throughout the church. "A decision was made to continue the process of study," he said. "It is part of long process in which we are engaged, [and we are] taking seriously the whole challenge of listening deeply. In this approach, the Church in Wales has chosen not to be divisive. The papers we have produced largely reflect that context."

Bishop David Beetge of the Diocese of the Highveld in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA), recognized the benefits of diversity and explained that the struggle of apartheid has taught South Africans to walk together despite their differences. Citing the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10, he identified the importance of the listening process, "but of equal importance is to acknowledge that people of homosexual orientation are need to know that they are loved by God" and are full members of the body of Christ, he said. "We are trying to live that out."

Stanley Isaacs, ACC delegate from South East Asia, on the other hand, blasted the two North American reports saying they would have a negative effect on the integrity of the Anglican Church in South East Asia ... In a region dominated by Muslims and Buddhists ... Christianity, which is perceived as a religion of the Westerners, has been subjected to embarrassment and ridicule."

"I did not find anything in what they said that justified anything on the basis of scripture," he said. "They gave us a story about how God loves them as everyone else, and how they love Jesus and their families. I am not convinced."

The Very Rev. Michael Burrows, dean of Cork, Ireland, offered one document for consideration -- a letter on sexuality presented by the Church of Ireland bishops nearly two years ago. "This letter comes from the point of view of a church that certainly does not find consensus, but one that is perhaps more historically used to living with bitter difference," he said. "We do not intend to impair or break Communion."

Bishop Winston Halapua of the Diocese of Polynesia in Aotearoa, New Zealand, spoke about a resolution from his general synod that acknowledges the contribution of gay and lesbians in the life of church and which established an appropriate process to listen. "Any work in our church takes times because of the particular cultural diversities and the multiple languages in which we work," he said. "We happen to go at a pace where we can listen to each other."

ORTHODOX REACTION

The American Anglican Council through its spokesperson Cynthia Brust said she was pleased that this decision "increased the clarity of these issues in the Communion."

She said the Anglican Consultative Council took note of the decisions taken by the Primates at their recent meeting in Dromantine, Northern Ireland, in connection with the recommendations of the Windsor Report 2004 and reaffirmed "the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which should command respect as the position overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion".

Anglican Essentials Canada sent observers to the Nottingham meeting were encouraged to hear that the faith and doctrine they teach and practice in Canada was the official teaching of the global Anglican Communion.

This motion effectively upholds and strengthens the suspension of the Canadian Church from Communion activities until the next Lambeth Conference in 2008, said the Rev. George Henderson, an Essentials leader.

ECUSA Network leader the Rt. Rev. Bob Duncan, writing on his own blog simply said, Wow! "We just learned of the Anglican Consultative Council's decisions to add the primates to their body as ex-officio members and more importantly fully endorse the primates' request that the United States and Canada withdraw from its councils. The Anglican Consultative Council also once again reaffirmed "the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10."

"We are deeply thankful that the Anglican Consultative Council has stood with the primates and the Windsor Report in reinforcing the message that to make decisions outside of the overwhelming theological consensus of the Communion is to choose to walk apart from the Communion. I know that I and all other bishops who have publicly agreed to live within the requests of the Windsor Report will do everything in our power at General Convention 2006 to convince our church to come to its senses, repent, and rejoin the Christian and Anglican mainstream."

An evangelical charismatic priest in the Diocese of Pennsylvania said that it was clear that Griswold and company spared no efforts to put their best foot forward...so when these efforts fail, no one can say the message wasn't communicated effectively."

But another observer noted, "one thing is known for sure by the liberation theology leadership of ECUSA: "in politics there are no permanent defeats because there are no permanent victories". Their "play" at the ACC meeting was just the first innings...as they see it. The "close vote" language in the press satisfies the early stages of their strategy. Next, look for more push for framing the ACC as the more equal of equals [via "constitution"] among Anglican bodies of unity...and the [huge] negative financial impact on the ACC budget should ECUSA be dumped permanently."

But one thing is certain a negotiated division of ECUSA is on its way; the bigger question is, is a negotiated division of the whole Anglican Communion just around the corner.

END

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