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A Quick Read: Windsor Report Underwhelms - by Robert England

A Quick Read: Windsor Report Underwhelms

Report and Analysis
By Robert Stowe England
The Christian Challenge

October 18, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After much breathless anticipation, the Windsor Report was released today in London. An initial read suggests that the recommendations are considerably weaker than people expected -- albeit they appear to be headed in a more conservative direction.

The Windsor Report is the work of the Lambeth Commission on Communion headed by Irish Primate Robin Eames.

The report does not recommend expelling the Episcopal Church of the United States of America for consecration Gene Robinson to be Bishop of New Hampshire last year.

It also leaves Gene Robinson in place -- a situation sure to be unacceptable to a majority of Primates.

It does, however, call for a moratorium on consecrating new gay bishops -- although even that is not entirely clear. The actual language states that there should be no new bishops "in same gender unions."

American bishops who consecrated Gene have to express public "regret" for not considering the implications of what they did on the Anglican Communion. The report even indicates that some of them may not be entirely "blameworthy" -- since they might have not been fully informed of the impact of their decision. That seems far to generous.

Thus, there is no apology and, even more importantly, no repentance, as demanded by a majority of Primates.

American bishops who have consecrated Gene Robinson, as well as bishops who agreed to or who have conducted same-sex unions are also called on to express regret for their actions.

It also calls upon American and Canadians to accept a moratorium on the blessing of same gender unions.

Further, all those bishops who have either supported the consecration of Gene Robinson or supported same-sex unions to "consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative function sin the Anglican Communion."

Importantly, the Windsor Report does not support parallel provinces.

It supports only delegated episcopal oversight and sets the ECUSA model as one to follow.

In view of the almost universal failure of delegated Episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO), this provision seems to have been included merely to appease the Episcopal Church. Its inclusion imperils and even mocks the larger points made in the Windsor Report.

There is no mention of the role of the Anglican Communion Network in the United States. This is an enormous oversight.

The report chastises bishops who have crossed boundaries and established parallel provinces and calls on them to express regret for their actions. It also calls for a moratorium on such actions.

This effort at moral equivalence is particularly disturbing, suggesting that the crossing of boundaries is on par with the heretical actions of revisionists in ECUSA and Canada.

The only real teeth in the report concerns the establishment of a common law for the communion that would require provinces to adopt in order to remain in the communion.

That covenant would mean, at this appoint, that Provinces would ban further election of homosexual bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Yet, the proposed text for The Anglican Covenant does not state that explicitly. It simply states that provinces have to respect the bonds of Communion and not act in a way that would harm those bonds.

The covenant would be a new instrument of unity, along side the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates in regularly meetings, and the Anglican Consultative Council.

After setting up at length the seriousness of the breach of communion represented by the actions of the American church, as well as the Anglican Church in Canada, the Windsor Reports recommendations seem not, at first glance, to be sufficient to save the Anglican Communion from further disintegration.

The Windsor Report appears to be yet another case of Anglican fudge, but with a bit of scolding attached.

While Archbishop Eames said the report would have teeth, it seems to have only one or two teeth -- no enough to bite anything.

Distressingly, it seems to leave open the question of how the Anglican Communion will treat homosexuality in the future. In a section on Scripture, it cautiously but most definitely downplays the role of Scripture -- while denying that it is doing just that.

The report also calls on the Episcopal Church to bring its case for same-sex unions to the entire Anglican Communion and to argue from scripture, tradition and reason why it thinks such blessings should occur and, thus, leaves this question open.

The report also reminds readers of the part of the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 that says that the communion should listen to what homosexuals have to say. This is the same resolution that said homosexuality was "incompatible with Scripture" and which disapproved of the blessing of same-sex unions.

Thus, for example, it seems that at some oint that the entire Anglican Communion could change its view on homosexuality by a majority vote at a future Lambeth Conference, at which point that view would be binding on all the provinces.

One can definitely see the hand of American revisionists in the way the text is put together and how the terms are expressed. Indeed, this text appears to be ECUSA's attempt to pre-empt the actions that are to be taken against it by putting them in the mildest form possible and a form they could presumably live with -- especially if it kept foreign bishops from further inroads in the United States.

Having noted its weaknesses, it should be added that this is likely only the first step in what will now unfold. The report goes to the Primates, who almost assuredly will not accept this weak porridge that, as Winston Churchill famously said, "has no theme."

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