Windsor Report Review - by Andrew Carey
Part of the genius of Lord Eames is that he is able to jolly so many diverse characters along with his own brand of supreme optimism and avuncularity. He accompanies this with the steel of someone who has dealt with the worst in human nature and yet who still believes Christianly that everyone is made in the image of God and can be trusted to grow up and behave like adults and do the right thing.
I’d be surprised if these gifts of blarney, experience and wisdom prove enough to hold the Anglican Communion together without one magic ingredient – leadership. The Windsor Report’s strengths are its weaknesses. The optimism of its chairman is, sadly, on this occasion not sufficiently grounded in the realities on the ground. The decision to opt for an institutional and managerial route to solving the crisis alas ignores the theological and ecclesiological roots of our problems. The judgement of history might be that Lord Eames and his commission produced a sticking plaster to cover a wound that required amputation.
Its chief recommendations are enhanced powers for the Archbishop of Canterbury, But these are no new powers, they are merely a reiteration of his existing powers to invite or not invite to Anglican Communion gatherings. He is to be backed by a Council of Advice to share decision-making and give him the confidence to use these powers by not exercising them in isolation. Unfortunately lonely burdensome leadership is sometimes required. The commission gives overwhelming endorsement to an Anglican Covenant to which all the provinces ascribe (something that could take up to 10 years) but crucially takes away any binding authority from the covenant and suggests it is subject to alteration.
Positively and precisely, the report puts the blame squarely on ECUSA and New Westminster for breaching the bonds of Communion in the consecration of Gene Robinson and the move to local option on same-sex blessings. Disappointingly, it calls merely for an expression of regret and deliberately avoids the language of repentance. Perhaps the strongest element is the call for moratorium, but there are no sanctions offered, beyond non-invitation, to those who do not comply with the moratorium.
Entirely voluntarily it suggests, the consecrators of Gene Robinson, and the Bishops who have authorised same sex unions, should withdraw from the councils of the Anglican Communion.
The report trusts Anglicans to behave as adults, it graciously invites grown-up responses, but it can be accused of ignoring the sheer extent of the hurts involved on both sides of the issue. Most depressingly, it creates moral equivalence between the actions of New Westminster and ECUSA in breaching the bonds of unity, and the American and African bishops and Archbishops who have intervened beyond existing boundaries to offer oversight to dissenting minorities.
Furthermore, the report recommends an existing model of delegated episcopal oversight which has already been rejected by traditional and conservative Episcopalians.
If this all sounds very negative, I must point out that I am not totally downhearted. The Windsor Report gives a framework for how these problems can be solved amongst us. The trouble is that it has no teeth. The missing ingredient which the report cannot address is the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Williams now has a tremendous opportunity to give shape to the Windsor Report, by behind-the-scenes persuasion. He must cajole, berate, quietly scold and gently seek responses.
On the public front, he must lead by setting out his own reactions to the Windsor Report and charting a possible course ahead. He must show that he understands the widespread disquiet and the seriousness of the situation. We face nothing less than complete meltdown in the Anglican Communion unless this process produces genuine repentance and a change of heart.
Finally, he must be prepared to use the powers with which, by his office, he holds. He must insist upon proper and acceptable pastoral care for dissenters in ECUSA. He must be prepared to withhold invitations to Bishops who act against our bonds of unity. In short, the fate of the Communion remains within his hands. This is an isolated and awesome responsibility and he has the support of us all.
Andrew Carey writes for the Church of England newspaper
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