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COLUMBUS, OH: The Anglican Communion Factor at Work in General Convention

COLUMBUS, OH: The Anglican Communion Factor at Work in General Convention

News Analysis

By Peter Toon

Each General Convention of the Episcopal Church, occurring every three years, lays claim to uniqueness either in what it rejects or what it puts forth as doctrine, policy or liturgy. We all know that the 2003 Convention is famous/notorious for its innovative decisions that advanced considerably the LesBiGay agenda in this Church, and at the same time, brought into much public view V. Gene Robinson, the “gay” bishop.

If the uniqueness of the 2003 Convention was twofold -- in its rejection of traditional morality on sexual relations and in its deliberately refusing to listen to advice from the Anglican Communion on this matter – then the uniqueness of the 2006 Convention is related to this but different.

It is, in fact, that of paying a tremendous amount of attention to what the Instruments of Unity of the Communion (especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting) have said about the innovative decisions in sexual relations of the 2003 Convention. In particular, what The Windsor Report both says about them and also requests of the Episcopal Church, in order for this province to be counted now and in the future as a full member of the Communion of Churches.

Every member of the Convention is acutely aware of The Windsor Report and many have copies of it as a booklet or as downloaded from the web. Never perhaps has any pan-Anglican document been so well known in the synod of a national church. And certainly, never before has any such document dominated the agenda of an Anglican Province for a week of deliberations.

So there is a variety of resolutions concerning this Report and related matters. Of these the ones dealing with “regret” and “repentance” is obviously of great interest not only to the USA Church itself, but also both to the many media persons present and to churches overseas.

What is perhaps not so well known or appreciated is that at least some members of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies have learnt from the Gene Robinson affair that the Episcopal Church needs to be more than careful in its choice of candidates for Bishop. This has been seen specifically in the matter of the examination of the nominee from the Diocese of Northern California, Barry Beisner in committee. At the time of writing, he has been approved by the committee so that his nomination goes forward for consideration by the two Houses. Yet, importantly, it is approval by a majority and the minority, who voted against, are preparing a minority report to explain why (this should be available tomorrow and will be posted on VirtueOnline).

Now what has happened here is that some members of the examining committee have decided that since the nominee has been divorced twice and married three times, and his present wife is also a divorced person, he cannot be (however many his graces and virtues) a godly and wholesome example to the flock of Christ.

It is highly probable that, were it not for the “Windsor” presence and the Communion factor, his marital position would hardly have been an issue at this Convention, for it was not so where he was chosen in the originating diocese of Northern California. Happily, it appears that some people are realizing that, though the Episcopal Church has a very liberal marriage canon (which has allowed the re-marriage in church of many laity and clergy), it needs to return to careful consideration of the qualifications for a bishop. That is to the teaching of Scripture and the tradition of the Church that the pastor of the flock is to be the husband of one wife and certainly not an example of broken marriage and serial monogamy.

In most of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, to find a divorced, or a divorced and remarried priest, is very difficult for they are very few. Where they exist is, as we would expect in the provinces of the West, but even here a thrice married priest is extremely rare, even in the progressively liberal Episcopal Church.

If the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops reject Barry Beisner as the future bishop of Northern California, then a message will go out to the world that in this regard they are entering into the spirit of compliance with Windsor! This will be a milestone indeed.


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