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The Episcopal Church Put on the Defensive. Conform or else. Conservatives Protected


By David W. Virtue

DAR ES SALAAM --"A new day has dawned," said Rwanda Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini to VOL over breakfast at the White Sands Hotel as he reflected on a newly minted communiqué. "You see, it will come out all right," he said with a huge irrepressible smile.

"But is there discipline in the document," I argued back. "It's there, you have to look for it, but it is there," he said, smiling broadly.

"We came very close to separation," said Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables of this weekend's meeting of global Anglican leaders, "but Biblical doctrine and behavior have been affirmed as the norms in the Anglican Church," he told First Things magazine.

The calm waters of the Indian Ocean stood in dramatic contrast to the turbulent waters 35 Primates waded in, (14 of them new) as they squared off behind closed doors over the American Episcopal Church's inability to conform to the requests of the Windsor Report. The primary issue was the continued flaunting of same sex unions by revisionist dioceses many invoking 'local option'. But a lot more was going on. A lot more.

There was a first draft of the communique but it wasn't tough enough, VOL was privately told. It was back to the drawing boards. A second and final draft was finally accepted only after Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini, (Rwanda) Peter Akinola (Nigeria) Drexel Gomez (West Indies) had demanded a tightening of the language with no loopholes.

This time around the orthodox primates were determined that there would be no fudge, no slip through language like "listening" to the whine of homosexuals. What they asked for, and got, was the precise language of obedience with a time frame - September 30, 2007, almost a year before Lambeth 2008 to conform or else.

Archbishops Akinola, Orombi, Nzimbi had said as much in earlier missives floated through cyber space. Either the Episcopal Church show genuine remorse, (repentance is better than regret) cease same sex blessings or face a reduced status - perhaps associate, or even expulsion, for years of flagrant disobedience to Lambeth resolution 1:10. Archbishop Akinola had gone even further threatening to boycott Lambeth 2008 in Canterbury and holding a parallel Lambeth styled conference with his own CAPA African bishops and archbishops. It was a Damoclean like threat of momentous proportions that hung over the Communion and unnerved even the quiet, steely, Dr. Rowan Williams.

"We got it all" said another Primate to VOL. Dr. Jefferts Schori will have to go back to her bishops and explain herself, and the communiqué, and the invitation to Lambeth will depend on her answer.

Earlier indications in the week seemed to indicate that Dr. Jefferts Schori was getting a pass. The Episcopal Church got a favorable rating in two of three areas regarding the Windsor Report. Secondly Dr. Schori was elected by her colleagues as President of the Standing Committee for the Americas, prompting one observer to note, "Mrs. Schori should have been given the penalty box, instead she was made queen of the palace." The Anglican Consultative Council announced that hermeneutics (the science of interpreting texts) was the latest twist in an effort to prolong the agony of the communion after exhausting "conversation" and "listening" over how each province might interpret the explicit 'thou shalt not' texts regarding sodomy in Scripture.

It looked for all the world like Dr. Schori had finagled her way into the graces of the new unsuspecting primates, schmoozed the already committed liberal Primates like Phillip Aspinall of Australia and Andrew Hutchison of Canada, and successfully reduced the number of primates who would not take Holy Communion from 19 at Dromantine to 7 in Tanzania.

With each passing day the situation looked more hopeless. One man who kept saying otherwise was Martyn Minns the newly consecrated Nigerian bishop to the U.S. who announced at breakfast each morning that everything was going swimmingly. While convincing, many of us had our doubts, we had heard that song before. He was quite ebullient and dogmatic. The news floating out seemed otherwise. He clearly had both the ear of his boss Peter Akinola and an inside track that gave him abundant confidence.

A partial Covenant, quite orthodox, released earlier by West Indies Primate Drexel Gomez, also gave little clue as to what was really going on behind closed doors. Everyone was guessing. Conservative Episcopal bloggers in places like South Carolina and New York were pushing out so much inaccurate information that it was hard to tell conservative spin from speculation - even though most bloggers had few facts to work with.

The press briefings were often delayed because the Primates were continually deadlocked and the media came together later with each passing day. By Saturday night the press was on tenterhooks, speculation was running rife, and on top of it all Internet access had totally collapsed. Everybody was ready to pull their hair out. At 11pm it was announced that the Archbishop of Canterbury would make a personal appearance at the last press briefing in company with Archbishops John Chew (South East Asia), James Ian Ernest (Indian Ocean) and Drexel Gomez (West Indies). Drexel Gomez chaired the discussion of the Communique. We were told it was a unanimous report (hence no minority report). The Archbishop of Canterbury told us that Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola had signed off on it.

A seven-page communiqué was passed around (with a four page indices). Sudden shock hit everyone. The Episcopal Church had been put on notice, with a deadline to conform to the Windsor Report or else. General Convention's 2006, B033 resolution was a fudge; a failure that no one was buying into. Dr. Schori never appeared at any press briefing and was never available to the media the whole time she was there. That should have told us something. Apparently she was not even available to the Episcopal News Service who were forced to decamp with the rest of the media. The press corps immediately went to work on the communiqué minutes before the press briefing began.

And then it hit like a bombshell. The communiqué articulated the following:

* The Episcopal Church had created tensions so deep that it had torn the fabric of the communion, irreparably.

* The Windsor Report did NOT see a "moral equivalence" between the TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada's challenge to the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth resolution 1:10 and cross-boundary intervention.

* The Panel of Reference had proven less than useful in dealing with and addressing situations in the Anglican Communion where orthodox clergy and bishops were under siege by heterodox Bishops and Primates.

* The episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion

*A tentative handshake to The Episcopal Church for "taking seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report", and "gratitude" for the consideration by the 75th General Convention." But that was short lived.

* Resolution 1:10 was raised as the bar below which to go was unacceptable. The Archbishop of Canterbury said there was no theological consensus about same sex unions...."therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites."

* Resolution B033 of GC2006 was fudge and "did not give assurances requested by the Windsor Report."

* The TEC had not mended its broken relationships.

* A recognition that interventions, while undesirable, were needed until it became clear that provision had been made for the life of those persons.

* Recognition that a number of Episcopal dioceses and bishops could not accept the primacy of Dr. Schori and requested alternative primatial oversight from the ABC.

* The Episcopal Church had to make the first move to "healing and reconciliation".

The primates demanded three things from The Episcopal Church:

1. An interim response by Sept. 30, 2007 by TEC that it must fully embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

2. For interventions to cease a "robust scheme" of pastoral oversight" must be provided for both individuals and congregations alienated from the TEC.

3. The PB must recognize that people have lost trust in her and she MUST embrace the Windsor Report in order to bring about an end to all interventions.

If this was done it was hope that further interventions would not be necessary. The catch is that the TEC itself would provide the extended episcopal ministry required.

* The appointment of a Primatial Vicar by Dr. Jefferts Schori.

WHAT has emerged from the communiqué and in private talks VOL has had with leaders is that the communiqué is the last line in the sand for The Episcopal Church. The Primates will no longer discuss the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. It is done. They now want solid and sincere action from The Episcopal Church, not a parsing of words and phrases and half-hearted attempts though words like "regret" or using the canons to steamroll the ABC or orthodox parishes, dioceses, clergy or anyone else.

The first thing to note is that the winners in this communiqué are the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA) and Convocation for Anglicans In North America (CANA). They were affirmed in their ministry just as The Episcopal Church was invited to step back. The strategies of both the AMiA and CANA in starting mission movements were right, and that will not now change. All their bishops will be invited to Lambeth 2008.

If the TEC does not comply with the Windsor Report, Dr. Schori and her revisionist bishops will not be invited to Lambeth 2008.

The TEC will be reduced to "associate" or "observer" status within the Communion, standing on the outside looking in.

It is interesting to note that whenever Dr. Schori introduced herself in Tanzania, she did so by saying she was the Primate of The Episcopal Church and 15 other countries. Frank Griswold never said that. Why did she add this fact? As you will recall at GC2006 the ECUSA changed its name officially to TEC to embrace these other 15 countries.

There is the likelihood then that it will be the TEC not Akinola and the CAPA bishops who will step away, with Schori and her liberal/revisionist bishops now prepared to make the move away from the Anglican Communion and to form their own communion.

Already several revisionist TEC bishops have said that the TEC should go its own way rather than compromise over same sex unions or the unfolding sexualities in the TEC. Will she? Time will tell. The House of Bishops' spring retreat takes place March 16-21, and Dr. Jefferts Schori said that meeting will provide an opportunity to begin to "engage and discuss the possibilities." Nothing she has said to date would indicate how she and they will respond.

MONEY. The Episcopal Church funds a large portion of Lambeth 2008 and represents more than 70% of the budget of the Anglican Consultative Council, to the tune of millions of dollars. If the TEC walks, the ACC will suffer big time. When the TEC was asked last time to step back from certain committees and functions of the ACC, there were cries of outrage from angry homosexuals like Louie Crew and lesbians like Susan Russell breathing fire on the ACC suggesting funding be cut off. But it went nowhere. This time it could. Funding could dry up faster than water in a Tanzanian desert. The "listening" post of Philip Groves could also be affected. Money is still a powerful aphrodisiac that the TEC can use with great energy and resolve. All of Central and South American, Mexico and Brazil provinces are supported by money from TEC, hence their control over them.

LITIGATION. The TEC has been asked to stop all litigation, in particular to cease the litigious activity in the Diocese of Virginia. To date this has not happened. In fact VOL got word, upon returning to the U.S., that David Booth Beers has asserted that there is no question whatsoever regarding the TEC's status as a member in good standing of the Anglican Communion and he would continue to fight in such places as St. James, Elmhurst, Long Island.

PRIMATIAL VICAR. At the final press conference I asked the Archbishop of Canterbury if a Primatial vicar would be able to trump the canons of the TEC, and what authority will this figure have?

The archbishop replied, admitting it was a "slightly complicated concept." He said the Windsor bishops and so forth (meaning the Network bishops) should be given the right to nominate a person who will act in the terms that they recognize as constituting and offering adequate pastoral oversight. To that person the PB will delegate certain power, but that person will be responsible to the council, the Pastoral Council that will be set up, as a means of communications with the Primates as a body. Now operating under the canons and constitutions; that's a difficult one to be clear about, he said. (see full final press conference here: http://tinyurl.com/39wflo

On her way home Dr. Schori wrote three pages of reflections that only obliquely addressed her predicament. She wrote: "Both parties hold positions that can be defended by our appeal to our Anglican sources of authority - Scripture, tradition and reason - but each finds it very difficult to understand and embrace the other." Pittsburgh Bishop and Network moderator Bob Duncan said he was "cautiously optimistic". He and two other American bishops, Bruce McPherson from Western Louisiana and Christopher Epting, the church's ecumenical officer were also present, though still non-committal. "Anglicanism, as represented by the Primates at this meeting, has stood with the faith once delivered," said Duncan. We are in the midst of a reformation, and still have much work ahead for us." The question is will the reformation include the Episcopal Church? But an ultimatum was delivered this week that The Episcopal Church cannot ignore. When she meets with her bishops in March Dr. Schori will find the Network and Windsor bishops in one corner, the Diocese of San Joaquin ready to dump the TEC in another, moderate, middle of the road bishops who want to stay in the Anglican Communion will be in another corner and hard core revisionist bishops ready to tell Dr. Schori that they will defiantly oppose any change in the direction of a church that includes sexual sin of whatever variety. Integrity leaders are already screaming bloody murder about the communiqué and they will have more than a watchful eye on how things turn out. They will not tolerate capitulation, but then neither will Robert Duncan Bishop of Pittsburgh and his Network friends and David Anderson's American Anglican Council.

The final chapter of the Episcopal Church's future in the Anglican Communion is about to be written. The Law of non contradiction means that the Episcopal Church has too say it was wrong. That seems unlikely. The TEC, now dubbed The Emtpy(ing) Church can no longer rely on its money to sustain its hold on people. Dozens of orthodox congregations have walked away from their properties, many are litigating. The parishes might be few, the numbers leaving are huge.

The Episcopal church still has a willingness to engage the communion, but the cost will be heavy if it desires to remain in the Communion.

Despite its money, and its ability to get what it wants through money, the TEC must now face the fact that it is she, not the orthodox Global South who stands in the dock of both public opinion and the Anglican Communion, and she now must answer for her sins, and if she does not repent, she will be found guilty and punished.


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