jQuery Slider

You are here


The Report Of A Private Interview With The Archbishop Of York

News Analysis

By Auburn Traycik
VirtueOnline Correspondent

The Archbishop of York has confirmed and elaborated on his remarks here Wednesday about the Episcopal General Convention's proposed Windsor-related resolutions, but denied that the "regret" asked of the U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) was for consecrating gay cleric Gene Robinson.

That, according to Pennsylvania Episcopal priest, the Rev. Andrew Gerns, who has posted online a report of his exchange with Dr. John Sentamu following the Archbishop's comments June 14 to the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Fr. Gerns, the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, Pennsylvania, said Dr. Sentamu told him that the expression of regret requested of the American Church has nothing to do with the consecration of Robinson, an action that ECUSA cannot and should not "take back." Rather, ECUSA's regret should be that it did not make a biblical case for that action to the rest of the Anglican Communion beforehand.

In fact, Sentamu said that it is not the debate about homosexuality that is at the heart of the Windsor Report, but rather the issue of "communion and the process of how we make our decisions," in the words of Fr. Gerns.

"[Sentamu] told me that the 'regret' language of A160 has nothing to do with ordaining a Bishop Robinson, but rather that our consultation with the Communion was weak," Gerns wrote.

This contrasts with a statement by the Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, a member of the Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report. In a statement a few months ago, he said that the Report's request that ECUSA express "regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of [Gene Robinson]" and for ensuing consequences equates not with a failure to consult but with "going against the stated mind" of the Anglican "instruments of unity" (the Primates' Meeting, Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council and Archbishop of Canterbury).

IN HIS REMARKS WEDNESDAY to the Special Committee, Archbishop Sentamu said that Robinson's election and consecration was a crisis for relations in the Anglican Communion, but questioned whether the proposed resolutions under consideration at the hearing - which included those dealing with expressions of regret, future gay bishops and public same-sex union rites - were sufficient, and gave enough "space," to repair those "friendships." He asked the committee to consider if the proposals before them promote truth and unity, which he said are inseparable.

When Sentamu sat down near Fr. Gerns after concluding his remarks, it was the priest's chance to find out more. He asked the Archbishop what more ECUSA needed to do to repair relations with the wider Communion.

"He said simply: whenever possible in the resolutions use 'purely the language of the Windsor Report.' He also said that we must be absolutely resolute in the face of emotional issues arising out of Windsor to stay firmly focused on one thing and one thing only: communion and the process of how we make our decisions," Gerns wrote.

"He said that it was clear that the Special Commission had done their work in making the response as true to Windsor as possible, but in instances when the group chose language that was close to but at variance with Windsor, it left us open to the charge that we were trying to avoid or minimize our compliance with the Report's recommendations. This has the additional effect of making it hard to address the issue of other provinces invading U.S. and Canadian provinces," something the Windsor Report also condemned.

For example, according to Gerns' account, Sentamu said that Resolution A161's call to exercise "very considerable caution" in the election and consecration of future bishops whose manner of life may strain Anglican relationships should be replaced with the "moratorium" language of Windsor 134.

However, according to Gerns, Sentamu said that testimony during Wednesday's hearing that related to "the full inclusion" of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered persons in the church, "including ordinations and blessings" is not at the heart of the Windsor Report. He said many of those who testified in ways that connected these issues with Windsor compliance "got it wrong."

"I asked him if regret had to do with actually consecrating [Robinson]," Gerns said, "and he said no. Our regret must turn on how we needed to get a wider consensus in the Communion. We cannot, and must not, 'take back' [Robinson's] election and consecration. Our regret is that we did not make the case to the rest of the Communion as to the biblical basis for what God is calling us to do," Gerns wrote (though Sentamu reportedly agreed that, in the U.S. as well as in England, changes in church practice were "happening faster than our ability to consult and reflect"). But the Archbishop pointed out that there was no international Anglican statement on the ordination or blessing of those in same-sex relationships that equated with the Lambeth Conference 1968 statement that there was no theological barrier to the ordination of women.

-A "New Consensus" Possible, Sentamu Says-

Still, according to Gerns, Sentamu pointed out "that the language of Windsor itself looks forward to a new consensus in the future. Windsor 134 says 'until some new consensus'" emerges in the Communion "relative to the ordination of bishops in same-gender sexual relationships.

"At the end of the conversation, I tried to summarize what I thought I heard," the priest said.

"To repair the friendships that are strained or breaches we need to do three things. In our formal responses we need to use the language of Windsor whenever possible..."

"Second, we need to focus on the Communion and decisionmaking issues and not [on] the sexuality issues," Gerns wrote. He said Sentamu asked him to imagine that the Windsor Report was generated not by ECUSA's consecration of a gay bishop or New Westminster's implementation of same-sex blessings, but rather by a province that unilaterally instituted lay presidency at the Eucharist.

"If we focus on the how and why we did what we did, not the what, then we will begin to get an idea of what the main focus of the Lambeth Commission on Communion was," Gerns said.

"Third, having given ourselves and our friends in the Communion space, we have the chance to make" the biblical case for "our vision of the church and our actions. [Sentamu] says we have a good case," Gerns reported, "but that we have only made a start in articulating it..."

Gerns said his conversation with the Archbishop made him feel "energized."

"So many people want to get the Archbishop on 'their' side. I believe he is on the side of the Episcopal Church. He wants us to succeed this week and to stay in the Anglican Communion. He is not interested in us [reversing] what we did or even having us stop doing what we are doing, but to take the time long enough to make the case to others in the Communion. He is aware that going this direction will disappoint some and anger others. But we are mending a friendship, he told me several times."


Get the latest news and perspectives in the Anglican world.
comments powered by Disqus
Prayer Book Alliance
Trinity School for Ministry

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice


Go To Top