At its General Convention in 2003, the Episcopal Church (TEC) made decisions that tore the fabric of the Anglican Communion. The Windsor Report set out a vision of life in communion and 'some ways in which the Episcopal Church (USA)...could begin to speak with the rest of the Communion in a way which would foster reconciliation.' These were supported by General Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates and the ACC. As a result of the recent General Convention's decisions we have entered a new phase in the life of the Communion.
We appreciate General Convention's recognition of the importance of interdependence in the Anglican Communion but regret that, overall, their response to the Windsor Report was incomplete.
- The expression of regret and apology offered by General Convention failed to acknowledge the seriousness of their actions in 2003.
- The last-minute resolution (B033) could in practice yield a moratorium on the consecration of any other person in a same-sex relationship. However, the means by which this was passed, and the rapid distancing from it by many bishops, does not inspire confidence.
- No response was given to requests for a moratorium on blessing of same-sex unions.
We also regret that
- A resolution was passed opposing those seeking to defend civil marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
- TEC elected as their new Presiding Bishop someone who authorized a rite for same-sex blessings in her diocese and has personally failed to express the regret for this action called for in the Windsor Report (para 144).
As a result, we sadly conclude that, although questions remain as to what will happen in practice, by responding inadequately to the Windsor Report, TEC has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Communion.
We welcome the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent statement in response to this new situation. It merits deeper and wider discussion before any irrevocable action is taken in response to General Convention. In particular we appreciate
- The biblical emphasis, theological insight and careful wording of the reflections.
- The distinction between the Communion's teaching and response in relation to the ordination of women and of a 'practising gay bishop'.
- The description of our distinct historic Anglican tradition as 'a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.'
- The recognition of the need, through an 'opt-in' Covenant, for 'closer and more visible formal commitments to each other.'
- The recognition that the Communion is 'not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far' and that different responses to the Covenant will likely result in new categories of Anglican churches - either 'constitutent' or 'associated' members of the Communion.
We are, however, concerned at the developing crisis within TEC. Their inadequate response to Windsor means the separation between 'constituent' and 'associated' Anglicans appears already to be underway. A corporate Communion response to this situation, rather than unilateral reactions, is needed soon.