Welcoming Windsor – Speech for General Synod, February 2005

Sin, sex and skullduggery. That is what this Report, and this debate, are not about. When the Lambeth Commission began work a year ago, it was not asked to discuss the presenting issues which, in late 2003, had begun to pull the Anglican Communion apart. It was asked, rather, to report on unity and communion within Anglicanism, and some specific matters relating to that. The Commission regularly reminded itself that the presenting issues could well have been quite different, and could have emerged quite elsewhere. The matter we addressed, which now requires immediate action, has to do with the way we maintain Communion across worldwide Anglicanism when facing a new set of questions.

I must explain that newness presently; let me first point out potential confusion among the layers of documentation. This motion welcomes the report from the House of Bishops (GS 1570); that report, not to be confused with the Windsor Report itself, is to be read in the light of the appended 'Response' signed by the chairs of the House of Bishops Theological Group and the Faith and Order Advisory Group. All of these refer back, of course, to the Windsor Report itself (if in ecumenical work we have talks about talks, in the Anglican Communion we write reports about Reports). And behind this fourfold documentation - the Windsor Report, the response from the Theological groups, the House of Bishops report, and now the motion itself - there stand a great multitude of writings, which no one can number, from all nations and websites and tribes and tongues.

The situation is indeed new. We have not been this way before; and the Lambeth Commission was challenged to map out, cautiously, the new territory we have entered. Never before in the Anglican Communion has there been a moment when, after each of the four so-called Instruments of Unity have advised against a particular action, a Province or a Diocese has gone ahead with it unilaterally. I repeat: this could have happened in many different places on many different topics. The current presenting issues, on all sides, are in that sense accidental and irrelevant in terms of the questions handled in the Windsor Report and the questions we must address today. That is why, incidentally, there was no point in the Commission either repeating what the Instruments of Unity had already said or, for that matter, attempting to overturn it, as though it were some kind of supreme court above the Instruments themselves. Its job was to ask what we should do when the Instruments have been ignored. (Further, incidentally, let's not get paranoid about the word 'Instruments'; instruments are things you play music on, and the point is to make sure we're playing in harmony and in time with one another.)

Dealing with any such situation costs the church an unacceptable amount in financial and human terms. We saw that it was vital to work not just for a short-term solution but for a plan to enable Anglicans worldwide to advance the mission of God in the new century while maintaining unity and Communion with maximum clarity as well as maximum charity. Speaking the truth in love is not an optional extra. This constitutes a call to maturity. Many organisations (and relationships) begin easy-going and unstructured, but then bump into questions which can only be resolved by agreeing on some kind of code. We always regret this loss of informal spontaneity, but often it's the only way forward. That's how the Lambeth Conference itself began. That's why we have Synods. We can see the process within the New Testament itself. And this is the point we've now reached in a new way, in a situation that grows uglier by the day within the USA and Canada through the effects of various, not equivalent, actions.

That is why the Windsor Report begins with an exposition of the biblical basis of unity, communion and holiness in Christ, and develops its substantial statement of principles with a tight integration between theology and practice. It is these biblical first principles of unity and communion in Christ which the House of Bishops accepts in paragraph 3a of its report; and that acceptance is what is then welcomed in the first part of my motion.

There is much that could be said about those principles, particularly the exposition of autonomy-in-communion offered in Windsor paragraphs 72-86. Here I merely point out three things, in line with the response, paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3. First, the Report firmly rules out the misunderstanding of 'autonomy' as 'total independence'. Second, the limitation implied by the phrase 'autonomy-in-communion' is correlated with the Report's discussion of adiaphora, 'things indifferent', where the key question is how to tell the difference between things that make a difference and things that don't make a difference, and what to do when that question is itself contested. This is correlated, third, with subsidiarity: most matters can be decided locally, but that which affects all must be decided by all. All Anglicans agree that there are some things which are central and non-negotiable and others which are less central. We disagree about which issues are which; but Windsor addresses the question behind that, what to do when we face just that kind of disagreement. The House of Bishops affirms Windsor's setting out of a different and more biblical way of embodying koinonia, which ultimately means discovering Jesus Christ in one another. The first part of my motion is that Synod should welcome that affirmation.

Windsor then offers two different types of material, each growing organically from those first principles. It's important to distinguish them, as in the second paragraph of the House of Bishops' report. First, there are recommendations for the long-term future health and good working of the Communion, including the future role of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the establishment of some kind of Anglican Covenant. These matters will take time to think through; my motion today doesn't touch them, though the Bishops' report endorses them in outline. We must not allow these long-term questions to distract us from the second type of material, which comes to focus particularly in Section D of Windsor and in the middle paragraph of my motion, further addressed in paragraphs 3b and 3c of the Bishops' report.

Let me stress that Windsor is not merely a discussion document, the musings of a think-tank designed to generate more leisurely debate. It is not like a group of friends studying the map a week before an expedition in the hills and discussing potential routes. It is more like the urgent discussions, high in the crags with evening coming on, snow threatening, and two of the friends suffering frostbite, as to the best and quickest route back to the valley. Wrong choices could be disastrous; but to delay would be the worst choice of all. At this point I fear that the questions of the Kwong Reception Group may have given the wrong impression.

I must also stress that Windsor was the unaninmous product of a group of seventeen people and two advisors, representing between them a very wide spectrum of Anglican opinion. As with any joint work, each of us would no doubt have preferred to have said things slightly differently here and there; but we went through paragraph by paragraph and agreed that this was substantially what we all knew had to be said. In particular, the recommendations in Section D were agreed line by line and word by word, with each of us signing up to every syllable. Windsor represents a worldwide Anglican consensus, rooted in scripture, engaging with tradition while facing new challenges, thought through with as much reason as our collective and prayerful wits could muster. We believe it is the only way down the mountain.

The second part of my motion, therefore, calls not for more discussion but for action. It urges the Primates of the Communion 'to take action, in the light of the Report's recommendations'. This phrase allows the Primates room to take account of things which have not stood still in the last four months, and of aspects of that developing situation in which, as the 'response' notes (3.8.4), Windsor's description was not fully adequate. This second part of the motion relates to paragraph 3(b) of the House of Bishops' report, which puts the point in terms of the Archbishop and the Primates 'taking all steps necessary to seek to achieve reconciliation'. Reconciliation, however costly, is what we have been aiming at all along. As Archbishop Rowan said in his Advent pastoral letter, the recommendations embody a way of being with one another which has upon it the stamp of Christ.

A word about the Primates. Successive Lambeth Conferences have urged the Primates to take a more proactive enhanced responsibility within the wider life of the Communion. The Primates have been naturally reluctant; but in October 2003, with the roof beginning to cave in above them, they declared in their letter (Windsor Appendix 3.10) that they were now starting to act in that way. Windsor recommends as a matter of urgency that the Primates do now indeed so act. Only so can the Anglican Communion be rescued from the multiple tearing and fracturing which has already begun.

The Commission was here in a delicate position. We were advising on how to fix the fuse-box, to get the lights back on and install a better type of fuse to prevent future power cuts. But we actually need at least one of those new fuses in place already if we are to fix the immediate problems. That is the paradox which resulted in the Report going much further than some wanted and not nearly as far as others had hoped - and, it should be said, as some eager journalists had 'reported'. But let's be clear. Neither this enhanced responsibility for the Primates, nor the proposed enhanced position of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has anything to do with a creeping papalism. The closest analogy is, rather, with the Eastern Orthodox churches, where, ever since the early days when the five great ancient sees were consulted on key matters, there has been a delicate balance of interdependence and autocephaly. If giving the Primates such a role turns the Anglican church into a 'club', as has recently been suggested, I think someone ought to inform the Ecumenical Patriarch that he is likewise presiding over a club rather than a church.

The actions recommended by Windsor and the House of Bishops are not, repeat not, aimed at stifling debate or closing down contentious issues. On the contrary. Windsor paragraph 135, and the Bishops' report paragraph 3.c, explicitly urge that the church should now engage with new vigour both in the so called 'listening process' and in giving an account to one another in terms of scripture, tradition and reason. It is unilateral action that forecloses debate. Windsor, the Bishops, and this motion seek to foster and facilitate it.

The second part of my Motion is therefore that Synod urge the Primates to take action in the light of the Report's recommendations, to secure unity within the constraints of truth and charity - in other words, to bring the Communion back within those 'bonds of affection' which have been so decisively breached - and thus to seek ultimate reconciliation.

The third part of the motion is linked directly to this. The Archbishop is in a peculiar position as both the Primate of All England and the holder of the office by relation to which the rest of the Communion is defined. He needs and deserves our strong backing. The House of Bishops has declared its prayerful support for him in taking the necessary steps. My motion, implicitly in its second part and explicitly in its third part, requests that Synod now endorse this support.

There is a great deal more that could be said about the Windsor Report, its theological principles and its practical recommendations. No doubt some of that will come up in debate. It is, I repeat, the unanimous product of a widely representative body, and constitutes the only viable way forward for the Anglican Communion at this juncture. I have had no time to defend the Report against its various critics, or to expound most of its key points. My purpose at the moment has been simply to highlight the issues raised explicitly in the motion that stands in my name, which I am now delighted to move.

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