Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Other Episcopal Bishops' Meeting

At this moment, Google News shows the following headlines about the meeting of The Episcopal Church's House of Bishop's that just concluded in New Orleans -- a meeting which included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and the HOB's response to the Anglican Primates:

Episcopals give ground on gay bishops says the Chicago Tribune, whose article begins, "Yielding to international pressure and trying to avert a schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion, Episcopal bishops on Tuesday pledged restraint in approving another openly gay bishop who is in a relationship."

The New York Times headlines, Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church’s Orders. "Bishops of the Episcopal Church on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the Episcopal Church itself," reads the first paragraph.

And, Episcopal leaders act to avert a schism headlines the Boston Globe article. "The Episcopal bishops of the United States, attempting to head off a schism over gay rights and biblical interpretation, yesterday promised to "exercise restraint" by not approving more gay bishops and not authorizing a formal ritual for blessing same-sex couples," the Globe begins. The second sentence, though, is telling: "The statement is expected to have little practical impact in the United States."

Details, of course, are all over the Anglican blogosphere: two sources I've been reading are TitusOneNine and Stand Firm.

But even as the House of Bishops was concluding A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners, the Bishops associated with Anglican Common Cause are holding their first-ever Bishops' Council under the leadership of Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I presume that our two local Episcopal Bishops, Keith Ackerman (Quincy) and Peter Beckwith (Springfield), both of whom we at Zion pray for regularly, are among the attendees here.

Bishop Duncan has opened the Council with the following address (tip of the biretta--well, as soon as I finally get one--to Kendall Harmon at TitusOneNine):

"Together in Mission : Restoring Confidence in an American Episcopate"
Welcome to Pittsburgh ! Welcome to the Common Cause Partnership Council of Bishops! Welcome to three days of worship, fellowship, teaching, sharing and incredibly hard work.

Welcome Bishops, Bishops-elect, Bishops-designate, Wives, Presenters, Intercessors, Staff, Friends. Welcome to Dr. George Hunter of Asbury Seminary, our keynote speaker tonight, and welcome to Prof. Justyn Terry of Trinity School for Ministry, our Scripture expositer for the next three mornings.

During the early hours of yesterday, the Lord reminded me of the word "conclave." Bishop's meetings are sometimes "with the key withheld," the literal meaning of the Latin root. Bishops gathering in conclave cannot come out until they have a successful result. While there will be no one "locking us in," the whole Anglican world is expecting something great of us in this meeting. They are expecting some "key" to unlock a more hopeful future. Let us not fail them, or our God.


Most of our work here is behind closed doors. This is an intentional decision on the part of the seven lead bishops who did the planning: Bishops Ackerman, Grundorf, Harvey, Minns, Murphy, Riches and myself. We need to speak the truth to one another. We need to do some hard thinking and hard talking. The future of Anglicanism in North America is at stake.

On Trinity Sunday in 2004, the leaders of the first six (now ten) Partners wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury "signifying our commitment to make common cause for the gospel of Jesus Christ and common cause for a united, missionary and orthodox Anglicanism in North America."

The Primates of the Global South, writing from Kigali exactly one year ago, stated that the time had come for a "separate ecclesiastical structure in the United States [ North America ]." What we come together to do is to see whether we can so re-order the relationships among us that the way might be opened for such a structure to emerge.

Our shortcoming is not "right Faith." Our shortcoming is "right Order" and "right mission."

- Can we agree to interchangeability of those in holy orders?

- Will we work actively together at the local level?

- Will we consult with one another as we seek to plant congregations?

- Can we agree to mutual review of candidates for bishop before consecrations?

- Will we share ministry initiatives or needlessly duplicate efforts?

- Can we agree about appropriate ratios of bishops to congregations, attendance and membership?

- Would each one of us be willing to give up episcopal function for the good of the whole, were that in the best interests of all?

- Could each one of us become a missionary bishop over a growing Church?

Our theme for this Council of Bishops is "Together in Mission : Restoring Confidence in an American Episcopate." The whole world is watching. After speaking the truth to each other, we will need to speak the truth about what we have done - or not done - to the world.

Anglicanism appears to be failing in the West. We cannot answer for how others have failed, or are failing, but we must surely answer for what we do - or do not do - here in this place, in this conclave, wherein we hold the key.


Again the warmest of welcomes, for the most important of tasks. Almost upon us is Global Anglicanism's September 30th deadline for bishops in America to make response about "walking together" or "walking apart." It is to walking together that we are called, is it not? I am confident in the company gathered here and, above all, in the Lord who has called us. We are here to make common cause for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and here to make common cause for a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America . We have our work cut out for us, we whose highest calling is as servants of the servants of God, and God's servants all across the land very much have their eyes set upon us and upon this place for these days. May God's help be ours in abundance.
The election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire has indeed tossed everything in the air, and now it looks like some of what was tossed is finally fallen to the ground. And with the ELCA being in communion with The Episcopal Church, and the relationship we have here with Bishops Ackerman and Beckwith, I can't help but wonder how all this is going to impact the nature of that "walking together."

Let our prayers rise as incense...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As for "walking together," I'm sort of glad ELCA would accept me as full communion. I am Episcopalian, but not nearly liberal enough for much of the Episcopal Church nowadays. (I see myself more as a moderate.) However, I'm in the Diocese of Fort Worth and I have come to dispise most anything having to do with the Anglican Communion Network (I came from the cathedral, and it got downright hateful in there if you didn't toe the ACN line). So now what?

I admit, I am rather interested in popping into the ELCA church because I am considered in full communion with you guys. At least it gives people like me an option.

So, I thank the ELCA for being our brothers and sisters and opening their arms to us.