The situation we are in is characterized by large numbers of people taking little interest and small numbers for which the matter is of breathtaking significance.
The Lambeth Commission examined the legal and theological implications of the consecration of a practising homosexual as a bishop within the Episcopal Church of USA and the attempts to legitimize same sex blessings in ECUSA and New Westminster, Canada.
The mandate never called for judgement on sexuality issues.
The Report (p11)
Section A: The Purposes and Benefits of Communion
In the late 60s the involvement of the Anglican Consultative Council prevented schism in the case of the ordination of women, and in the 80s in the decision not to exclude from election to bishop on the ground of gender.
The illness; the surface symptoms
Such prior consultation did not occur in the issues before this Commission. We believe this fact lies at the heart of the problems we now face. Experimentation with the blessing of same sex relationships began as early as 1973. Those blessings were done on the premise that they were local events. However, such matters never stay local. The strong worldwide reaction to the recent decisions of ECUSA and New Westminster confirm this.
The Commission regrets synodical actions that have gone against the letter and spirit of the Lambeth resolutions of 1998 and 2003; namely
- ECUSA's consecration of a practising homosexual, Gene Robinson, as a bishop
- ECUSA’s declaration that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore liturgies celebrating same sex unions”
- The Diocese of New Westminster’s approval of the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions
- The Canadian Synod’s statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of same sex unions
- Primates’ and bishops’ intervention in the affairs of other provinces of the Communion.
The overwhelming reaction to these developments both inside and outside the Anglican family has been to regard them as departures from genuine Christian faith, and contrary to biblical teaching.
Unfortunately, several provinces have declared that a state of either impaired or broken communion now exists, leaving many Anglicans in doubt as to who is still in communion with whom. Dissenting parishes have received episcopal oversight by bishops from other dioceses or provinces, and some archbishops from elsewhere in the communion have entered ECUSA and New Westminster without consent.
Illness: the deeper symptoms
Christians agree on the need for innovation, and that the Holy Spirit participates in the process; witness the great fourth century creeds which go beyond the words of scripture but have been recognized as expressing our faith. However, some developments (eg. apartheid) distort or destroy it. Neither ECUSA nor New Westminster has made efforts to consult meaningfully with the Communion about this current significant extension of theology.
Anglicanism has made use of the vital doctrine of “adiaphora,” recognizing a distinction between core doctrines, and those upon which disagreement can be tolerated. Many within the two dissenting bodies hold the opinion that on these matters Christians might have legitimate differences, while large numbers of other Anglicans around the world disagree profoundly.
Section B: Fundamental Principles (P24)
The Communion we share
Central among the bonds which hold the Anglican Communion together is the authority of scripture. The Anglican Communion does not have a Pope, and has always declared its supreme authority is scripture. Scripture is part of the means by which God directs the church for its mission, and energises it for that task. This is why the apostolic writings have always been read during worship.
Within the Anglican world, the place of bishops as teachers of scripture is crucial. The teaching of scripture cannot be left to academic researchers. As the teaching proceeds, questions of interpretation are rightly raised, as a way of ensuring that it really is scripture that is being heard, not just the echo of our own voices. Where new ideas emerge that are perceived as a threat to something the church has always held dear, it is up to the scholars concerned to explain how what is now proposed enhances the central core of the Church’s faith.
The unity of the Communion is put into effect through the concept of a continuing episcopate, or “line of succession”, of bishops’ authority. Individual churches have developed ways of confirming the election of bishops, but these processes must be acceptable to the wider church. We come from a rich variety of cultures, and one of the hallmarks of healthy communion is readiness to learn from each other as we read scripture together, something we have not done enough in recent decades.
“Autonomy” is the right of each church to exercise extensive powers over the determination of local issues, including faith, order and discipline. Each church finds fresh ways to proclaim the gospel to specific men and women in their many different cultures. Each church should avoid jeopardizing its communion with fellow churches, by bringing potentially contentious initiatives, prior to implementation, to the rest of the communion in dialogue and consultation.
There are limits to autonomy. The Churches represented in the Communion are not free to deny the truth. This means that any development needs to be explored for its resonance with the truth, and with the utmost charity on the part of all – charity would hold back from an action which might harm a sister or brother. We don’t celebrate our diversity in all matters; for example: racism.
How can one tell which matters can be treated as adiaphora? For Paul, the categories are not arbitrary. That which embodies the dehumanising turning-away-from-God which Paul characterizes with such terms as ‘sin’, or ‘flesh’ is always forbidden. In Paul’s world, many cultures prided themselves on such things as anger, violence, and sexual profligacy. Paul insists that these are ruled out for those in Christ.
Section C: Our future lives together (p41)
The Instruments of Unity
We have been forcefully struck by the way that the Instruments of Unity have been ignored by sections of the communion in the current debate.
The Instruments of Unity are:
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Lambeth Conference
The Anglican Consultative Council
The Primates’ Meeting
The Communion expects the Archbishop of Canterbury to articulate the mind of the Communion, especially in areas of controversy, and speak directly to any provincial situation on behalf of the Communion. Such action should not be viewed as interference. In safeguarding the wellbeing of the Anglican Communion the Archbishop should invite participants to the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting at his sole discretion. A “council of advice” should be set up for the Archbishop, to enhance the foundation of his authority.
Since 1968 the Anglican Consultative Council has been the voice of laity who by then were fully participating in the governance of provinces.
The Primates’ Meeting (and they do so about once a year) does not acknowledge anything more than a consultative and advisory role.
There needs to be a clearer understanding by provinces of the moral authority of the Instruments of Unity. The terms of reference of these bodies and their duties all need tighter definition.
Canon Law and covenant
Canon law is becoming more important, and has a strong persuasive authority. The lack of such authority has contributed directly to the current crisis.
This Commission therefore urges the Primates to consider the adoption by the churches of the Communion of a common Anglican covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern inter-provincial relationships, and the management of disputes. The adoption by each church of its own ‘communion law’ would make feasible the implementation of such a covenant.
This Commission believes that the case for adoption of an Anglican covenant is overwhelming. We cannot afford the crippling effects of another dispute of the magnitude of the current one, and there will be other disputes. Adoption of a covenant is a theological challenge and may require complex debate. If so, so be it; the debate would be beneficial to us all.
Section D: The Maintenance of Communion (p 50)
The commission has given careful consideration to submissions made to it about ECUSA, the Diocese of New Westminster, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, and about various primates who have accommodated clergy who are at odds with their own bishops. All have acted in ways incompatible with the principle of interdependence. Furthermore, we deeply regret a number of primates and provinces declaring themselves in impaired or broken communion with ECUSA or the Diocese of New Westminster.
On Elections to the Episcopate
Bishops are more than chief pastors to local churches. Their acceptability to the wider church is signified through “confirmation of election” undertaken by the metropolitan bishop.
Lambeth 1998 forbad the ordination of those involved in same sex unions. By electing and consecrating a practising homosexual bishop, ECUSA went beyond the boundaries and caused deep offence to many faithful Anglicans in both its own church and other parts of the Communion. The bishops of ECUSA, subsequent to the Primates’ Meeting October 2003 will have known what they were doing, which raises the question of their commitment to ECUSA’s interdependence as a member of the Anglican Communion.
All those involved in Episcopal appointment should pay proper regard to the acceptability of the candidate in other provinces. Would the individual be ‘translatable’? The question of acceptability goes far beyond the question of homosexuality. Furthermore, we urge the proposed “council of advice” to keep the specific matter of Gene Robinson’s acceptability under close review, and we urge the Archbishop exercise great caution before considering inviting him to any Communion events.
Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events, we recommend that:
ECUSA should be urged to express its regrets that the proper constraints were breached. Such an expression of regret would be interpreted as a desire to remain within the Worldwide Communion.
Pending such an expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators should be invited to withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.
ECUSA should be invited to effect a moratorium on the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same sex union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.
Finally, seeking greater common understanding of the issue of same gender relationships, we ask ECUSA to indicate how a person in a same gender relationship may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ.
On public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions
The Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster approved a resolution in 1998 to develop a public rite for the blessing of same sex unions. The diocesan bishop Michael Ingham withheld consent. In 1999 the bishop commissioned theological and canonical evaluations of the proposal, but made no formal attempt to consult the wider province or Communion on the theological issues. The conclusion of the report was that this was not matter of theology, but of pastoral care. After withholding consent to the synodical resolution again in 2001, the bishop did give consent when it was proved for the third time in 2002. The first such rite was held in 2003.
Bishops or dioceses are free to authorise liturgical changes, but only if they are likely to be consistent with the norms of the Book of Common Prayer.
In the Canadian church a process of discernment is underway to determine to what extent the blessing of same sex unions is a doctrinal matter, thus requiring decisions at the national level. The Canadian Primate’s theological commission will report on this at the 2007 Synod. The 2004 Synod confirmed the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships. This has been viewed by some as a change of teaching on the part of the Anglican Church of Canada.
In the USA in August 2003 the 74th General Convention commended the development of public rites of blessing for such unions, without formal theological justification or consultation in the Communion.
The clear and repeated statements of the Instruments of Unity have been against these actions, and the authorization of such rites constitutes a denial of the bonds of communion. Such developments are seen by many – the majority - as surrendering to the spirit of the age rather than an authentic development of the gospel. Therefore all bishops are asked not to authorize further blessings at this time.
We call for all those bishops in USA and Canada who have authorized same sex blessings to express regret that they did so, and pending such regrets should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican communion. We call for continuing study for biblical and theological rationale for and against such unions. This call for study does not imply approval for such proposals.
On care of dissenting groups
In regard to the provision of spiritual care by bishops from outside provinces, in extreme situations we feel it would be appropriate that an incumbent bishop delegate certain responsibilities to an “incoming” bishop. We prefer that such oversight be provided by retired bishops from the provinces in question. In principle we also would accept the need in some cases for oversight to be provided from outside the province, as is under consideration by the Anglican Church of Canada. We discourage the establishment of parallel jurisdictions within a province, and therefore call upon those bishops who have intervened in provinces other than their own without local sanction to express regret, confirm their desire to remain in the communion, and effect a moratorium on further interventions.
Should this call to find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, than we shall have to learn to walk apart. In this document we cannot comment on how such division could proceed. In any dispute there are courses that may be followed, and in the last resort, withdrawal from membership. The real challenge of the gospel is whether we live deeply enough in the love of Christ that “we will make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. As the primates stated in 2000, “To turn from one another would be to turn from the Cross”, and indeed from serving the world which God loves and for which Jesus Christ died.
APPENDICES to the Windsor Report.
These appendices can be found in the Windsor Report, but are not included in this précis.
Appendix 1: Reflections of the Instruments of Unity
Appendix 2: Proposal for the Anglican Covenant
Appendix 3: Supporting documentation
Download the (complete) Windsor Report
13-page Précis of the Windsor Report