A series of essays toward General Convention 2003 and beyond
Thoughts more or less diplomatic at a late date:
I have for some time argued that we ought to think of the Anglican Communion as an ecumenical fellowship among churches with a common history and not as a "world wide Church." (see my article, The Fourth Way, at http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/joyanyway/joy120.html. It has been a tight-knit fellowship, but an ecumenical one. The Anglican Communion is not a church, and its character as a fellowship is without power as the world, ecclesiastical or otherwise, might suppose.
What these proposals attempt to state is the realities that derive from the current disputes present in this Anglican ecumenical environment before, during and following General Convention.
The Episcopal Church, through the Presiding Bishop's office and person might well consider the following for use in the days ahead:
That The Episcopal Church regrettably recognizes that other members churches of the Anglican Communion, through the expression of their leadership, believe their fellowship with this church is impaired or has ceased to exist. We respect that fact and live in hope that we can continue to relate in ways that support objectives on which there is mutual agreement.
That The Episcopal Church notes with joy that it has assisted in the expansion of Christ's Church throughout the world by supporting the development of autonomous national and regional churches. It has expected that such churches would express the Historic Episcopate, and the faith as proclaimed by that Episcopate, in ways appropriate for their locale, not its own.
That The Episcopal Church asserts that it has acted in General Convention in prayerful and responsible ways to matters brought before it, in accord with its own Constitution and Canons, in response to the needs of the particular nation and people it is called to serve, and as justice requires.
That The Episcopal Church reaffirms that in matters of its internal life it welcomes advice but does not welcome, and indeed cannot accept, ecclesiastical interference from without.
That The Episcopal Church understands that those within its community who are opposed to decisions made by this Church may, for reasons of conscience, withdrawal from this Church. Dioceses, and the churches in them are however the missionary instruments of The Episcopal Church itself and cannot unilaterally be dissolved or withdrawn from The Episcopal Church.
That The Episcopal Church will be constant in prayer for those who leave, for those Provinces who have withdrawn from fellowship with us, as we are for all Christians throughout the World, and The Episcopal Church will work with these Provinces as God allows on a whole variety of levels ecumenically as it currently does with other Churches.
That The Episcopal Church will be in full Communion with other Anglican Provinces, Denominations and churches as determined by mutual agreement among equals, and in ecumenical fellowship on such levels as the several denominations, Anglican and otherwise, are willing to enter into.
That we view divisions of the peoples of the Christian Faith to be not unexpected but none the less part of the tragedy of the brokenness of the body of Christ. The healing of those divisions is our constant prayer and hope.
Mark Harris, Delaware
Praying for and thinking about those in London, at Lambeth, and those brothers and sisters talked about rather than with, and those on the margins, remembering too to break for watching sunsets and thanking God.
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