A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
1. Windsor asserts that Anglicanism is suffering from an
‘illness’ because of its putative failure to recognise ‘such authority as we
all in theory acknowledge’. But there is no universal jurisdiction within
Anglicanism, that is, there is no central, overriding authority, which has the
power to oblige conformity among autonomous provinces.
2. The implied claim that ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster have acted in bad faith, or contrary to some agreed authority, or have departed from ‘genuine, apostolic faith’ is groundless.
3. If matters relating to the ordination of women, and the nature of Christian marriage are issues that can be decided by provinces, even though they clearly relate to Communion-wide ‘standards, unity and good order’, why should not others, such as the consecration of an openly gay bishop, be viewed likewise?.
4. The Report says that it does ‘not favour the accumulation of formal power by the Instruments of Unity, or the establishment of any kind of central ‘curia’ for the Communion’, but then goes on to describe a form of ‘management’ that will enable something very similar, if not identical. The Archbishop becomes effectively a patriarch in all but name – ‘a central focus of unity and mission within the Communion’.
5. The Report says that ‘Over the centuries Anglicans have lived out the gift of communion in mutual love and care for one another.’ But the Report nowhere acknowledges that ECUSA and the Canadian Diocese see their actions as responses to the Spirit – as prophetic signs that witness to the care that Anglicans ought to have for all its members, including gays.
6. The Report makes no attempt to situate or contextualise the actions of American or Canadian Anglicans. That context is the deeply held belief that the Christian tradition has been unjust and discriminatory towards homosexual people.
7. If diversity of opinion and practice within Anglicanism is not only possible, but also legitimate, on such questions as participation in war and the use of nuclear weapons, then the same allowable freedom of diversity must also be legitimate on each and every moral issue.
8. Currently, Anglicans with an ‘evangelical’ emphasis are numerically strongest in some parts of the church and within certain provinces. But, if there is not to be perpetual conflict, it is vital that each faction does not seek during the period of its (almost certainly transitory) ascendancy to push the Communion too far in adopting principles or practices that permanently exclude other emphases and integrities.
9. Historic Anglicanism will become untenable if provinces do not respect not only the geographical integrity, but also the theological integrity, of other provinces who, after due deliberation in accordance with canonical procedures, decide that, in all conscience, they need to pioneer and embody in their own church life their own deepest convictions.
10. Not since Bishop Colenso in 1867, has the Archbishop exercised his power to non-invite any fellow diocesan bishop to a Lambeth Conference, and it would be without precedent for the Archbishop to do so to any diocesan bishop who has not been found guilty of an ecclesial offence. Such a step would constitute a form of ex-communication, and would symbolise, inter alia, the Communion’s corporate rejection of the first openly gay bishop in Anglican history.
11. The alternative to living with diversity is a more centralised church, with a clearer set of rules, and the power to enforce them. Such a church would become less free and necessarily more coercive. It would achieve a kind of uniformity, but at the expense of conviction and conscience. Is this what God is really willing for the Anglican Church?
12. Some ‘evangelicals’ say that gay behaviour is incompatible with any form of Christian discipleship. The logic of that position is clear – all gays, including those who conscientiously differ, should leave the Church. They should be debarred from all the sacraments, including baptism, and confirmation, as well as ordination. If the proposed world-wide ‘Communion law’ embodies anti-gay positions, then those who are gay and those who believe in justice for gays will have no choice but to realign themselves with another part of Anglicanism, or leave.
13. To isolate sexual behaviour, and specifically one form of it, as in need of absolute censure – so that ordination or membership is totally excluded betokens, it must be said, a deeply disproportionate understanding of Christian morality.
14. The Spirit may be speaking to us through the current ‘crisis’, but in ways in which we do not yet fully apprehend. It may be that we are being disturbed and challenged to re-think our traditional categories of what constitutes sexual sin and Godly sexual behaviour in a way that many of us find deeply uncomfortable and unsettling, but which, in the fullness of God’s time, may lead to a richer understanding of the Gospel and a more humanly compassionate church.
From Has Anglicanism A Future? A Response to the Windsor Report by Andrew Linzey
(£5.50, LGCM, 2005, ISBN 0 946310 13 0)
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