A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
To: Windsor Report Reception Committee
"We limit not the truth of God
to our poor reach of mind --
by notions of our day and sect --
crude, partial and confined.
No, let a new and better hope
within our hearts be stirred,
for God hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from the Word."
-- Pastor John Robinson's sendoff sermon to the Pilgrims 1620 --
paraphrased in a hymn by George Rawson (1807-1889)
The conflict that the Windsor Report wants to deal with is not about the creeds or the Chicago Quadrilateral. No province has a quarrel with these. The real conflict is about things that should not matter.
The unrest and turmoil in our diocese has long preceded the Windsor report. The canon theologian of the Fort Worth Diocese, in his response to you states, "...the ordination of women broke communion at its deepest level -- at the altar, and this brokenness shows no sign of healing..." While the ECUSA is not out of communion with any member of the Anglican Communion, our diocese has been out of communion with other Anglicans long before the current conflict.
It is not restoration of the bonds of affection that our diocese seeks, but total capitulation to their theology package, which as you can see does not recognize the validity of women priests.
In understanding Scripture, the Windsor report stipulates:
a) We must not listen to Scripture as an echo of our own voices.
b) Our understandings must not be only the remembrance of earlier Christian interpretations.
c) Lexicographical work must bring us the nuances of ancient words.
d) Large-scale historical reconstruction must guard against anachronistic assumptions.
e) Biblical scholarship must be free to explore different meanings.
If the Windsor Report is correct about these judgments, we should not be squabbling about a matter of interpretation.
Folks in the Western World are seeking ways to be faithful to the Bible, a book written by men in a patriarchal society, in an emerging egalitarian culture where the talents, roles, and status of both men and women are equally valued. The wisdom and truth in a book of universal application that transcends the centuries should not be culture bound.
The real conflict is one of cross-cultural understanding. Our basic problems are growing pains. They revolve around gender. It should only be an issue of forbearance when Anglicans of a tribal, patriarchal culture differ with Anglicans of an egalitarian one.
Forbearance calls for a faith that men and women in other parts of the communion, after years of deliberate study, can make valid Biblical discernments in their own cultures. It takes into account the fact that bishops who have devoted years to the Service of God have not suddenly lost their marbles.
This cultural challenge has led Western Nations to reappraise questions of gender. In a religious context the questions translate into:
It took the early church centuries, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, who was sent to lead us into all truth, to lay out in doctrinal form such issues as the Trinity and the Atonement. The work of the Spirit did not terminate after three centuries. One could hardly expect the Holy Spirit to be inspiring solutions in a culture that was not yet existent. Discernment is the challenge that should keep us together.
Although through accidents of history, we all find ourselves within the same socio-political structure, our communion is bound together in awe, worship and thanksgiving as we meet God in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy
The return to, and the respect for our classical Anglican polity, as exemplified in the Elizabethan Settlement, would seem to be adequate for the solution of these problems. Goodwill, our Classical Anglican Heritage, the Instruments of Unity, our common Liturgy and history, our affection and respect for one another, and our mutual discernment of the will of the Holy Spirit will lead us through this crisis.
Let us remember in all we do as a church that these words of Jesus should be our guide: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Fort Worth Via Media
Walter J. Archey, Jr.
Susann M. Eller
Merritt C. Farren
Joan B. Farren
John S. Morgan
Robin M. Rhyand
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