The Bishop's Address - page 4

And now, for some concluding remarks about our continuing place in the world-wide Anglican Communion. As you know, this past year has been a time of intense controversy and serious division in Anglicanism, as a result of the consecration of "a declared and sexually active homosexual bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire" and the tacit approval for the blessing of same-sex unions given by last year’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church. By resolutions of a Special Called Convention of this diocese in September of last year and again at our regular Diocesan Convention last November, this diocese repudiated these actions as schismatic acts that violate the clear teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Anglican Communion. At last count, a total of 22 of the 38 Anglican Provinces around the world, representing over 75% of the membership of the world-wide Communion, have declared impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church because of this. At the same time, they have declared their commitment to remaining in full communion with those members of the Episcopal Church who reject and will continue to oppose these grievous departures from historic Biblical teaching. The Anglican Communion Network was formed last year to provide a way for orthodox Christians in the Episcopal Church to have a place to stand and witness together, as we continue our ministry as faithful members of the Anglican Communion. Today this Diocese remains in full, unimpaired communion with all the other Provinces of Anglicanism because of our membership in the Anglican Communion Network, not because of our membership in the Episcopal Church in the United States. As your Bishop, I remain in full communion not only with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but indeed with all of the Primates of the entire Anglican Communion beyond ECUSA, which is a whole lot more than can be said for Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop.

God is bringing forth life and giving growth in the Anglican Communion, to be certain. But make no mistake about it, the growth that is taking place and most of the new life that we are experiencing are not in the decaying churches of the West – not in the Episcopal Church here in the States nor in the Anglican Church life in Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, where the numbers of worshipping Anglicans go down year after year after year. No, the phenomenal growth and new life within Anglicanism is taking place in the churches of the Global South, in the so-called "two-thirds world," where the people are proud to be called Anglicans, and where Christians are hurt, confused and angered by what the Episcopal Church in this country has done.

As you know, the Lambeth Commission on Communion, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to address the controversy and brokenness with our brothers and sisters that our General Convention and parts of the Anglican Church in Canada have created, has now released its report, known as The Windsor Report 2004. I commend this Report to you for your careful consideration, and I propose that every congregation in the Diocese prayerfully study it and reflect upon it in the weeks ahead. Remember that this Commission was created by the Primates of the Communion, and its recommendations are now to go to the next Primates’ Meeting in late February for action. Rather than speculating on how the Primates might strengthen or implement the recommendations in the Report, I simply want to take note of what is proposed and to remind you that they are in full accordance with the position taken by this Diocese last year.

The Commission unanimously affirms the historic, biblical doctrine of sexuality as expressed in Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, as the teaching of the Anglican Communion, and then goes on to recommend a moratorium on the ordination and consecration of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions. This moratorium would remain in effect until such time as a new consensus emerged in the Communion for a change in this position. Furthermore, it is proposed that those bishops who participated in the consecration of Vicky Gene Robinson, as well as those bishops who have authorized the blessing of same-sex unions, should express their regret for having done so, and in addition, that they should not participate in any meetings of the Anglican Communion until they have done so. Much has been made in the press about exactly what the Commission means when it calls for these bishops to express their regret for what they did. Does it mean to apologize? Does it mean to repent of their actions and pledge not to do it again? As you know, Frank Griswold and others have already said, ‘Oh, I can express regret for the hurt and division that has been caused by what I did, while at the same time continuing to believe in the integrity of what I did.’ The Presiding Bishop is on record as saying he doesn’t believe a moratorium will be imposed and that he would probably participate in the consecration of others like Robinson in the future. How sad that this Report should be met with this kind of dismissive attitude. What kind of strange logic is it that says ‘I regret the hurt and division that I have caused, but I’m going to keep on doing it anyway?’

The purpose of the Commission was to recommend ways for the church to remain in the highest possible degree of communion among all our Provinces. The Windsor Report is an invitation to healing and reconciliation, not a proposed punishment for those who have caused the division. Nonetheless, it is clear as to the source of the problem. I quote: "The Episcopal Church (USA) has caused deep offence to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion." (paragraph 127) I do not believe the Communion is willing to accept a lame expression of regret in place of an expression of genuine repentance. So the question before us is this: "Will the Episcopal Church accept the invitation to reconciliation and do what is necessary, in the opinion of the Primates, to bring it about? Do we want to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion?" A special meeting of the House of Bishops will address this issue in mid-January.

The Windsor Report suggests that there can be no true unity or reconciliation without repentance, without a sincere apology and a change of practice with a clear commitment to the moratorium that is being requested. We must recognize that the Primates’ Meeting in February may indeed come face to face with an unwillingness by some of our bishops to accept and live by the stated position and clear teaching of the Anglican Communion. In the last paragraph of the Windsor Report, we find these ominous words:

" There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart." (Paragraph 157)

The Episcopal Church in the United States may choose to walk apart from the Anglican Communion, but I will not, and this Diocese will not. We are committed to the unity of the Church; we are committed to the mission of the Church; and we are committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But unity, mission, and truth can only be maintained when we remain faithful to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and commit ourselves to living within the boundaries of the Anglican Communion on these crucial matters that have divided us. If the Episcopal Church chooses to walk apart, it will become nothing more than another small Protestant sect, a decaying but ever more libertine, American denomination choosing to go it alone, while all the time distancing itself more and more from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

In the uncertain days ahead, as these matters are discussed and hard decisions are made, let us pray for the Church, that we may remain faithful to God and to one another. Let us remain obedient to the Holy Scriptures and to the teachings of the catholic faith. Let us remain united in love and in truth, thus proving ourselves to be true missionaries of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us depend upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to do what He alone can do - to bring forth life and give growth in the Body of Christ. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.