Ekklesia, 20 October 2004 — Apparently ignoring a plea by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams that there should be “no rush to judgment” in the wake of the Windsor Report, in a public statement Archbishop Peter Akinola said the Report had failed to confront “the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers.”
“We have watched in sadness as sisters and brothers who have sought to maintain their allegiance to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ have been marginalized and persecuted for their faith. We have been filled with grief as we have witnessed the decline of the North American Church that was once filled with missionary zeal and yet now seems determined to bury itself in a deadly embrace with the spirit of the age. Instead of a clear call for repentance we have been offered warm words of sentimentality for those who have shown no godly sorrow for!” he continued.
He also criticised the “actions and harsh words of condemnation for those who have reached out a helping hand to friends in need of pastoral and spiritual care”.
Clearly unhappy with what he sees as an unequal handling of the two sides by the report, the Archbishop goes on to ask why “throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the Global South, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible? Where are the expressions of deep concern for the men and women whose witness is jeopardized and whose lives are at risk because of the actions of ECUSA? Where are the words of “deep regret” for the impact of ECUSA’s actions upon the Global South and our missionary efforts? Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behaviour? The imbalance is bewildering. It is wrong to use equal language for unequal actions.”
He continued; “The report correctly notes that the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster have pushed the Anglican Communion to the breaking point. It rightly states that they did not listen to the clear voices of the Communion and rejected the counsel of all four Instruments of Unity. Therefore it is surprising that the primary recommendation of the report is ‘greater sensitivity’ instead of heartfelt repentance.”
“Already the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA has stated that he sees no need to halt welcoming practising homosexuals into all orders of ministry! In addition, the bishop of New Westminster has indicated that same sex blessing will continue. Thus they are hell bent on destroying the fabric of our common life and we are told to sit and wait.”
“We have been asked to express regret for our actions and ‘affirm our desire to remain in the Communion’. How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help.”
“The Bible says that two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. The report rightly observes that if the ‘call to halt’ is ignored ‘then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart’. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of New Westminster are already walking alone on this and if they do not repent and return to the fold, they will find that they are all alone. They will have broken the Anglican Communion.”
“I am disappointed that an important report that was requested by the Primates who gathered at Lambeth Palace last October was not submitted to us for prayerful consideration. Instead it has been released to the entire world as if it were the final word on this troubling matter. However, before the next meeting of the Primates in February, I will now take it to the All Africa Bishops Conference that will gather in Lagos from October 26th-31st and we will have further opportunity to speak of the crisis created by the North American Church.”
Gene Robinson’s comments
“We regret how difficult this made things in many parts of the Communion,” said Robinson, who leads the Diocese of New Hampshire, in an Associated Press interview two days after an Anglican commission said the U.S. Episcopal Church should express regret for the fallout from his appointment.
“Certainly, I do not regret that my becoming a bishop has been a real blessing to me and my diocese. I don’t think any of us regret the decision that we made.”
Some will feel that his comments meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report, which invited expression of “regret” over the hurt and difficulties caused by his consecration.
Although reported in the media and interpreted by some pressure groups as calling for an “apology”, the Report didn’t use the word. It opted instead for language which meant those wanting to meet the commission’s recommendations didn’t have to go back on the decision itself – only its consequencs.
The commission did however ask for a moratorium on electing non-celibate gays as bishop, while leaders of the global fellowship of churches spend the next several months studying how they can remain unified.
The report sought to temporarily halt the growing acceptance of same-sex blessing ceremonies in Anglican churches. However, it is unclear whether U.S. dioceses will comply.
Episcopalians already have competing interpretations of the scope of the commission’s request, with Robinson and others contending that blessing ceremonies are still acceptable under the moratorium. Conservatives disagree.
The Diocese of New Hampshire has authorized the blessing ceremonies for years, and Robinson said he would not stop clergy who wished to perform them. Robinson said he has not led a same-sex blessing ceremony since becoming bishop last November.
Robinson said he did not expect any reconciliation “in my lifetime” of those with opposing biblical views on homosexuality. And he questioned some opponents of his consecration who said they harbored no prejudice against gays.
“To have someone look me in the eye and tell me how much they love me and tell me to get rid of my partner and love of my life,” Robinson said, “I can tell you it’s hard to believe.”
Still, he hoped conservatives would be open to exploring how to maintain the Communion.
“I want the American church to be part of the Anglican Communion,” he said. “We are so much better standing together than standing apart.”
“If the conservatives choose not to remain at the table, I don’t know what can be done about that,” Robinson said. “What I’m saying is that I’m going to be at the table. The American church is going to be at the table.”
Diocese of New Hampshire responds to Windsor Report
The diocese at the heart of a dispute within the Anglican Church over its decision to appoint an openly gay bishop has formally acknowledged and expressed regret for the “pain and confusion” caused by the consecration of Gene Robinson.
The statement of regret, which also affirms support for the ministry of Gene Robinson, however may not be enough for conservatives – many of whom were hoping for an apology.
The formal statement made by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Hampshire, was a response to the Windsor Report, published on Monday.
The Report recommended that those involved in the consecration of Gene Robinson be invited to express “regret that the proper constraints of the bonds o
f affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed”.
The new statement from the New Hampshire diocese appears to fulfil this recommendation that such “regret” be expressed.
“On behalf of the Diocese of New Hampshire, we acknowledge and regret the pain and confusion caused by the election and consecration of our bishop” the statement says.
It continues: “We now realize more fully that our action, in response to a sincere understanding of God’s calling, has caused deep distress for many in our communion.”
The statement however is likely to be seen by conservatives as falling short of what the Windsor Report was recommending.
When the Report was published, accounts in the media suggested that the document called for an apology. Statements from pressure groups issued on the same day as the 100-page report was published, also suggested that those involved in Gene Robinson’s consecration were being called upon to apologise.
A statement from the Evangelical Alliance issued a few hours after the report was published concluded; “The report is (therefore) right to call on ECUSA to apologise for its actions”
The Windsor Report however, does not use the words “apology” or “apologise” anywhere on its pages.
“The distinction between ‘regret’ which the report calls for, and ‘apology’ which the report doesn’t mention, does not appear to have been made by many conservatives. Many would have been hoping for an apology, rather than the statement of regret which has now been forthcoming” said Jonathan Bartley, director of the religious thinktank Ekklesia.
“I think it’s an important distinction,” Bethlehem Episcopal Diocese spokesman Bill Lewelliss agreed.
“An apology might imply that something was a mistake, while a statement of regret might mean that something was right but that it may have been done in a different way.”
Website of the Windsor Report 2004:
© 2004 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk