Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Primates Communique

Well, one can hardly not post a document of this character. Whatever follows, this will be one of those defining 'pieces of paper' that will either shape the common life of Anglicans worldwide for generations to come or herald the beginning of the disintegration of the Anglican Communion as we know it. Monday was a time of dramatic emotional ebb and flow for those of us who sat glued to our computer screens waiting for a communique that was past due.

For those looking for swift and condign punishment, this is obviously not that for which they hoped. By the same token, it is not a pass for The Episcopal Church, as seemed quite possible at the end of last week.
Lambeth 1:10 is affirmed as the standard for human sexuality, a point already acknowledged in The Windsor Report. Section 24 of the Communique explicitly states: "The response of The Episcopal Church to the requests made at Dromantine has not persuaded this meeting that we are yet in a position to recognise that The Episcopal Church has mended its broken relationships." Trust is low among many of the primates that the resolutions passed at General Convention 2006 actually mean what they say. While external interventions in the life of the American Church are described as having exacerbated the situation, they are treated as being on a second order of magnitude to the original breaking of the bonds of affection in 2003.

The meat of the matter is in the Schedule, which only appeared after the text of the communique had been released (much to the chagrin of some bloggers). Interim care for the minority will now be assigned to a pastoral council with a majority of members nominated from outside the United States (two by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop and one by the Archbishop of Canterbury - if this is going to work adequately, then the latter must choose wisely and not repeat the fiasco that has been the Panel of Reference). This panel will monitor compliance and oversee pastoral care and a separate structure. Although it is agreed that the Presiding Bishop must approve (which probably rules out certain possibilities), it will be the bishops participating in the pastoral arrangement who will nominate the primatial vicar. However you look at it, this is a significant shift. The minority will thus have assurance of a leadership in whom they can put confidence and who will fight their corner.

Concurrently, a September 30 deadline is set for a unanimous response from the House of Bishops committing them to what was sought from the Windsor Report and at Dromantine. The debate is already beginning amongst the majority as to whether such a covenant can - or should - be given. So much hangs on what TEC decides to do now. The Presiding Bishop signed the communique, but she can hardly be happy about its priorities. Even if (as I do) one welcomes the idea of a Pastoral Council, it is intervention on an unprecedented scale. The Church will be changed by this. And if TEC declines to go along with this? Well the possibilities are many, but none are particularly pleasant to contemplate.

As an aside, I note that the faithful in Canada (most notably New Westminster) are not referenced directly. One would hope that they will receive some attention in due course.

The next few months are going to be extremely interesting.

Communiqué of the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam,
19th February 2007

1. We, the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion, gathered for mutual consultation and prayer at Dar es Salaam between 15th and 19th February 2007 at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and as guests of the Primate of Tanzania, Archbishop Donald Leo Mtetemela. The meeting convened in an atmosphere of mutual graciousness as the Primates sought together to seek the will of God for the future life of the Communion. We are grateful for the warm hospitality and generosity of Archbishop Donald and his Church members, many of whom have worked hard to ensure that our visit has been pleasant and comfortable, including our travel to Zanzibar on the Sunday.

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed to our number fourteen new primates, and on the Wednesday before our meeting started, he led the new primates in an afternoon of discussion about their role. We give thanks for the ministry of those primates who have completed their term of office.

3. Over these days, we have also spent time in prayer and Bible Study, and reflected upon the wide range of mission and service undertaken across the Communion. While the tensions that we face as a Communion commanded our attention, the extensive discipleship of Anglicans across the world reminds us of our first task to respond to God’s call in Christ. We are grateful for the sustaining prayer which has been offered across the Communion as we meet.

4. On Sunday 18th February, we travelled to the island of Zanzibar, where we joined a celebration of the Holy Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral, built on the site of the old slave market. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached, and commemorated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom, which had begun a process that led to the abolition of the slave market in Zanzibar ninety years later. At that service, the Archbishop of Canterbury admitted Mrs Hellen Wangusa as the new Anglican Observer at the United Nations. We warmly welcome Hellen to her post.

5. We welcomed the presence of the President of Zanzibar at lunch on Sunday, and the opportunity for the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with the President of Tanzania in the course of the meeting.

The Millennium Development Goals

6. We were delighted to hear from Mrs Wangusa about her vision for her post of Anglican Observer at the United Nations. She also spoke to us about the World Millennium Development Goals, while Archbishop Ndungane also spoke to us as Chair of the Task Team on Poverty and Trade, and the forthcoming conference on Towards Effective Anglican Mission in South Africa next month. We were inspired and challenged by these presentations.

Theological Education in the Anglican Communion

7. We also heard a report from Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables and Mrs Clare Amos on the work of the Primates’ Working Party on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion. The group has focussed on developing “grids” which set out the appropriate educational and developmental targets which can be applied in the education of those in ministry in the life of the Church. We warmly commend the work which the group is doing, especially on the work which reminds us that the role of the bishop is to enable the theological education of the clergy and laity of the diocese. We also welcome the scheme that the group has developed for the distribution of basic theological texts to our theological colleges across the world, the preparations for the Anglican Way Consultation in Singapore in May this year, and the appointment of three Regional Associates to work with the group. The primates affirmed the work of the Group, and urged study and reception of its work in the life of the Communion.

The Hermeneutics Project

8. We agreed to proceed with a worldwide study of hermeneutics (the methods of interpreting scripture). The primates have joined the Joint Standing Committee in asking the Anglican Communion Office to develop options for carrying the study forward following the Lambeth Conference in 2008. A report will be presented to the Joint Standing Committee next year.

Following through the Windsor Report

9. Since the controversial events of 2003, we have faced the reality of increased tension in the life of the Anglican Communion – tension so deep that the fabric of our common life together has been torn. The Windsor Report of 2004 described the Communion as suffering from an “illness”. This “illness” arises from a breakdown in the trust and mutual recognition of one another as faithful disciples of Christ, which should be among the first fruits of our Communion in Christ with one another.

10. The Windsor Report identified two threats to our common life: first, certain developments in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which challenged the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10; and second, interventions in the life of those Provinces which arose as reactions to the urgent pastoral needs that certain primates perceived. The Windsor Report did not see a “moral equivalence” between these events, since the cross-boundary interventions arose from a deep concern for the welfare of Anglicans in the face of innovation. Nevertheless both innovation and intervention are central factors placing strains on our common life. The Windsor Report recognised this (TWR Section D) and invited the Instruments of Communion [1] to call for a moratorium of such actions [2] .

11. What has been quite clear throughout this period is that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked. This restates the traditional teaching of the Christian Church that “in view of the teaching of Scripture, [the Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”, and applies this to several areas which are discussed further below. The Primates have reaffirmed this teaching in all their recent meetings [3], and indicated how a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole.

12. At our last meeting in Dromantine, the primates called for certain actions to address the situation in our common life, and to address those challenges to the teaching of the Lambeth Resolution which had been raised by recent developments. Now in Dar es Salaam, we have had to give attention to the progress that has been made.

The Listening Process

13. The 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, committed the Provinces “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons” and called “all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”. The initiation of this process of listening was requested formally by the Primates at Dromantine and commissioned by ACC-13. We received a report from Canon Philip Groves, the Facilitator of the Listening Process, on the progress of his work. We wish to affirm this work in collating various research studies, statements and other material from the Provinces. We look forward to this material being made more fully available across the Communion for study and reflection, and to the preparation of material to assist the bishops at 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The Panel of Reference

14. We are grateful to the retired Primate of Australia, Archbishop Peter Carnley for being with us to update us on the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference. This was established by the Archbishop in response to the request of the Primates at Dromantine “to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches” for “groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces” [4] . Archbishop Peter informed us of the careful work which this Panel undertakes on our behalf, although he pointed to the difficulty of the work with which it has been charged arising from the conflicted and polarised situations which the Panel must address on the basis of the slender resources which can be given to the work. We were grateful for his report, and for the work so far undertaken by the Panel.

The Anglican Covenant

15. Archbishop Drexel Gomez reported to us on the work of the Covenant Design Group. The Group met in Nassau last month, and has made substantial progress. We commend the Report of the Covenant Design Group for study and urge the Provinces to submit an initial response to the draft through the Anglican Communion Office by the end of 2007. In the meantime, we hope that the Anglican Communion Office will move in the near future to the publication of the minutes of the discussion that we have had, together with the minutes of the Joint Standing Committee’s discussion, so that some of the ideas and reflection that have already begun to emerge might assist and stimulate reflection throughout the Communion.

16. The proposal is that a revised draft will be discussed at the Lambeth Conference, so that the bishops may offer further reflections and contributions. Following a further round of consultation, a final text will be presented to ACC-14, and then, if adopted as definitive, offered to the Provinces for ratification. The covenant process will conclude when any definitive text is adopted or rejected finally through the synodical processes of the Provinces.

The Episcopal Church

17. At the heart of our tensions is the belief that The Episcopal Church [5] has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by the Communion in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 by consenting to the episcopal election of a candidate living in a committed same-sex relationship, and by permitting Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. The episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion.

18. In 2005 the Primates asked The Episcopal Church to consider specific requests made by the Windsor Report [6]. On the first day of our meeting, we were joined by the members of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council as we considered the responses of the 75th General Convention. This is the first time that we have been joined by the Standing Committee at a Primates’ Meeting, and we welcome and commend the spirit of closer co-operation between the Instruments of Communion.

19. We are grateful for the comprehensive and clear report commissioned by the Joint Standing Committee. We heard from the Presiding Bishop and three other bishops [7] representing different perspectives within The Episcopal Church. Each spoke passionately about their understanding of the problems which The Episcopal Church faces, and possible ways forward. Each of the four, in their own way, looked to the Primates to assist The Episcopal Church. We are grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for enabling us on this occasion to hear directly this range of views.

20. We believe several factors must be faced together. First, the Episcopal Church has taken seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and we express our gratitude for the consideration by the 75th General Convention.

21. However, secondly, we believe that there remains a lack of clarity about the stance of The Episcopal Church, especially its position on the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for persons living in same-sex unions. There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.

22. The standard of teaching stated in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998 asserted that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions”. The primates stated in their pastoral letter of May 2003,

“The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.”.

23. Further, some of us believe that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention [8] does not in fact give the assurances requested in the Windsor Report.

24. The response of The Episcopal Church to the requests made at Dromantine has not persuaded this meeting that we are yet in a position to recognise that The Episcopal Church has mended its broken relationships.

25. It is also clear that a significant number of bishops, clergy and lay people in The Episcopal Church are committed to the proposals of the Windsor Report and the standard of teaching presupposed in it (cf paragraph 11). These faithful people feel great pain at what they perceive to be the failure of The Episcopal Church to adopt the Windsor proposals in full. They desire to find a way to remain in faithful fellowship with the Anglican Communion. They believe that they should have the liberty to practice and live by that expression of Anglican faith which they believe to be true. We are deeply concerned that so great has been the estrangement between some of the faithful and The Episcopal Church that this has led to recrimination, hostility and even to disputes in the civil courts.

26. The interventions by some of our number and by bishops of some Provinces, against the explicit recommendations of the Windsor Report, however well-intentioned, have exacerbated this situation. Furthermore, those Primates who have undertaken interventions do not feel that it is right to end those interventions until it becomes clear that sufficient provision has been made for the life of those persons.

27. A further complication is that a number of dioceses or their bishops have indicated, for a variety of reasons, that they are unable in conscience to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church, and have requested the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to consider making provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry. At the same time we recognise that the Presiding Bishop has been duly elected in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which must be respected.

28. These pastoral needs, together with the requests from those making presentations to this meeting, have moved us to consider how the primates might contribute to healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church and more broadly. We believe that it would be a tragedy if The Episcopal Church was to fracture, and we are committed to doing what we can to preserve and uphold its life. While we may support such processes, such change and development which is required must be generated within its own life.

The Future

29. We believe that the establishment of a Covenant for the Churches of the Anglican Communion in the longer term may lead to the trust required to re-establish our interdependent life. By making explicit what Anglicans mean by the “bonds of affection” and securing the commitment of each Province to those bonds, the structures of our common life can be articulated and enhanced.

30. However, an interim response is required in the period until the Covenant is secured. For there to be healing in the life of the Communion in the interim, it seems that the recommendations of the Windsor Report, as interpreted by the Primates’ Statement at Dromantine, are the most clear and comprehensive principles on which our common life may be re-established.

31. Three urgent needs exist. First, those of us who have lost trust in The Episcopal Church need to be re-assured that there is a genuine readiness in The Episcopal Church to embrace fully the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

32. Second, those of us who have intervened in other jurisdictions believe that we cannot abandon those who have appealed to us for pastoral care in situations in which they find themselves at odds with the normal jurisdiction. For interventions to cease, what is required in their view is a robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church in the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process.

33. Third, the Presiding Bishop has reminded us that in The Episcopal Church there are those who have lost trust in the Primates and bishops of certain of our Provinces because they fear that they are all too ready to undermine or subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church. In their view, there is an urgent need to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report and to bring an end to all interventions.

34. Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church. Many in the House of Bishops are unlikely to commit themselves to further requests for clarity from the Primates unless they believe that actions that they perceive to undermine the polity of The Episcopal Church will be brought to an end. Through our discussions, the primates have become convinced that pastoral strategies are required to address these three urgent needs simultaneously.

35. Our discussions have drawn us into a much more detailed response than we would have thought necessary at the beginning of our meeting. But such is the imperative laid on us to seek reconciliation in the Church of Christ, that we have been emboldened to offer a number of recommendations. We have set these out in a Schedule to this statement. We offer them to the wider Communion, and in particular to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in the hope that they will enable us to find a way forward together for the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process. We also hope that the provisions of this pastoral scheme will mean that no further interventions will be necessary since bishops within The Episcopal Church will themselves provide the extended episcopal ministry required.

Wider Application

36. The primates recognise that such pastoral needs as those considered here are not limited to The Episcopal Church alone. Nor do such pastoral needs arise only in relation to issues of human sexuality. The primates believe that until a covenant for the Anglican Communion is secured, it may be appropriate for the Instruments of Communion to request the use of this or a similar scheme in other contexts should urgent pastoral needs arise.


37. Throughout this meeting, the primates have worked and prayed for the healing and unity of the Anglican Communion. We also pray that the Anglican Communion may be renewed in its discipleship and mission in proclaiming the Gospel. We recognise that we have been wrestling with demanding and difficult issues and we commend the results of our deliberations to the prayers of the people. We do not underestimate the difficulties and heart-searching that our proposals will cause, but we believe that commitment to the ways forward which we propose can bring healing and reconciliation across the Communion.


1. Namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.

2. Cf The Windsor Report and the Statement of the Primates at Dromantine.

3. Gramado, May 2003; Lambeth, October 2003; Dromantine, February 2005.

4. Dromantine Statement, paragraph 15.

5. The Episcopal Church is the name adopted by the Church formerly known as The Episcopal Church (USA). The Province operates across a number of nations, and decided that it was more true to its international nature not to use thedesignation USA. It should not be confused with those other Provinces and Churches of the Anglican Communion which share the name “Episcopal Church”.

6. (1) the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of 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, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion(2) the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges. (TWR §134)(3) we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation. (TWR §144)A fourth request (TWR §135) was discharged by the presentation of The Episcopal Church made at ACC-13 in Nottingham, UK, in 2005.

7. Bishop Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes; Bishop Christopher Epting, Deputy for Ecumenical Affairs in The Episcopal Church; Bishop Bruce McPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, President of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, and a member of the “Camp Allen” bishops.

8. Set out and discussed in the Report of the Communion Sub-Group presented at the Meeting.

The Key Recommendations of the Primates


The Primates recognise the urgency of the current situation and therefore emphasise the need to:

affirm the Windsor Report (TWR) and the standard of teaching commanding respect across the Communion (most recently expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference);
set in place a Covenant for the Anglican Communion;

encourage healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church, between The Episcopal Church and congregations alienated from it, and between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion;

respect the proper constitutional autonomy of all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, while upholding the interdependent life and mutual responsibility of the Churches, and the responsibility of each to the Communion as a whole;

respond pastorally and provide for those groups alienated by recent developments in the Episcopal Church.

In order to address these foundations and apply them in the difficult situation which arises at present in The Episcopal Church, we recommend the following actions. The scheme proposed and the undertakings requested are intended to have force until the conclusion of the Covenant Process and a definitive statement of the position of The Episcopal Church with respect to the Covenant and its place within the life of the Communion, when some new provision may be required.

A Pastoral Council

The Primates will establish a Pastoral Council to act on behalf of the Primates in consultation with The Episcopal Church. This Council shall consist of up to five members: two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council.

The Council will work in co-operation with The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of the bishops participating in the scheme proposed below to negotiate the necessary structures for pastoral care which would meet the requests of the Windsor Report (TWR, §147–155) and the Primates’ requests in the Lambeth Statement of October 2003 [1];

authorise protocols for the functioning of such a scheme, including the criteria for participation of bishops, dioceses and congregations in the scheme;

assure the effectiveness of the structures for pastoral care;

liaise with those other primates of the Anglican Communion who currently have care of parishes to seek a secure way forward for those parishes within the scheme;

facilitate and encourage healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church, between The Episcopal Church and congregations alienated from it, and between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion (TWR, §156);

advise the Presiding Bishop and the Instruments of Communion;

monitor the response of The Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report;

consider whether any of the courses of action contemplated by the Windsor Report §157 should be applied to the life of The Episcopal Church or its bishops, and, if appropriate, to recommend such action to The Episcopal Church and its institutions and to the Instruments of Communion;
take whatever reasonable action is needed to give effect to this schemeand report to the Primates.

A Pastoral Scheme

We recognise that there are individuals, congregations and clergy, who in the current situation, feel unable to accept the direct ministry of their bishop or of the Presiding Bishop, and some of whom have sought the oversight of other jurisdictions.

We have received representations from a number of bishops of The Episcopal Church who have expressed a commitment to a number of principles set out in two recent letters [2] . We recognise that these bishops are taking those actions which they believe necessary to sustain full communion with the Anglican Communion.

We acknowledge and welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop to consent to appoint a Primatial Vicar.

On this basis, the Primates recommend that structures for pastoral care be established in conjunction with the Pastoral Council, to enable such individuals, congregations and clergy to exercise their ministries and congregational life within The Episcopal Church, and that
the Pastoral Council and the Presiding Bishop invite the bishops expressing a commitment to “the Camp Allen principles” [3], or as otherwise determined by the Pastoral Council, to participate in the pastoral scheme ;

in consultation with the Council and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop, those bishops who are part of the scheme will nominate a Primatial Vicar, who shall be responsible to the Council;
the Presiding Bishop in consultation with the Pastoral Council will delegate specific powers and duties to the Primatial Vicar.

Once this scheme of pastoral care is recognised to be fully operational, the Primates undertake to end all interventions. Congregations or parishes in current arrangements will negotiate their place within the structures of pastoral oversight set out above.

We believe that such a scheme is robust enough to function and provide sufficient space for those who are unable to accept the direct ministry of their bishop or the Presiding Bishop to have a secure place within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion until such time as the Covenant Process is complete. At that time, other provisions may become necessary.
Although there are particular difficulties associated with AMiA and CANA, the Pastoral Council should negotiate with them and the Primates currently ministering to them to find a place for them within these provisions. We believe that with goodwill this may be possible.

On Clarifying the Response to Windsor

The Primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the Primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made [4]. While they appreciate the actions of the 75th General Convention which offer some affirmation of the Windsor Report and its recommendations, they deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses.
In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church 1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent (cf TWR, §134);unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cf TWR, §134).

The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

On property disputes

The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.

Appendix One

“The Camp Allen Principles”

The commitments expressed in the letter of 22nd September 2006 were:

an acceptance of Lambeth 1998 Res. I.10 as expressing, on its given topic, the mind of the Communion to which we subject our own teaching and discipline;

an acceptance of the Windsor Report, as interpreted by the Primates at Dromantine, as outlining the Communion’s “way forward” for our own church’s reconciliation and witness within the Communion;

a personal acceptance by each of us of the particular recommendations made by the Windsor Report to ECUSA, and a pledge to comply with them;

a clear sense that General Convention 2006 did not adequately respond to the requests made of ECUSA by the Communion through the Windsor Report;

a clear belief that we faithfully represent ECUSA in accordance with this church’s Constitution and Canons, as properly interpreted by the Scripture and our historic faith and discipline;

a desire to provide a common witness through which faithful Anglican Episcopalians committed to our Communion life might join together for the renewal of our church and the furtherance of the mission of Christ Jesus.

The principles expressed in the letter of 11th January 2007 were:

1. It is our hope that you will explicitly recognize that we are in full communion with you in order to maintain the integrity of our ministries within our dioceses and the larger Church.2. We are prepared, among other things, to work with the Primates and with others in our American context to make provision for the varying needs of individuals, congregations, dioceses and clergy to continue to exercise their ministries as the Covenant process unfolds. This includes the needs of those seeking primatial ministry from outside the United States, those dioceses and parishes unable to accept the ordination of women, and congregations which sense they can no longer be inside the Episcopal Church.3. We are prepared to offer oversight, with the agreement of the local bishop, of congregations in dioceses whose bishops are not fully supportive of Communion teaching and discipline.4. We are prepared to offer oversight to congregations who are currently under foreign jurisdictions in consultation with the bishops and Primates involved.5. Finally, we respectfully request that the Primates address the issue of congregations within our dioceses seeking oversight in foreign jurisdictions. We are Communion-committed bishops and find the option of turning to foreign oversight presents anomalies which weaken our own diocesan familieis and places strains on the Communion as a whole.


1. Whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates (Lambeth, October 2003)

2. Namely, a letter of 22nd September 2006 to the Archbishop of Canterbury and a further letter of 11th 2007 to the Primates setting out a number of commitments and proposals. These commitments and principles are colloquially known as “the Camp Allen principles”. (see Appendix One)

3. As set out in Appendix One.

4. Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of “the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another. The Communion Sub-Group added the comment: “These words were not lightly offered, and should not be lighted received.”

From: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/42/50/acns4253.cfm

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ecumenical Dialogue: An Older Paradigm?

This first appeared in Church History 74:2 (June 2005): 427.

Review: Thomas E. Fitzgerald, The Ecumenical Movement: An Introductory History (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004)

Comprehensive discussions of the ecumenical movement are few and far between, and Thomas Fitzgerald has helped to fill an important niche. Dr. Fitzgerald is well suited to comment on the phenomenon, as an Orthodox priest, church history professor, and former officer of the World Council of Churches. The ecumenical movement, as he defines it, is the "quest of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Old Catholic, and most Protestant churches for reconciliation, and the restoration of their visible unity in faith, sacramental life, and witness in the world" (1). The search for this visible unity reflects an essential yearning for the undivided church. Ecumenism is distinct from interdenominational and interconfessional activity because it represents a higher end: the practical achievement of the unity that must describe the gathering of God’s faithful people, since nothing that is fully derived from God may be divided.

Fitzgerald first surveys the early church, with its message of universal salvation, and the Pauline assumption that truth and unity must go hand in hand. He notes the importance that the church fathers ascribed to visible unity and stresses that by the fourth century the patriarchates, while united in essence, diverged in language, theological emphasis, and liturgical custom. In analyzing the separation of the Oriental Orthodox churches, the division of Roman Catholicism from Orthodoxy, and the emergence of the Protestant churches during the sixteenth century, Fitzgerald emphasizes that all these separations occurred over an extended period of time and involved unhappy conjunctions of theological controversy and social and political discord. While acknowledging that these separations left lasting wounds, he maintains that division was by no means an inevitable result.

Fitzgerald then examines transnational ecumenism from the early nineteenth century to the present. The earliest ecumenical dialogue was embodied in such nondenominational groups as the Evangelical Alliance and the World Student Christian Federation. This was followed by interdenominational interaction, and the role of the Orthodox Church, particularly its dialogues with Anglican theologians, receives good treatment here. The early twentieth century witnessed the rise of the "Life and Work" and "Faith and Order" movements, devoted to the removal of obstacles that stood in the way of unity in the life of the church, but also recognizing the attachment of believers to the historic churches. The story concludes with an account of the establishment of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1948, incorporating a new focus on the role of the laity and a Christocentric theology. In the wake of the 1968 WCC meeting at Uppsala, marked by the first attendance of Roman Catholic observers, social justice issues came to the fore in ecumenical discourse. Fitzgerald then turns his narrative to an exploration of ecumenical perspectives within the three largest Christian blocs--Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant--and concludes with an examination of the various bilateral and multilateral theological discussions that have taken place in recent years and a case study of ecumenism in the United States since the 1950s.

Fitzgerald’s study provides a very readable account of ecumenical developments over the past two hundred years, one that will undoubtedly provide the stimulus for greater research on more specialized topics. Of particular value to the Western reader is his consideration of the role of the Orthodox churches, a very necessary corrective to any model that divides ecumenical dialogue into a largely intra-Protestant conversation prior to 1962 and a call to dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council. He also has an extensive bibliography that will be of use to any scholar or student new to the topic, although it is regrettable that the combination of a lack of bibliographical subject categories and comparatively sparse footnotes makes it hard to determine which books may be most relevant.
Somewhat lacking from his account, however, is discussion of the First World/Third World ecumenical dichotomy discussed in Yacob Tesfai’s Liberation and Orthodoxy: The Promise and Failures of Interconfessional Dialogue (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), and Philip Jenkins’s The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). Both note the shift of Christendom’s center of gravity from the Global North to the Global South, but while Tesfai stresses Third World detachment from the "doctrinal" ecumenical movement in favor of "justice" for the downtrodden, Jenkins reminds us that the tendency of African and Asian Christians to ignore denominational lines in their daily lives should not be confused with liberal positions on sexual morality or even the role of women in the church. Their "ecumenism" is hardly consonant with many of the positions advanced by First World advocates of liberation theology. In this context, Fitzgerald might profitably have addressed the contribution to ecumenism of the independent Bible and charismatic churches that dominate much of the Third World.

Fitzgerald might also have devoted greater attention to criticisms of the World Council of Churches (Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., In One Body through the Cross: The Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2003), 24-25). While he acknowledges that tensions have always existed and continue to do so, his discussion is comparatively brief (119-21). Such matters as sexual morality (the solidarity manifested between evangelicals and Roman Catholics in opposing abortion is cited by the Princeton Proposal as a significant ecumenical achievement) and dialogue with non-Christian faiths would be appropriate topics. Questions might profitably be asked about the contribution of WCC administrators to the ecumenical debate. If bureaucrats can structure political discussions at the United Nations to advance their own agenda, it seems reasonable to assume that they exercise a similar influence over theological discussions at the WCC. Finally, greater attention might have been paid to the process of "reception" by individual churches of ecumenical documents like Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, as Gillian Evans does in Method in Ecumenical Theology: The Lessons So Far (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 182-218. Although Fitzgerald addresses contemporary ecumenical initiatives (193-219), even a reader new to the topic could benefit from greater theological specificity.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Vexed Question of Authority

This is the text of a paper from which I will be speaking at the March 2007 meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Minneapolis. Questions and comments are welcome. I should stress that this is only a point of departure for me and I hope to explore these ideas in greater depth at a later date.

National Denomination or Worldwide Communion?
Ecclesial Authority, Anglican Identity
and the American Episcopal Church, 1953-2003

In the early years of the twenty-first century, with controversy and rumors of schism running rampant within the American Protestant mainline, the Episcopal Church, for so much of its history the embodiment of establishment values and good taste, has finally been forced directly to grapple with the hitherto unresolved nature of the authority by which it determines doctrine. The Church’s evasion of this issue for much of the twentieth century owes much to its eschewal of strict confessional statements and to the singular way in which Episcopalians have understood their status within the American denominational setup. During the fundamentalist-modernist debate of the 1920s, for example, Episcopal Church leaders finessed the issue of Scriptural authority by appealing to the authority of the historic creeds of the Church as the litmus test of orthodoxy, even though this merely postponed the crisis over authority. [1] Though active in ecumenical dialogue, moreover, the Episcopal Church for most of its history has refused to define Christian reunion in exclusively catholic or protestant terms, favoring the notion of itself as the “bridge-church,” resolving the disagreements of the Reformation era.

The changing nature of the debate in the years since the Second World War can be attributed to three main causes. The first relates to the shifting character of the American episcopate. Despite significant theological conflict during the nineteenth century, Episcopal bishops generally constituted a united front in their relations with the outside world. Following the model established by John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York from 1811 to 1830, most eschewed active engagement in the political controversies of the day, whether in matters of economic justice or moral regulation, which helped sustain a sense of unity in the episcopal college. [2] The ecclesiastical authority implicit in the House of Bishops began to fall away during the 1960s, however, as a number of articulate and controversial bishops sought to substitute their prophetic witness for the corporate authority of the Church. Whatever the merits of individual actions (and not all were equally meritorious), together they weakened the ability of the House to affirm a doctrinal standard of any sort and strengthened the belief that doctrine was ultimately determined solely by the legislative fiat of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.

A second contribution to the crisis of authority has been the rise of an Evangelical subculture within American Anglicanism. Although a minority within the Church as a whole, Anglican Evangelicals achieved spectacular successes in a number of parishes during the 1970s, which helped propel a process of denominational renewal that led to the creation of a new seminary and a number of influential missionary and evangelistic agencies. [3] In the process, they developed close ties with Evangelical Anglicans in other parts of the world, instilling in them a much greater appreciation for the catholic nature of the Church. Even as a majority within the Episcopal Church began to question the value of a relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion, Evangelicals sought further to promote it.

The Evangelical commitment to the wider Anglican family demonstrated a commonality of theological outlook and an appreciation of the numerical concentration of the Anglican Diaspora within the nations of the Global South. The spectacular growth of this portion of the Church has evoked a new sense of responsibility on the part of Third World bishops for the doctrinal health of the Anglican Communion and sympathy for those in the United States whom they perceive as persecuted for adhering to traditional teaching. As the theological divide has widened, so the dissenting American minority has increasingly looked for leadership outside the boundaries of the United States, a complete disruption of the American paradigm of denominational conflict in which disputes tend to be resolved by the creation of a new sect. Episcopal congregations that have fled their Church in recent years have sought refuge under the oversight of foreign bishops in other provinces of the Anglican Communion. From the former’s perspective they remain Anglicans submitting to the duly constituted authority of the Church; from the perspective of their opponents, they have defied the only legitimately constituted authority permitted within the United States. Ironically, both cases can be made with a degree of plausibility, given the currently undefined status of authority within the Anglican Communion in general.

Holding Firm to the Sure Word:
Bishops in the postwar Episcopal Church [4]

The years immediately following the Second World War represented the high tide of what Ian Douglas has called the corporatist phase of the Episcopal Church. Under Presiding Bishop Henry Sherrill (1947-1958), the Church consolidated a national ecclesiastical apparatus instituted in 1919, opening branch offices in Connecticut and Chicago in the 1950s and moving to resplendent new offices at 815 Second Avenue in New York City in 1960.[5] The sense of connection between the religious and political establishment was perhaps the strongest that it ever been in the Church’s history, with future radical Paul Moore, elected Suffragan Bishop of Washington in 1963, attesting to the sense of kinship and trust that he felt towards those members of the Kennedy administration “who had had the same upbringing as I, who had attended the same kind of private Church schools and gone on to Harvard and Yale.” [6]

The corporatist mentality was not confined to the national scene and the pastoral component of many bishops’ lives was increasingly compromised by, in the words of one observer, “the exacting routine that governs the hours of a busy executive’s life.” [7] Professional staffs and commissions isolated bishops from the warp and woof of diocesan life, thrusting them ever more and more into circles of like-minded acquaintances. Compounding this problem was a significant theological shift within the Episcopal Church that owed much to the influence of New York’s Union Theological Seminary (UTS), which trained many of the faculty who went on to serve at Episcopal seminaries throughout the country. The most notorious UTS graduate of the era was James Pike, the charismatic dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City (a popular radio broadcaster), elected Bishop of California in 1958. Pike’s subsequent proclaimed unhappiness with classical Christian understanding of such doctrines as the Trinity and the Virgin Birth signaled a new phase in Anglican theology in America and one initiated by a bishop. Taken in conjunction with the emerging social witness of some of his episcopal brethren, it presaged a disintegration of the existing church order. [8]

Though Pike offered the first challenge to the status quo, it fell to John Hines Bishop of Texas from 1945 to 1964, to bring about the formal shift to prophetic leadership. A bishop with a marked distaste for administration, he was the dark horse candidate for Presiding Bishop in 1964, defeating the more establishmentarian Stephen Bayne. Known as a Southern bishop committed to racial reconciliation, Hines caught the imagination of those in the Episcopal Church desirous of breaking down the barriers of race and class. Challenging the episcopal principle of broad local autonomy, Hines pressed for a prophetic and Gospel-centered response to the challenges pose by Southern segregation and working class poverty in the urban North. [9]

If there was a flaw in Hines’ approach, it was that the structures needed to bring about such an all-encompassing transformation had either never existed or were in a process of disintegration. As early as 1958, critics were lamenting the absence of mediating institutions between the diocesan bishop and the national headquarters and that situation only worsened as the 1960s wore on. [10] Conservative and even moderate Episcopal opinion lamented the absence of oversight mechanisms that characterized such racial initiatives as the General Convention Special Project of 1967. [11] Collegiality of the House of Bishops was further undermined by the impulsive activism of such bishops as Paul Moore and by the conflict arising over the pronouncements of Bishop Pike, which culminated in his trial for heresy in 1966. The inconclusive resolution of the latter (the House of Bishops merely censured Pike) did nothing to reconcile Pike’s admirers (including his theological heir John Spong) with his detractors, and only served further to divide the House of Bishops into warring camps. [12]

The precedents established during the Hines’ years (1964-1973) generally informed the actions of the Church over the next thirty years. Although his successor, John Allin – a conservative Southerner opposed to the ordination of women – represented a step back in the eyes of progressives, [13] the overall mood of the House of Bishops favored a continuation of the struggle for full inclusion of those groups perceived as excluded. In the words of Paul Moore, “If a movement of justice or a trend, such as the feminist movement, is of God, the Church should become part of it . . . This is true not only of feminism, but of the peace movement, the ecological movement, and even the demands for gay rights.” [14]

The decision of three retired bishops to anticipate the decision of the General Convention by irregularly ordaining eleven women in Philadelphia in 1974 spoke volumes about the weakness of the Church’s authority although, as with Pike, the House of Bishops censured their brethren’s actions and deemed the ordinations null and void. In 1976, when the General Convention approved the ordination of women, the House of Bishops insisted upon a conscience clause that would protect those who, for theological reasons, felt unable to recognize the validity of female ordination. While for some Anglo-Catholics even this compromise was inadequate, it prevented a wholesale exodus of the more catholic-minded from the Episcopal Church, but it testified to the increasingly polarized understanding of authority that underpinned the ecclesial apparatus. [15]

With the retirement of John Allin in 1985, the stage was set for an increasingly bitter confrontation between the progressive majority in the House of Bishops and a vocal and talented minority of Evangelical bishops who in 1987 founded the Irenaeus Fellowship to uphold the primacy of Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. [16] Theological debates during the late 1980s and early 1990s became increasingly bitter and at the General Convention of 1991 these tensions spilled over into internecine strife. Writing of a 1992 meeting of the House of Bishops, Bishop Alden Hathaway of Pittsburgh prophetically commented: “Unless the bishops honestly and directly face the root issues that divide us, as they divide the church, no amount of process management or interpersonal management can establish working relationships that will provide the pastoral leadership our church desperately needs.” In 1995, ten conservative bishops brought charges against Walter Righter, retired Bishop of Iowa, who had ordained a non-celibate homosexual. The determination of a church court that Righter had violated no doctrine or discipline of the Episcopal Church convinced many conservatives that no appeal to Anglican tradition could now be counted on to sustain their theological beliefs. The stage was thus set for a complete breakdown of collegiality in the House of Bishops.[17]

Making Disciples of All Nations:
The Evangelical Challenge to Authority [18]

Complementing the erosion of institutional authority within the Episcopal Church was the emergence of an Evangelical Anglican community within the Church. The paradigmatic Evangelical event of the nineteenth century had been the departure of a vocal minority of Evangelicals to form the Reformed Episcopal Church and American Evangelicalism had been virtually eradicated by the 1880s. [19] Its subsequent revival owed much to the development of transatlantic relationships with Evangelicals in the Church of England. [20] The most profound influence was English Evangelical John Stott who, in contrast with the historic Anglican emphasis on the Creeds and the Prayer Book, emphasized the vesting of ultimate authority in Scripture. In contrast with much postwar theological debate that stressed the role of early Christian communities in the construction of the Gospel narratives, Stott laid stress on the revelatory and inspirational qualities of the New Testament. Significantly, he set much less store by denominational integrity than was generally the case in Episcopal circles. “[Evangelicals] deplore the proliferation of churches and sects,” Stott declared in 1967, “but at the same time we would point to the impressive unity of evangelical proclamation which exists in spite of it, and which is often overlooked.” [21]

With the encouragement of Stott, Peter Moore and Philip Edgcumbe Hughes organized an American branch of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion in the early 1960s. In response to the Keele Conference of 1967, which helped elevate the status of Evangelicals within the Church of England, the American branch was renamed the Fellowship of Witness in 1968 and based at St. Stephen’s Church in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, whose rector, John Guest, was a born-again English Evangelical. The Fellowship sought to offer Evangelicalism to the wider Church as a model for conversion and renewal, [22] with Philip Hughes maintaining that the Church should be a missionary church, since “genuine authority [is found in] the energy of evangelical witness throughout the whole world,” and indicting bureaucratic structures and centralizing tendencies within the Church as a threat to the autonomy of independent mission societies and newspapers. “One of the greatest threats to the Church’s spirituality today,” Hughes concluded, “is the pursuit of over-organization as a means to the achievement of unity.” [23]

Hostility to centralization in no way presupposed an aversion to institutions. In response to the increasing theological chaos within the Episcopal Church, which had prompted the emergence of a movement for general renewal of the Church, [24] Evangelicals promoted the establishment of the Church’s first new seminary in decades: Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (TESM). Based in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, TESM’s goal was the preparation of candidates for Holy Orders faithful to classical Anglican teaching and committed to congregational renewal. [25] That same year witnessed the establishment of an American affiliate of the South American Missionary Society, which sent its first missionaries to Peru in 1978. [26]

The localization of the renewal movement to southwestern Pennsylvania was enhanced by the election of Alden Hathaway, then president of the Fellowship of Witness, as Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1979. Hathaway offered moral support to the fledgling seminary, even as he championed the renewal movement at the national level, but many bishops proved reluctant to sponsor candidates for ordination to TESM and few staunch Evangelicals were elected to bishoprics during the 1980s. [27] While opportunities for TESM graduates broadened considerably during the 1990s, the seminary’s counter-cultural message and its close ties to Anglican dioceses in Africa and South America, many of whose bishops held advanced degrees from TESM, proclaimed its ambivalent relationship with the already compromised authority of the national Church.

By the early 1990s, many Evangelicals viewed the long-term prospects for renewal of the Church as increasingly unlikely. Unwilling to countenance many of the programs of the national Church, some called for withholding of funds to national agencies. Typifying this view was Father James Simons (a TESM graduate) who in 1993 denounced the failure of the Church to play an active role in mission work of any kind. Simons further added that his active parochial ministry (including social programs) was doing a far more positive work than any initiative planned from New York. “The ministry of 815 Second Avenue may be viable,” he went on, “but who knows? . . . I have never seen a report that shows a correlation between what we send to New York and how lives are being changed.” [28] The same theme was proclaimed by Bishop Fitzsimmons Allison of South Carolina, when he complained that the national Church always placed a low priority on programs devoted to education, evangelism and mission. “Projects of transferred enlightenment or ingenuous claims to hear the innate goodness of another culture are poor substitutes for the good news,” the bishop warned. [29]

If such pronouncements revealed a separatist impulse, the deliberations of the 1998 Lambeth Conference pushed American Evangelicals toward solidarity with the overwhelming majority of Bishops from the Third World. [30] The Conference established benchmarks for Anglican witness that had not previously been enunciated in any coherent fashion and Evangelical Episcopalians could with credibility maintain that the views they held were now far more in harmony with the Communion-wide consensus that the majority view in the Episcopal Church. The late 1990s also witnessed the emergence of a number of renewal organizations determined to confront what they viewed as the erosion of the Biblical foundations of the Faith, most notably the American Anglican Council (1996). [31] Solidarity with like-minded Anglicans worldwide would increasingly come to define the Evangelical modus operandi.

No Other Foundation?
The Anglican Communion and Christian Unity [32]

The divisions that have driven the Episcopal Church to the position that it now occupies must also be viewed from the perspective of the shifting character of the Anglican Communion. In 1953, the Communion was very much a British affair, with most Third World bishops selected by the Church of England or the provinces of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. With the coming of political independence, an indigenous leadership took charge of the provinces of Africa and Asia. Most of the Third World provinces adhered to the same criteria for Christian ministry popular among American Evangelicals and expressed disquiet about the changes that were occurring within the Episcopal Church. [33]

During the 1950s and early 1960s, American Anglicans grew more appreciative of the new potential of their global family as a result of the Anglican Congresses that met in Minneapolis in 1954 and Toronto in 1963 and the appointment of an American bishop, Stephen Bayne, as the first Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion. A believer in the potential of a more united Communion, Bayne repudiated the idea of synodical authority inhering in the Lambeth Conference. “The authority of this meeting, while considerable as expressive of the common mind of the Anglican episcopate, is not coercive or synodical,” he declared in 1963, “A Conference may point the way to desired action; but the essential dynamics of the Anglican Communion remain in the several churches; and the conference retains its character as the central but informal occasion of common counsel among the bishops.” Bayne nevertheless promoted the concept that came to be known as “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ” (MRI) and a number of American dioceses cultivated companion relationships with Third World dioceses that sought to come closer to meeting these goals. [34]

While the emerging ecclesial entities of the Anglican Communion necessarily reflected a great diversity in constitutional structures and understanding of the nature of the Faith by Anglicans worldwide, they generally shared a belief in the Biblical nature of the Catholic faith, the importance of the ecumenical councils of the Early Church to the shaping of Anglican theology, and value of worship according to the forms prescribed by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. [35] Progressive observers like Ian Douglas argue that the search for new ways for Anglicans to relate to one another provoked a reaction within established power structures that disdained any effort to adapt Anglicanism to local cultural realities. “Pluralities and multiple ways of seeing the world are an anathema to modernity,” he writes, “and thus to many who have been in control of the Anglican Communion for most of its history.” [36]

What is debatable about such a proposition is that it assumes the submission of Third World church leaders to an amorphous privileged power structure in the developed world. Since 1988, the Global South has made it very clear that it has an understanding of authority that is universal and prescriptive. [37] While clearly unwelcome to many progressive leaders in the United States, it cannot be dismissed as an attempt by wealthy conservatives in the United States to undermine duly constituted authority structures in the Episcopal Church. [38] The steady collapse of Episcopal Church authority has only accelerated since Lambeth 1998, with the consecration of missionary bishops from the United States by foreign archbishops in 2000 [39] and the decision of the 2003 General Convention to confirm the election of Vicki Gene Robinson, a divorcee who had living openly in a homosexual relationship, as Bishop of New Hampshire,. By approving Robinson, the Episcopal Church publicly committed itself to a course that would dramatically widen the gulf between a majority of Anglicans in the United States and Canada and their co-religionists in Africa and Asia. It would lead to the commissioning of The Windsor Report – a concerted effort to come to grips with the problem of inter-provincial relations regarding disputed theological issues within the Anglican Communion – by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the increasingly vocal assertion by the metropolitans of the Third World provinces for a greater say in Communion-wide affairs.

At first glance, the Episcopalian contention over the boundaries of sexual expression (and the related issue of women in Holy Orders) would seem to be no different from that affecting most mainline American Protestant churches. In the case of the Episcopal Church, however, the debate over authority is not one that can be resolved solely at the national level, given the exterior relationship with other national churches sharing a common Anglican heritage. While many American Protestant denominations adhere to worldwide federations, member churches exert only moral authority over one other. [40] By contrast, the historic Anglican inclination toward conciliarism presents a considerable challenge to those who feel that the authority of the national church must not be compromised by any exterior relationship. [41]

For half a century the Episcopal Church has been moving toward a confrontation over the nature of authority. At issue is not simply a debate over theological interpretation but a widely diverging understanding of ecclesial practice. On the one side stands a largely progressive constituency whose views may be described as autonomist. For them, American Anglicanism is simply a subset of mainstream American Protestantism, adhering to democratic norms of participation and resolving theological controversy through consensus, if possible, but by parliamentary action if necessary. Bishops are viewed, first and foremost, as executive officers charged with the efficient management of an ecclesiastical enterprise. Fraternal bonds with the wider Anglican family are seen as of great importance, but always with the understanding that national church is final arbiter of what is proper Anglican behavior in its locality.

A minority – many of them Evangelicals – favor a confessionalist approach. Confessionalists understand Anglicanism (wherever located) as an expression of Western Christianity. While they do not reject the idea of church democracy, they have serious reservations about leaving determination of doctrine to the mercy of ephemeral parliamentary majorities and accord much greater priority than autonomists to the selection of bishops on the basis of their pastoral and, above all, theological gifts. For confessionalists, the Lambeth Conference takes on a particular significance because it is composed solely of bishops (progressive critics frequently indict the Lambeth Conference precisely because it has no clerical or lay representation). While there is room for diversity on such matters as liturgy, there is no such discretion when it comes to matters of doctrine. Seeking the approval of the other provinces for dramatic departures from the existing church order is less a courtesy than a necessity. While a process of “reception” can be constituted for ecclesiastical innovations that do not raise immediate objections, this cannot be entered into unilaterally. [42] Autonomy, for the confessionalist, remains heavily circumscribed in the areas of faith and morals.


[1] Robert W. Prichard, “The Place of Doctrine in the Episcopal Church,” in Ephraim Radner and George R. Sumner, eds., Reclaiming Faith: Essays on Orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church and the Baltimore Declaration (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 28-35; William H. Katerberg, “William T. Manning: Apostolic Order and Evangelical Truth,” in Modernity and the Dilemma of North American Anglican Identities, 1880-1950 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), 107-134.
[2] On Hobart’s philosophy and influence on the polity of the Episcopal Church, see Robert B. Mullin, Episcopal Vision / American Reality: High Church Theology and Social Thought in Evangelical America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986). Such episcopal detachment frequently drove their more socially aware clergy to distraction. See Jeremy Bonner, “‘An Account of My Stewardship’: Mercer Green Johnston, the Episcopal Church and the Social Gospel in Newark, N.J., 1912-1916.” Anglican and Episcopal History 72:3 (September 2003): 298-321.
[3] It is interesting to compare this process with Joel Carpenter’s account of the shift from separatism to cultural engagement by American fundamentalists from the 1920s to the 1940s. See Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

[4] [A bishop] must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it. Titus 1:9.
[5] Ian T. Douglas, “Whither the National Church? Reconsidering the Mission Structure of the Episcopal Church,” in Robert B. Slocum, ed., A New Conversation: Essays on the Future of Theology and the Episcopal Church (New York: Church Publishing, 1999), 60-78; Henry Knox Sherrill, Among Friends (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962), 225-234; Robert Prichard, A History of the Episcopal Church (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1999), 229-234.
[6] Paul Moore, Presences: A Bishop’s Life in the City (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997), 207.
[7] Powel M. Dawley, The Episcopal Church and Its Work (Greenwich, CT: Seabury Press, 1955), 129.
[8] Robert W. Prichard, “The Place of Doctrine in the Episcopal Church,” 35-43; William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne, The Bishop Pike Affair: Scandals of Conscience and Heresy, Relevance and Solemnity in the Contemporary Church (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 5-20.
[9] Kenneth Kesselus, John E. Hines, Granite on Fire (Austin, Texas: Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), 202-206, 232-3, 240-271. On Episcopal attitudes to civil rights, see Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000).
[10] “The bishop who is a tyrant and the one who is weak and indecisive, are in the American Church deprived of . . . that moderating influence that in Canada and the other parts of the Anglican Communion come from the metropolitan and other bishops of the province.” Revd. Canon Albert duBois, “The Provinces: Groupings of Weakness Under a Canon of Straw,” Living Church, June 15, 1958. On institutional decline during the 1960s, see Douglas, “Whither the National Church?”
[11] Kesselus, John E. Hines, 272-286, 303-345.
[12] Moore, Presences, 173-91; Stringfellow and Towne, The Bishop Pike Affair, 57-2, 140-159.
[13] As John Spong charmingly put it: “John Maury Allin would succeed John Elbridge Hines. It was like having George Wallace succeed Abraham Lincoln.” John S. Spong, Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1999), 232.
[14] Moore, Presences, 258.
[15] Prichard, A History of the Episcopal Church, 255-257; Spong, Here I Stand, 235-236. “Allin’s brand of leadership, concerned as it was with reconciling and placating, turned the House of Bishops into the Hall of Compromise,’ writes Walter Righter, “Efforts to compromise produced more tension than reconciliation.” See A Pilgrim’s Way (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), 90.
[16] These included William Frey of Colorado, FitzSimmons Allison of South Carolina and Alden Hathaway of Pittsburgh.
[17] Prichard, A History of the Episcopal Church, 283-293; Spong, Here I Stand, 310-312, 388-390, 401-409; Righter, A Pilgrim’s Way, 35-37, 55-84, 100-114, 128-131. Hathaway is quoted in the newspaper of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. See Trinity, March 1992.
[18] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19.
[19] On nineteenth century Evangelicalism, see Allen C. Guelzo, “Ritual, Romanism and Rebellion: The Disappearance of the Evangelical Episcopalians, 1853-1873.” Anglican and Episcopal History 62:4 (December 1993): 551-577; Ibid., For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994); Diana H. Butler, Standing Against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
[20] This relationship worked both ways. English Evangelicalism was at low ebb prior to the revivals led by Billy Graham in the early 1950s. One of the products of these revivals was John Guest, who later came to the United States and became a leading voice in Anglican Evangelicalism. See Randle Manwaring, From Controversy to Co-Existence: Evangelicals in the Church of England, 1914-1980 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 87-95.
[21] John R. W. Stott, “Jesus Christ Our Teacher and Lord: Towards Solving the Problem of Authority,” in J. I. Packer, ed., Guidelines: Anglican Evangelicals Face the Future (London: Falcon Books, 1967), 39-66. For a profile of Stott, see Roger Steer, Church on Fire: The Story of Anglican Evangelicals (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1998), 268-76.
[22] See http://www.episcopalian.org/efac/articles/efachst.html. On the Keele Conference see Manwaring, From Controversy to Co-Existence, 174-90.
[23] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, “The Credibility of the Church: Understanding the Church in an Ecumenical Age,” in Packer, Guidelines, 147-79 (quotes on 151 and 157).
[24] Alistair E. McGrath, The Renewal of Anglicanism (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1993), 49-64. Renewal took both charismatic and non-charismatic forms. On the former, see Dennis and Rita Bennett, The Holy Spirit and You: A Study-Guide to the Spirit-Filled Life (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1971). One of the popular texts for non-charismatics was Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979).
[25] TESM was founded in 1976 and moved to Ambridge in 1978. Despite the Evangelical ethos that motivated its founders, a decision was made early in the seminary’s existence that mutual respect would be shown to the three ‘streams’ of Anglican liturgical practice: the Evangelical; the Anglo-Catholic; and the Charismatic. Thus, while TESM undertook to prepare women for Holy Orders, it also guaranteed that the consciences of Anglo-Catholic seminarians – who opposed the ordination of women – would be respected. See Steer, Church on Fire, 348-361 and Janet Leighton, Lift High the Cross: A History of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1995).
[26] http://www.episcopalian.org/efac/articles/efachst.html.
[27] The exceptions were Terrence Kelshaw, a former TESM professor, and John Howe, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, who were both elevated to the episcopate in 1989.
[28] Simons’ article, entitled “Parish-Eye View of Ministry and Structure,” first appeared in the newsletter Anglican Opinion. It was reproduced in the diocesan newspaper. See Trinity, September 1993.
[29] Fitzsimmons Allison, “Evangelism: The Transformation of Trivialisation,” in Timothy Bradshaw, ed., Grace and Truth in the Secular Age (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 119-27 (quote on 125).
[30] See the essays in After Lambeth in Mission and Ministry 11:2 (Spring 2000).

[31] http://www.americananglican.org/site/c.ikLUK3MJIpG/b.564139/k.A6A2/How_We_Began.htm.
[32] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11.
[33] On the origins of the Communion, see Stephen Platten, Augustine’s Legacy: Authority and Leadership in the Anglican Communion (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1997), 57-72. The implications of the rise of Christianity in the Global South are discussed by Philip Jenkins in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
[34] John Booty, An American Apostle: The Life of Stephen Fielding Bayne, Jr. (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 96-119. The memorandum is quoted on 98.
[35] Philip H. Thomas, “A Family Affair: The Pattern of Constitutional Authority in the Anglican Communion,” in Stephen W. Sykes, ed., Authority in the Anglican Communion: Essays Presented to Bishop John Howe (Toronto, Canada: Anglican Book Centre, 1987), 119-143; David Hammid, “The Nature and Shape of the Contemporary Anglican Communion,” in Ian T. Douglas and Kwok Pui-Lan, eds., Beyond Colonial Anglicanism: The Anglican Communion in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Church Publishing Inc., 2001), 71-98.
[36] Ian. T. Douglas, “The Exigency of Times and Occasions: Power and Identity in the Anglican Communion,” in Douglas and Pui-Lan, Beyond Colonial Anglicanism, 25-46 (quote on 30).
[37] See http://www.globalsouthanglican.org/index.php for some examples. Some centralization of function has also taken place within the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. See Platten, Augustine’s Legacy, 133-148.
[38] This is the subtext of James Solheim’s Diversity or Disunity? Reflections on Lambeth 1998 (New York: Church Publishing, 1999).
[39] http://anglicansonline.org/archive/news/articles/2000/000130a.html. One of those bishops was John Rodgers, retired dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.
[40] Some American denominations also have members in other nations. In the United Methodist Church, for example, 25 percent of the bishops, 20 percent of the laity and 15 percent of the clergy belong to jurisdictions outside the United States (which are also among the fastest growing). American-born leaders continue to exercise denominational authority, however. For statistics on the United Methodists, see http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=6&mid=2119#8
[41] See The Windsor Report, Section C, Paragraphs 97-104, and the discussion of the nature of Anglican conciliarism in Frederick H. Shriver, “Councils, Conferences and Synods,” in Stephen Sykes, John Booty and Jonathan Knight, eds., The Study of Anglicanism (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 202-216.
[42] Note the discussion of the process by which women’s ordination was accorded reception status within the Anglican Communion in The Windsor Report, Section A, Paragraphs 12-21.