A London-based Anglican Communion panel recommended on Oct. 13 that dissenting parishes in the diocese of New Westminster be granted alternative episcopal oversight but should also resume contributing to the diocese and work toward reconciliation.
The group, called the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference, suggested that the diocese grant the visiting bishop delegated authority to conduct visitations and confirmations and that the licences of newly-ordained clergy should be signed by the visitor and the diocesan bishops.
Several parishes in the Vancouver-based diocese have protested its 2002 decision to permit blessing ceremonies for gay couples.
The panel did not approve the dissidents’ call for an outside bishop with full jurisdiction. It also said “the congregations concerned should be willing to regularize their connections with the diocese,” including attendance at synod and payment of assessments.
It also said the diocese should end disciplinary action against clergy and not pursue civil legal action against the parishes.
In a statement, Dean Peter Elliott, who is acting bishop until Bishop Michael Ingham returns from a sabbatical in December, noted that the episcopal oversight plan supported by the panel was one developed by the Canadian house of bishops in 2004. He added that the diocese saw no difficulty with the panel’s recommendations.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, also welcomed the report’s recommendations.
“This is the first report the panel has issued and their diligence in seeking the truth and their concern that all voices be heard is an important model for the Communion. I am also very appreciative of the panel’s clarity over matters of jurisdiction and oversight and I am pleased that they have supported the understanding of those concepts that is shared throughout the communion,” said Archbishop Hutchison in a statement.
“I believe this report represents an important milestone in the ongoing dialogue in Canada. I ask that all the parties involved renew their efforts at reconciliation as the report envisages and seek the healing of divisions and the unity that our Lord so sincerely desires for the Church.”
However, conservative Canadian Anglicans said the panel’s recommendations “fall short” of providing “adequate protection” to dissenting parishes.
“We are grateful that the Panel Report twice quotes section 151 of the Windsor Report which makes clear that ‘adequacy’ is defined by those who are vulnerable- “this oversight must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community, so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership,” the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) said in a statement. “However, it is unfortunate that despite this recognition in the report, the recommendations fall short of providing such adequate protection…” (ANiC was formed in 2005 and includes Canadian Anglicans “in a state of serious theological dispute and impaired or broken communion” with the national church or their diocesan bishop. Among its members are parishioners from dissenting parishes in New Westminster.”)
The primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who is critical of same-sex blessings, also issued a statement saying that the panel “has failed to understand the political and theological reality of the situation in which the applicants find themselves.”
He said: “It would be better that the panel not simply reject the call for alternative ‘jurisdiction,’ but rather recommend that some aspect of the bishop’s jurisdiction be ‘ceded’ to the Province.”
Meanwhile, a meeting of Global South primates (national Anglican leaders), held Sept. 19-22 in Kigali, Rwanda, criticized the Episcopal Church’s General Convention response to the Windsor Report and announced that “some of us will not be able to recognize” the U.S. church’s next presiding bishop – a woman – “as a primate at the table with us” at the next Anglican primates’ meeting, set for February 2007 in Tanzania.
The communique expresses regret that the convention “gave no clear embrace of the minimal recommendations of the Windsor Report. The Windsor Report was published in October 2005 by the Lambeth Commission on communion, created by the Archbishop of Canterbury to seek ways of arresting a schism within the Anglican Communion over the issue of sexuality.
The statement noted that 20 of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces were represented at the Rwanda meeting, but signatories among the primates in attendance were not included with the statement. It is unclear how many, or which, primates endorsed the communique.
According to the communique, the 20 provinces represented were: Bangladesh, Burundi, Central Africa, Church of South India, Congo, Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and Middle East, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Southern Africa, South East Asia, Southern Cone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa, and the West Indies.
The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will become the first woman to lead an Anglican province when she formally takes office on Nov. 4.
Referring to Anglicans who disagree with more-liberal attitudes toward homosexuality, the Kigali communique asserts that she “cannot represent those dioceses and congregations who are abiding by the teaching of the Communion” and proposed that another bishop, “chosen by these dioceses, be present at the meeting so that we might listen to their voices during our deliberations.”
After her election, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams sent his greetings to Bishop Jefferts Schori offering his “prayers and good wishes as she takes up a deeply demanding position at a critical time.”
He noted that she will bring “many intellectual and pastoral gifts to her new work,” and acknowledged, with gratitude, “the strength of her commitment to mission and to the Millennium Development Goals,” but also recognized that her election would have “an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican Primates.”
The Global South steering committee is chaired by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a leading critic of recent actions taken by Anglican provinces that affirm and uphold the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, distanced himself from the communique. Although 20 Anglican provinces were represented at the Kigali meeting, not all the attendees endorsed the resulting communique and Archbishop Ndungane was unaware of its contents or planned dissemination, he said in a Sept. 24 statement. The archbishop was present at the meeting but was not consulted on the document, which contained parts “not consonant with the position of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa” whose bishops unanimously issued a strong call to work for unity within the Anglican Communion, in early September. In particular, Archbishop Ndungane dissociated the Southern African Province – one of 12 Anglican Provinces in Africa – from proposals to develop alternative church structures in America, and to sideline Bishop Jefferts Schori.
He also chided the group for being “so dominated by an inordinate influence from the United States” rather than learning the lessons of black and liberation theology and black consciousness, in order to concentrate on their own priorities.