Windsor Continuation Group - Preliminary Observations: Part One

23 July 2008 - Print Version

Part One

A presentation at the Lambeth Conference

This document is NOT a report by the Windsor Continuation Group. It constitutes their preliminary observations on the life of the Communion and of the current state of responses to the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and offering some suggestions about the way forward. These observations are offered to the Lambeth Conference for conversation and testing.

Are they an accurate description of the current state of our life?

1. Where we are: the severity of the situation

(a) The reality of our current life is complex; presenting issues are not always the issues that we are actually dealing with. Doctrine, theology, ecclesiology, ethics, anthropology, culture, history, political and global realities are all dimensions. There are competing value systems at work and a lack of clarity about a shared value framework.

(b) Much has been undertaken in the Communion through and in response to the Windsor Process, but as a Communion, we appear to remain at an impasse. There is inconsistency between what has been agreed, and what has been done.  A gap between promise and follow through. Cf.:

* Resolutions at General Convention (June 2006), HoB at Camp Allen (March 2005), New Orleans (September 2007)

*Undertakings and affirmations of the primates (Dromantine, January 2005; Dar-es-Salaam, February 2007)

*Resolutions and responses by the House of Bishops and General Synod in Canada (2004, 2006, 2007)

The gap is manifested in:

*Inconsistency between the stated intent and the reality – including the use and abuse of language, e.g. moratorium, “initiating interventions”.

*The implications of requests and responses are either are either not fully thought through or they are disregarded.  The consequences of actions have not always been adequately.

(c)  Breakdown of Trust

* There are real fears of wider agenda – over creedal issues ( the authority of scripture, the application of doctrine in life and ethics and even Christology and soteriology); other issues, such as lay presidency and theological statements that go far beyond the doctrinal definitions of the historic creeds, lie just over the horizon. Positions and arguments are becoming more extreme: not moving towards one another, relationships in the Communion continue to deteriorate; there is little sense of mutual accountability and a fear that vital issues are not being addressed in the most timely and effective manner.

* Through modern technology, there has been active fear-mongering, deliberate distortion and demonising. Politicisation has overtaken Christian discernment.

*Suspicions have been raised about the purpose, timing and outcomes of the Global Anglican Future Conference; there is some perplexity about the establishment of the Gafcon Primates’ Council and of FOCA which, with withdrawal from participation at the Lambeth Conference, has further damaged trust.

* There are growing patterns of Episcopal congregationalism throughout the communion at parochial, diocesan and provincial level. Parishes feel free to choose from whom they will accept Episcopal ministry; bishops feel free to make decisions of great controversy without reference to existing collegial structures. Primates make provision for Episcopal leadership in territories outside their own Province.

* There is distrust of the Instruments of Communion and uncertainty about their capacity to respond to the situation.

*Polarisation of attitudes in the Churches of the Communion, not just n the current situation – felt and expressed by conservative and liberal alike.

(d) Turmoil in The Episcopal Church
*There has been development from individual members leaving congregations, to congregations leaving parishes and dioceses, to dioceses seeking to leave provinces.

*Parties within the Episcopal Church have sought allies within the wider Communion, who are seen as only too willing to respond.

*Litigation and interventions have become locked in a vicious spiral – each side seeing the actions of the other as provoking and requiring response.

*At this time it would appear that divisions in the United States will play out in the wider Communion, (particularly in Canada).

(e) All this amounts to a diminishing sense of Communion and impoverishing our witness to Christ, placing huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion.

(f) Such turmoil affects our relations with our ecumenical partners, many of whom face similar tensions. Some partners are beginning to raise questions about the identity of their Anglican partner. In the light of the ecumenical movement, there can no longer be tensions in one Communion that do not have wider repercussions across the whole Christian family.

1 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    What is so complex about the Anglican situation?

    The Primate of Sudan sees the simplicity of the solution: Gene Robinson must resign!

    What commerce do those who obey God and seek to live by His Word have with those who hold the Word in contempt?

    From the perspective of the secular non-believing world, the Church’s future course is clear. Do exactly what GAFCON has done, separate yourselves from nominal Christians so that God can make you a clear example to the world!

    Let me illustrate this necessity from a lesson of history. The great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was followed by a tsunami and fire which destroyed most of the city and devastated outlaying areas. The death toll is estimated to be between 60,000 to 100,000 people. The disaster struck on the morning of All Saints, a feast day that the Catholics of Portugal observed. When word of the devastation reached other European countries, it became a topic of heated discussion among the intelligentsia who pondered how to reconcile the existence of such an evil with God’s goodness (theodicy). Yet no one today discusses the miraculous preservation of the Christians in the Indian Ocean who survived the tsumani in December 2004 because their Muslim neighbors insisted that they celebrate the Holy Nativity in the mountains.

    What is the difference between these 2 tsunamis?  In the second situation, Christians were identifiably separate.