Episcopally Led But Synodically Governed

As we begin the last week, as always, the Lambeth Conference is a mixed bag. The daily Bible studies and Eucharists are splendid, the “indaba” discussion groups less than successful. They are a “westernized version” of the African conversation model with way too much “process,” smaller group work and even newsprint! Some groups have rebelled a bit, but more of us are making the best of it with some minor alterations.

The “reflections” process will produce some kind of paper at the end of the Conference, but with the wide variety of topics and approaches, it’s hard to see how it will be anything but pretty bland and generic. Or, alternatively, sharp and hurtful to some. Not a good alternative.

The “Windsor Continuation Group” is the most problematic from my perspective. I could probably sign off on “the Covenant” (though we will not be asked to here) pretty much as is, with some simplification of the “process” steps in the Appendix, but the Windsor Continuation Group is tasked with managing things until the Covenant process is complete in several years time.

I have no real problem with the Communion-wide “Faith and Order Commission.” It is not intended (as the press had said) to be like the Vatican “Holy Office” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) with all kinds of powers to censure and discipline. It is simply the rolling together of the current International Anglican Doctrinal Commission and the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (upon which I serve). 

I don’t think merging them is a great idea — there is more than enought theological and ecumenical work for both Commissions — but this has been a done deal for some time, partly because of the cost of both Commissions. We need some kind of clearing house to which to refer matters of doctrine and discipline for discussion. The fact that we have not had such a thing in the past is why The Episcopal Church did not do more “consultation” in matters theological dealing with issues of human sexuality years ago.

The suggested “Pastoral Forum” is more problematic. It’s to be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and serve as an advisory group to the various Provinces when there are internal disputes and difficulties which affect the whole Communion. Such schemes have been tried (or at least floated) in recent years and have always failed. I’m not sure why this one will have any greater chance of success.

I believe we should ask everyone to do the best they can to honor the spirit of the Windsor Report while the Covenant process continues and ‘cut each other some slack’ until that time. All of us are working hard to maintain Communion while responding faithfully and fairly to our local contexts. That’s what Anglicanism is supposed to do and be, it seems to me.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to have this a “non-legislative” Conference was a very wise one. If we were “voting” on such matters this week, we would leave here as divided and wounded as we were in 1998. As it is, we will discuss all the ‘hard issues,’ give our input, and leave the matter for cooler heads to digest and deal with through the “Covenant Design Group” and the “Windsor Continuation Group.”

As always, any final decision will have to come through our separate Provincial structures (in our case, General Convention) for a vote by all the people of God, not just bishops and Primates! Thank God for a Communion which is “episcopally-led” but finally “synodically-governed!”

7 Responses to “Episcopally Led But Synodically Governed”

  1. Tom Rightmyer Says:

    Thank you, Bishop Epting. I remember our meeting with the Reformed Episcopal and Anglican Province bishops four years ago, and hope that after GC 2009 some way can be found for a more general conversation that includes representatives of the Episcopal Church and of the various churches under the ecclesiastical authority of other provinces of our communion, the REC, APA, and others who claim an Anglican heritage.

    Tom Rightmyer in Asheville, NC

  2. LaVallette Says:

    Cop Out!!

  3. Scott Says:

    It would seem to me that the general convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States has spoken and has expressed its unwillingness to change direction for the sake of the communion. On matter of faith and morals it would seem to me that the bishops should be the leaders and to defer to the general convention is to as said above be a copout.

    It is becoming clear that people are being killed because the Episcopal Church in the United States is at least to some degree calling Sodomy as holy. Bishops with jurisdiction have without any others agreement the authority or power to not have any more bishops who actively engage in Sodomy. They have the authority to stop the blessing of Sodomy within their jurisdictions. They have the power to not sit in college with those who call Sodomy holy. In short the bishops have the power to stop new bishops in active Sodomy and to stop blessing Sodomy. I truly feel they do not desire to stop such actions but are more than willing to hide behind general convention to avoid responsibility for their action.

    I am inclined to think that those who consider Sodomy as holy should remove themselves today from the Lambeth Conference. It would show a willingness to accept consequences for ones belief. If, as I expect, the Anglican Communion does break up, it is not the conservatives who are the cause, albeit they may be the ones who feel forced to leave.

  4. ecubishop Says:

    What many of us call “Holy” are loving, faithful, and committed relationships between adult human beings.

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