What Would Bring Joy to our Lord’s Heart?

The Lambeth Conference ended, from my perspective, in a somewhat mixed way. The overall spirit was good and a vast improvement over 1998. The non-legislative format helped, as did perhaps the absence of some 200 “GAFCON bishops” who would certainly have been less satisfied with the format than the over 600 of us who were there.


Deep listening did indeed take place on all “sides” and a greater appreciation for one another’s ministry contexts and faithfulness was evident. Again, the Bible study and “indaba” conversation groups contributed hugely to this spirit.


Yet, in the closing plenary the Archbishop of Canterbury not only gave the floor to Metropolitan Kallistos, an English Orthodox ecumenical observer, who seemed to want us to reaffirm the 1998 Lambeth resolution I.10 on homosexuality, which Rowan Williams had already publicly stated we did not need to, nor would we, do. It remains what it is – a resolution of the last Lambeth Conference which undoubtedly reflects the position of the vast majority of Anglicans (or at least Anglican bishops) around the world.


And Dr. Williams himself once again singled us out – at least indirectly – as the source of the Anglican Communion’s difficulties with scarce reference to Provinces invading US dioceses, a process which began well before the election of the present Bishop of New Hampshire. The closing Eucharist and sermon at Canterbury Cathedral left a good deal to be desired, save a wonderful moment when the names of seven martyrs of the Melanesian Brotherhood were enshrined in the Cathedral’s “chapel of saints and martyrs of our own day” complete with a solemn procession and chanting of the Litany of the Saints by Melanesian monastics of several traditions. Deeply moving.


So, in some ways, we end as we began. The Episcopal Church is still in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a full member of the Anglican Communion. We will continue to work with the “Windsor Continuation Process,” the development of some kind of Anglican Covenant,  and live for a time with moratoria on authorized rites for the blessing of same sex unions and consents to the election of non-celibate homosexual persons to the episcopate. We shall see if rogue bishops will live up to their part of the bargain by honoring the third moratorium on the crossing of diocesan borders illegally.


My prayer is that the bigger issues of evangelism and mission, poverty and the environment, ecumenical and inter-religious relations are given half as much attention by this Communion as our endless squabbling over homosexuality and the development of an “Anglican Covenant.” These things, at least, would bring joy to our Lord’s heart!         

14 Responses to “What Would Bring Joy to our Lord’s Heart?”

  1. FranIAm Says:

    What would bring joy to our Lord’s heart? Unity? Truth? Love? Compassion?

    Deep sigh.

    Not division, strife, hate, exclusion… I think.

    As always, I pray and try to walk with mercy and peace.

    Great post – they all are.

  2. formerly a lifelong episcopalian Says:

    What you see as “invasion”, I quite frankly saw as shelter. In addition, we chose CANA, CANA did not invade us. We considered many options, including just being an independent church. Since we left we’ve planted five new congregations in northern VA alone — something we were not allowed to do before lest we upset the delicate balance between liberals and conservatives. Quite honestly, most of us feel set free. We continue to send missionaries all over the world, we work with other Christians, we continue to build houses in Mississippi, support orphans across the globe and proclaim a crucified and risen Christ to a world that sorely needs it.

    For the record, Bishop Lee attempted to keep the dissenting Virginia congregations as close as possible. I still respect him and did not envy his position. The diocese and the leaders of those congregations met for over a year to hammer out a compromise, a way to acknowledge our differences and came to the hard conclusion that a degree of separation was necessary. The then new Presiding Bishop swept that aside with one phone call. 815 saw to it that we were driven as far away as was humanly possible. In the end 815’s policy cost the Diocese of VA over a million dollars and we were rebuffed every time we offered a compromise.

    Finally, dismissing the absence of over 200 bishops who represent over half the world’s Anglicans is also not surprising. The Episcopal Church has dismissed a lot over the last five years. It is certainly dismissive of those who do not concur with the “new thing”, especially those within TEC. I have to agree with the Ugandan Bishop who believes that only in their absence would they be heard at all.

  3. ecubishop Says:

    First of all, I’m glad you feel “set free.” For freedom Christ has set us free. I have always felt that people need to go where they need to go, denominationally. The Episcopal Church, while spiritual home for many of us, is not for everyone.

    Secondly if “the new Presiding Bishop swept” anything aside legally you can be sure it was on the best legal advice she could find, and my guess is, any PB would have done exactly the same thing. Whether it was/is right or wrong can be debated, but one can only act on the best advice available and pray for the best.

    Finally, I did not mean to be “dismissive” of those bishops who did not attend Lambeth. We missed them and prayed for them regularly. I only meant that the relative “smoothness” of the Conference was probably only possible (if we are honest) by their absence. I do not agree that “only in their absence would they be heard at all.” They were certainly heard in 1998. We lost every vote.

  4. Richard Says:

    Are all anglican’s mired in the bureaucracy of their denomination? Where is Christ in all of this, and the simplicity of the Gospel? All we, out here, would see Jesus.

  5. tired Says:

    “…a process which began well before the election of the present Bishop of New Hampshire.”

    But as we know, the troubles did not begin with that election: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2184

  6. Jim Hammond Says:

    Regarding, “formerly a lifelong Episcopalian” post, I think it is very important to restate, now for the umpteenth time, spin from the CANA camp notwithstanding, that it was the CANA churches who first left the bargaining table and went to court, not the Diocese of Virginia, and not the PB’s office. This action on the part of the CANA churches is what caused the discussions to come to an end, and the court battle to begin. This action was taken by the CANA camp as a direct slap in the face to Bp. Lee who overtly worked to shelter and provide safe space for the CANA churches for years. Several of us, myself specifically included in this number, directly offered to bring presentments against some of the CANA leaders many years before the split, and in fact prior to 2003, but on each occasion were asked to demur by Bp. Lee. To honor Bp. Lee’s desire to provide safety and shelter to this group of dissident clergy, many of whom for years were leading their congregations to withhold any financial support of the diocese, such presentments were never brought forward — but only because Bp. Lee asked us not so to do. His reward for providing this safe harbor for the CANA crowd was their departure to form CANA.

    For the record, one more time, and this is fact, not fancy, truth, not spin — the CANA churches were the first ones to court.

  7. ecubishop Says:

    Thanks, Jim. Yes, that is certainly my understanding.

  8. formerly a lifelong episcopalian Says:

    I will have to disagree strongly.

    All the CANA churches did was file the results of their vote with the court – that was not the same as suing – in legal terms – which is the language we are using. It may seem like semantics to you, but it meant nothing more than you going down and asking for a building permit. It doesn’t mean you are going to build anything. After the vote was filed nothing changed, legally with the property and the CANA churches were still hoping to negotiate. The vote could have sat in the Fairfax County courthouse for years and nothing would have happened. It would have been a yellowed piece of paper at the bottom of a filing cabinet.

    At that time we were also filing the vote under the mistaken impression that the Diocese of Virginia and Bishop Lee would keep their word and abide by the protocol the committee selected by the Bishop had agreed upon unanimously. A vote was one of the steps outlined in the protocol. At every stage, the CANA churches offered to negotiate. At every turn we have been rebuffed by the Episcopal Church and its lawyers.

    Now, with one more trial to go the prospects for TEC winning in Virginia look bleak, to say the least. I recommend you read the decisions if you want the full story of how poorly the case was argued for the Episcopal Church. In the rather sterile language of the law, the decisions by Judge Bellows were strong rebukes. The Episcopal Church wanted all or nothing and it looks like the latter is what they will get.

    This is the point where I applaud Bishop Lee, he had laid out a pastorally thoughtful course, one which I vocally defended following in front of the entire congregation at parish meetings and one which was upended by “the new sheriff in town” (reportedly Bishop Lee’s words) and her lawyers. How different things would look today had his advice been followed. The leadership of the Episcopal Church chose the advice of lawyers over that of one of its three most experienced bishops. It seems clear now, that the leadership chose poorly.

    There are points in conflicts where even “facts” cannot be agreed upon. It is the nature of conflict. I’m sorry its come to that. I’ll say no more on this as it seems clear there is probably no point in discussing this further.

  9. formerly a lifelong episcopalian Says:

    I will add something different. After I finished writing my last section I looked again at the title of this section. It is clear this conflict does not “bring joy to our Lord’s heart”. For this I am truly sorry. It is a statement that should convict us all. As I’ve watched it it is clear to me this conflict is the consequence of many fallen and sinful people acting in ways they think are faithful. That last statement was meant to cut both ways and if you think you are without sin, by all means, cast the first stone.

    Ultimately, it may take standing before the risen Lord to change our hearts.

    For those I have sinned against, I ask for forgiveness…for those who have sinned against me — according to my fallen understanding — I forgive. I don’t know what more I can do.

  10. ecubishop Says:

    I would associate myself entirely with your last paragraph, my friend.
    Kyrie eleison…

  11. tired Says:

    I concur formerly.

    IMHO, it is always good to have the original documents for consideration – here is a scan of the front page of the standstill agreement of the churches with the DioVA, which expressly permitted reporting the vote to the court:

    Click to access LIT_Standstill%20Agreement.pdf

  12. Dave+ Says:

    Dear Bishop,

    Name calling is entirely inappropriate, particularly for one called to pursue ecumenical relationships. Calling brother bishops “rogues” is not helpful to any conversation, nor does disparaging those with whom you have deep disagreements (by seeming to gratefully dismiss their absence at Lambeth as well) “bring joy to the Lord’s heart.” TEC also needs to stop taking pride in our self-appointed role of martyr in all of this.

    Perhaps it is time for both sides to find that which brings true joy to our Lord: a humble (may I be bold as to say broken?) and contrite heart. I’m not seeing, or hearing, this much in either pole of the discussion.

    We as TEC have publicly said that we have moratoria on SSBs in place because GC hasn’t approved any public rite, but individual dioceses have–thus giving those who disagree with TEC the (probably appropriate) impression that we are talking out both sides of our mouth. So, while individual dioceses and/or parishes can ignore the vote of GC on public SSBs under the rubric of “pastoral necessity”, individual dioceses/parishes cannot choose to affiliate (using the above rubric as justification) with another province without the threat of legal action. So, no legal or canonical action threatened against former, but legal and/or canonical action is taken against the latter. And I wonder why we seem two-faced to the GAFCON group.

    This is not the sign of a humble heart, nor are the current active incursions.

    I pray that we all approach and seek God with a humble and contrite heart, of course this means taking serious stock of ourselves and ensuring we are seeking that his will be done, not ours.

    I will definitely be praying for those at both poles of the argument, all of our leaders, and myself in these days and years to come to discover the spirit of true humility.

  13. ecubishop Says:

    You’re right. “Rogue” bishops was unnecessary.

  14. formerly a lifelong episcopalian Says:

    Well said Dave+. This is one of the only sites I hear any effort at humility. I am on the side of those dissenting from the actions of TEC, but I take no pleasure at the overheated rhetoric from those on “my” side. There are still many ways to do this…will anyone have the courage to take the road that has definitely been less-traveled.

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