Monday, May 22, 2006

Position Statement from "Network" Bishops

At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003, just moments after consent was given to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire, over twenty bishops stood in the House of Bishops and made this declaration:

“The bishops who stand before you are filled with sorrow. This body, in willfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony, has departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ. This body has denied the plain teaching of Scripture and the moral consensus of the Church throughout the ages. This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world, brothers and sisters who have pleaded with us to maintain the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality.

“With grief too deep for words, the bishops who stand before you must reject this action of the 74th Convention of the Episcopal Church.”

They went on to say that they made this declaration as “faithful Episcopalians, and members of this House.”

The Bishops of the Anglican Communion Network reaffirm this statement in its entirety.
As the Primates of the Anglican Communion warned in October of 2003, if the consecration given consent by the action of General Convention proceeded, it “will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.” Sadly, this very thing has happened.

It is important to understand that the issues of sexuality are not alone, or even primarily, the cause of this rupture. Rather, a crisis of faith runs deep in the Episcopal Church over the uniqueness of Jesus as Savior and Lord, the sacred authority of the Apostles’ teaching in the Holy Scriptures, and the responsibility Christians have to act in charity and accountability with each other. All these have been relativized and, in turn, this “accommodation” to the culture of North American individualism has been the context in which division has already occurred and may yet continue.

What is now to be done?

The issue for the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June 2006 is whether the 2003 decision can be reversed and the tear in the fabric of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be repaired. Failing this reversal, the state of impaired or broken communion among those formerly together in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be expected to become permanent. We, the Network Bishops, are prepared to be part of the efforts to reverse the situation, precisely because we are committed both to the Anglican Communion and the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, and because we long to be instruments of healing and reconciliation in the face of division.

To that end, we unanimously support the recommendations of the Windsor Report as the basis on which our divisions may begin to be mended. We pledge to work with all bishops of this Church and of the Communion who also support the Windsor report, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates in particular, in working toward greater unity and mutual responsibility under Scripture and within the Anglican heritage.

The Rt. Rev. Keith Lynn Ackerman, SSC, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. Daniel W. Herzog, Bishop of the Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N Steenson, Bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande
The Rt. Rev. David J. Bena, Bishop Suffragan of Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Stephen H. Jecko, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Henry W. Scriven, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. William J. Skilton, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William J. Cox, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Alex D. Dickson, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Andrew H. Fairfield, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, Retired


Jeff Martinhauk said...

Seems to be a long-worded report to say pretty much nothing, in my humble opinion.

Or did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

"With grief to big for words"....?????? Talk about horse apples!! Who are they kidding? If they cared half as much as they proclaim, they'd have stayed at the table. They's be working to find a middle ground. Actions speak louder than words....especially empty words like these.

Anonymous said...

Can't you see, there really is no middle ground? It is either your way or the other way. Neither side will give in, and we can't have churches in the same denomination teaching completely different doctrines. It would lead to such would people know- each side paints their doors a different color? One red one blue?
Love and care aside, (because on both sides there are those who honestly care and hurt for the other, as well as those who despise) it is two different teachings on Scripture that neither can concede. It really is an all or nothing, no matter what side you are on. And that is where the "grief to big for words" comes from. I think, all along, both sides have known the truth. And to copy a well know phrase..."the Truth will set us free." It is time for the Episcopal Church to satnd up and profess the Faith that it wants to preach, and it will set us all free.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

I've changed my mind.

I think there is a big change here.

Could this be a 180 degree U-turn, to use a much overused term? A direction to try and align against schism in the hope that some new thing will happen? I don't get it.

We saw and heard many voices of schism over the past three years.

Now, after reading Kendall Harmon's angry post today saying "game not over", I am rethinking. Why aren't there threats here to leave? What happened to those flyers that were distributed in Network churches not too long ago with the reports of the new Network but no mention of ECUSA?

I just don't get it yet. If the Network folks want to leave, I would hope that they are doing it in honest dissention and with integrity. I'm not sure I get what the point of the position statement is in forwarding that agenda.

To Laura, we have always had doctrinal and theological differences. We always will have theological differences, unless we become a confessional church with a stated theological position that everyone must asset to in order to become a member. That just isn't who we are. If it is what we want to do, then THAT would be a radical departure from our tradition.

Anonymous said...

So we tell them - "Nice try, guys, but 'No'."

The ball is then in their court. They won't leave; they'll continue to whine, and we'll be doing this all over again three years from now.

Verge of Jordan said...

I would love to believe that it may beginning of a softening of stance, but I'm a little jaded.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Don't get me wrong - I don't think its a softening but I'm curious to see if it is a re-positioning.

And I'm sure I'm probably completely wrong-- I just wonder if they are really going to start a whole new thing why they don't say it, if they are doing it with integrity and honesty?

Anonymous said...

beyond reconcilation,
ironic question from someone with your name as to middle ground. But where do you think it lies? A looser communion to allow for difference at the provincial layer? Stronger DEPO/TEA to allow for it at the local level? They would be my options. Messy but possible to make work.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you said, "To Laura, we have always had doctrinal and theological differences. We always will have theological differences, unless we become a confessional church with a stated theological position that everyone must asset to in order to become a member. That just isn't who we are. If it is what we want to do, then THAT would be a radical departure from our tradition."

When I was ordained, I promised to be loyal to "the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." Just what was I promising to be loyal to, if our common ground is agreeing to disagree?

By the way, how do you explain the 39 Articles and the fact that the General Convention of 1789 (the original) included them in the Book of COmmon Prayer and the GC of 1801 accepted them as part of our heritage from the Church of England?

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Hiram -

How do you explain that some in the Anglican communion ordain women, and some don't?

How do you explain that some in the Communion believe in transubstantiation, and some don't?

We are, in fact, not a Confessional church. That isn't an opinion. Compare us to, say, the Presbyterian church, where each member assents to a "Book of Confession"- a common set of beliefs, as in say the Presbyterian Church is required to be accepted as truth for lay leadership and clergy.

If you accept the articles as the church received them, how then do you accept the actions of GC03? That then too, in your definition, is the "Confession" of the church for you to be loyal to.


Jeff Martinhauk said...

Sorry - my sentence got all jumbled on the Presbyterian church. Meant to say- compare us to the Presbyterian church, where lay leadership and clergy are required to assent to the very thick "Book of Confessions", which espouses an opinion on just about everything.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, we ARE a confessional church: there are the 39 Articles, part of every prayer book. It is not a huge or detailed confession, like the Westminster Confession or the Synod of Dordt or one of the Lutheran confessions -- but it is a guiding statement of faith.

The trouble is, we have ignored our theological charter, for any number of reasons -- the anti-supernaturalistic assumptions of the Enlightenment, the popularity of Anglo-Catholic ideas, the identification of many Episcopalians with the intellectual elite (becoming subject to all the blinders and fashions of intellectuals), a politicized episcopate where (as in Lewis' The Great Divorce) one "gets ahead" by by being controversial and innovative -- all these things have created the idea that the Church of England and her daughters around the world are a bunch of free-thinkers gathered around Jesus.

Our confession gets in the way certain people want to go, and so they ignore and badmouth it. ECUSA may remain as a religious body if it does whatever it pleases and calls that the leading of the Spirit -- but it will not be a Christian body unless it believes the core doctrines of Christianity.

As for the actions of GC 03, I refer you to Articles XIX, XX, and XXI -- Church councils can and do err.

Anonymous said...

As to our "confession," the 39 Articles expressed the Anglican position on most of the Reformation "hot button" issues, while the BCP of 1662 expressed our theology through its collects, liturgies, and catechism.

Luckily, of course, all that was canned in 1979 -- though of course the people in the pews were never told, and fewer than 10% of them thought the 1928 BCP needed any revision in the first place.

Score yet another one for the "an inch at a time" strategy...

Anonymous said...

Please know that all of you who call yourselves orthodox Anglicans and who are feeling anger, rejection or disappointment are still as welcome as always in our church. The great beauty of the Episcopal Church is that it truly does welcome everyone. And I have yet to see anyone first ask how someone feels about an issue before exchanging the peace. That really doesn;t matter when it comes down to loving one another, does it?

Blessings from Dallas