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Thursday, March 15, 2007

"It's not an ultimatum, unless you think it is."

Note: I know what you're thinking. I know what this looks like.

But, you know what? Given all that's been happening in the Anglican Communion of late, it's really important not to give into the outrageous demands and foot-tapping ultimatums of a few petulant Primates and belligerent Bishops.

This is a time for The Episcopal Church to RESPOND, not REACT (Family Systems Theory 101 - Ed Friedman would be so proud).

That can make you look like you have your head in the sand.

Well, okay then. But, we know better, don't we?

It's important to remember that Our Katharine has a doctorate in oceanography. Her specialty was octopus and squid.

She knows her way around spineless creatures. EK+

Episcopal Bishops Expect to Talk, Not Act

By Cathy Lyn Grossman
USA Today

When the 296 U.S. bishops of the Episcopal Church retreat this weekend for four days of reflection, their prayers may address questions that threaten to rip their church from its historic roots in the 77-million member worldwide Anglican Communion.

Conservative Anglicans in the USA and abroad demand that by Sept. 30, the Episcopal Church stop blessing same-sex unions, cease approving any actively gay bishops and adopt a view of the Bible as the literal authority for morality. They say homosexual behavior is "against Scripture," as proclaimed by a majority vote at the 1998 Lambeth Conference of all Anglican bishops.

"There's an ultimatum before the bishops," says the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina. Harmon reads this in the lengthy statement signed by the 38 primates, leaders of national and regional churches, including U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, after they met in Tanzania in February.

But when the Episcopal House of Bishops meets Saturday through Wednesday at Camp Allen, Texas, for its annual spring retreat, "no definitive statement is expected, although they may have a business session," says the Rev. Jan Nunley, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church.

They may not vote on the issues until their regular September business meeting — if then. "It's not an ultimatum unless you think it is," Nunley says.

On the table are questions of theology and authority: "What actually is required? How far does (the Communion's) theological jurisdiction go?" Nunley says.

Developments since the Tanzania meeting:

•Several Episcopal bishops who approved the church's first and only openly gay bishop, the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003 rejected primates' demands in public letters. "Under no circumstance" would he support such moratoriums, wrote the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, bishop of Washington, D.C.

•Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Communion, called for the U.S. church to clearly conform to the 1998 Lambeth teaching on homosexuality. But he has no enforcement power.

This week, clergy and lay leaders from the Diocese of Utah contradicted Williams in an open letter saying, in part, that Lambeth resolutions have no legislative or theological authority.

And a public letter from the Diocese of Wyoming questions whether the bishops alone can set policy without consulting the other half of the church's governing legislature, the House of Deputies, which includes clergy, deacons and laypeople.

Both houses meet every three years at a General Convention, where decisions are made for the church. Wyoming called for Jefferts Schori to reject the primates' "restrictive" demands and disruptive politics.

Harmon says, "If in the end, the Episcopal Church wants to play the autonomy card, they can, but the costs will be terribly high."

How high? Although the "consequences" in the maybe-an-ultimatum Sept. 30 deadline are not spelled out, continued membership in the worldwide communion is the core question.

Meanwhile, Nunley says, Jefferts Schori is telling the whole church, "Let's talk, let's wait. We'll see what happens."

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