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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The House of Bishops Responds To The Primates

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners

In accordance with Our Lord's high prienstly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to the Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23


The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in teh power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.


* We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

* We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

* We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.

* We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.

* We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

* We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.

* We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.

* We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.


Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention

The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors

We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops

We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such insurvions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation

In their communique of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterate our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process

The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the church's conversation about sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts, conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches and so is well placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference

Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.


RFSJ said...


I think the B033 thing is troubling. for the first time, the Bishops are officially oncluding non celebate homos in this "manner of life" category. It disenfranchises an entire category of people willy nilly. Yes, it was already on the books, but no there is no wiggle room to consent, for example, to a Lynd election out of Chicago. As a gay priest, I feel like this is a major slap in the face.


Muthah+ said...

Unlike RFSJ+ I don't feel like it is a slap at my face but it doesn't feel good. It just seems to mean that "for a season" has just gotten to be a lot longer than a SEASON.

Bateau Master said...

They did enough to keep their tea party invitations.

Good to go unitl 2009 and only a few folks left with kicked-in teeth. And with several miters up for grabs - they might be able to redeem themselves with a, "We really didn't mean it!" vote for consent.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

My, my, my, Bateau Master.

Can it be that we agree?

Holy crow!

Sarah said...

I give it a resounding "good enough!". And now, back to work. Thank God.

muerk said...

Why can't they be more honest? If they really believe that non-celibate gays and lesbians are going against what God wants they should bluntly say so. Or, if they really believe that God is joyous about non-celibate gays and lesbians, then they should bluntly say that.

I think the spiritual health of gay and lesbian people deserves an honest answer. Why should gays and lesbians who want to have sexual relationships be the "fall guy" for all this politics?

I too think this was a "just good enough" so that people get to go to Lambeth. And that not fair, especially to the individual people this _directly_ affects.

And I say this as an RC conservative...

Bateau Master said...

Ahhhh .... motivation! I don't think it was the Holy Ghost of 2003 inspiring the crowd in purple. Self-interest as an incentive is so ugly. It was like they strode to the mountain top, but because it didn’t have any crumpets, royalty or nifty brocade vestments; only hard work and thankless ministry, they went for minimum effort but with lemon curd.

Yep, from opposites side of the fence, we agree.

Allie said...

At the moment, the HOB bere a startling resemblance to the Democratic party...
I want to tell both groups to just SAY SOMETHING and quit straddling the yellow line in the road... it satisfies no one, and I wonder if even God is scratching her head, wondering what exactly the bishops are trying to say.
As a so-called young person, I do have to wonder how long the HOB will "show restraint" in not confirming people God has called to the episcopacy.

Oh well, so it goes.

Bill said...

They can "make nice" politically all they want but I for one (Gay) am not taking cold showers until 2009. Excuse my bluntness, but I don’t think the rank and file Episcopalians are ready to take a giant step backwards so that a bunch of old men in purple dresses can get to prance around at Lambeth for photo ops. I call it the way I see it and the Anglicans can’t seem to get their minds around the fact that we don’t take orders from bishops. We function as a collective and make decisions as a collective. They are totally blind when it comes to understanding our infrastructure.

It isn’t the first time that I’ve said this, but it is just plain bizarre when governments are so much more socially progressive than a church which is supposed to be following instruction from Jesus to show Gods love for each other.