The General Convention of the Episcopal Church began on Tuesday. Extraordinary events have occurred. N. T. Wright, one of the great biblical scholars of our age and one of the authors of the Windsor Report (WR) surprised the General Convention by sending an essay that highlights the shortcomings of the resolutions being considered by the convention as it seeks to respond to the WR. It is thick reading. You can read the entire document here or settle for this quote from his conclusion
Will ECUSA comply with the specific and detailed recommendations of Windsor, or will it not? As the Resolutions stand, only one answer is possible: if these are passed without amendment, ECUSA will have specifically, deliberately and knowingly decided not to comply with Windsor. Only if the crucial Resolutions, especially A160 and A161, are amended in line with Windsor paragraph 134, can there be any claim of compliance. Of course, even then, there are questions already raised about whether a decision of General Convention would be able to bind those parts of ECUSA that have already stated their determination to press ahead in the direction already taken. But the Anglican principle of taking people to be in reality what they profess to be, until there is clear evidence to the contrary, must be observed. If these resolutions are amended in line with Windsor, and passed, then the rest of the Communion will be in a position to express its gratitude and relief that ECUSA has complied with what was asked of it.
Another extraordinary occurrence is the presence of the Archbishop of York. After the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ABoY is the most important bishop in England and arguably the second most important bishop in the Anglican Communion. He is present and being quite vocal about the importance of complying fully with the WR in order to stay in the Anglican Communion.
Things got exciting on Wednesday with the first hearing on the key motions relating to the Windsor Report. Kathey Crowe attended this meeting and talks about it on her blog. As I was surfing for news on the convention I came across a “live blogger” named Matt Kennedy. He is typing as fast as he can and putting up on his blog as much as he can of what people actually say. Here is a link to what he wrote of this important first hearing. As Kathy noted in her blog, it looks like we are a deeply divided church.
A surprise speaker was the Archbishop of York who read the important section 134 of the Windsor report and reportedly warned all who listened that the current motions fall short of what is required. In effect he powerfully echoed the thinking of N. T. Wright. This is quite amazing. Here for your convenience is section 134 of the Windsor report.
134. Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events, and yet also of the imperatives of communion – the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ – we have debated long and hard how all sides may be brought together. We recommend that:
- the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion
- pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We urge this in order to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion. We advise that in the formation of their consciences, those involved consider the common good of the Anglican Communion, and seek advice through their primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge all members of the Communion to accord appropriate respect to such conscientious decisions
- the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.
At this point everyone has heard load and clear that the current motions are an insufficient response to the Windsor Report. It could not be made clearer.
On Thursday Morning the Committee crafting the motions for consideration by Convention met again. Here is where we should have seen some serious attempt made to amend the motions so that they meet the minimum standards of the WR. Matt Kennedy was there as well. Here is his love blog of the proceedings. Interestingly they did not discuss the key motions, instead focusing on 165 which expresses a commitment to a listening process called for in the WR. I expect there is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes. On Friday we will get a first look at the reworked resolutions.
Today Motion A 159 passed. While a nice statement of our intent to remain in unity with the Anglican Communion, it is not one of the key motions that will show whether or not we will comply with the WR. The key motions are numbers 160, 161, and 162. This page has a list of all the motions before General Convention.
At this point in the convention it is clear that there will be a rough landing for the church. The division is very deep, too deep to hope for a win-win solution.