Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Windsor Report Summary

To go along with the excellent Windsor Report cartoon I posed a link to recently here is an excellent summary of The Windsor Report prepared by Patricia Bays in January of 2005 (any comments or additions I have made are in brackets). It can be found on the internet at:

The Windsor Report - a Summary

What is it?

In October 2003, at the request of the primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury set up the Lambeth Commission. 17 members represented member churches of the Anglican Communion, and included bishops, priests and lay people. The Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of Faith, Worship and Ministry, represented the Anglican Church of Canada. The Eames Commission in the 1990s studied the question of the ordination of women as bishops, and the Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission meets regularly to look at issues related to the Anglican Communion. They produced the Virginia Report on the nature of communion.

Its Mandate

The commission was asked to report on the legal and theological implications of decisions in [the Episcopal Diocese of] New Hampshire [to elect and then the Episcopal Church ordain a gay man in a relationship as a Bishop] and [the Canadian Diocese of] New Westminster [to approve the blessings of same sex unions], and on canonical understandings of communion, in order to suggest ways in which communion can be maintained. They were to look at the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in maintaining communion.

They were not asked to debate issues of homosexuality.

Summary of the Report

A. The purposes and benefits of communion .

· The report explores the biblical background (Ephesians, I Corinthians). We are called into fellowship with God and with each other. As Anglicans we have a common life of mutual responsibility and interdependence.

· How can the communion function in situations where mutual discernment is needed? The report explores the way decisions were made regarding the ordination of women and then the current discussion on issues of human sexuality.

B. Fundamental principles

Some parts of the communion feel that decisions taken in NW [the Diocese of New Westminster located in Canada] and NH [the Diocese of New Hampshire] are "departures from genuine apostolic faith." Other concerns for which we need a common forum:

· Perceived lack of consultation before action

· What does communion mean? Are there degrees of communion? What of our present impaired communion with respect to ordination of women and of divorced and remarried persons

· How is the gospel to be interpreted and inculturated in diverse cultures?

· Are there questions on which Christians might have legitimate differences? Are there limits to diversity?

· What matters should be decided on a communion level and which can be decided on the local level?

· What is the authority of scripture, tradition, reason, the episcopate?

C. The instruments of unity

The report describes the instruments: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting, and suggests that further work needs to be done on the relationship and relative authority of these.

Some proposals:

· The Archbishop of Canterbury "should be able to speak directly to any provincial situation on behalf of the Communion where this is deemed advisable. Such action should not be viewed as outside interference in the exercise of autonomy by any province." The report affirms that the Archbishop has the right to invite to the Lambeth Conference and Primates' Meeting.

· A Council of Advice should be established "to assist him in discerning when and how it might be appropriate for him to exercise a ministry of unity on behalf of the whole Communion." It might be formed from the ACC [Anglican Consultative Council] and Primates' Meeting.

· Canon lawyers should "produce a statement of the principles of canon law common to the churches, and examine shared problems and possible solutions.

· The commission proposes a common Anglican Covenant, to be signed by the primates, "which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion." It would deal with the relationships of communion, the commitments of communion, the exercise of autonomy in communion, and the management of disputes.

D. The maintenance of communion

The report reprimands both Canadian and US churches on the one hand [for the actions taken by the Diocese of New Hampshire and the Diocese of New Westminster], and certain primates on the other [primarily for entering other Diocese with permission for the purpose of performing unauthorized visits and other episcopal acts], for acting without consideration for the impact of their decisions on other parts of the communion.

Elections to the episcopate should "pay proper regard to the acceptability of the candidate to other provinces in our communion." The Archbishop of Canterbury is urged to exercise caution in inviting Bishop Gene Robinson to the councils of the communion.

NW [the Diocese of New Westminster] and NH [the Diocese of New Hampshire] are invited to express regret for the consequences of their actions. Those who took part in the NH consecration [the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop] should consider withdrawing from representative functions. The Episcopal Church should refrain from further consecrations of persons living in same gender unions. NW [the Diocese of New Westminster] should refrain from authorizing any further blessings.

All provinces are urged to study and reflect on the issues.

The report calls for the "conditional and temporary provision of delegated pastoral oversight for those who are dissenting" only as a last resort. It asks bishops who believe it is their duty to intervene in dioceses other than their own to express regret for the consequences of their action and to refrain from further interventions.

The report urges all parties "to seek ways of reconciliation, and to heal our divisions."

Prepared by Patricia Bays January 2005

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