There will be no consequences to the American church for its push for gay bishops and blessings, bishops attending the opening session of the US House of Bishops meeting in Salt Lake City said in closed door session on Sept 17.
On the opening day of the three-day special session, called by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to discuss the 2008 Lambeth Conference, but amended on Sept 12 by the Presiding Bishop to act upon her motion to depose conservative leader Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, the bishops offered their reactions to Lambeth.
In an official statement released by four bishops on behalf of the meeting, the bishops stated their morning session had been devoted to small-group discussions and a debriefing on Lambeth. The bishops were directed to discuss amongst themselves the questions: “What were we most grateful for; and what were we least grateful for?”
Responses to the questions were gathered and printed on a wall board at one end of the room. The Bishop of Southwestern Virginia, the Rt Rev Neff Powell, said the Bible studies, the London Day and march in support of the Millennium Development Goals, and common prayers were highlighted by the bishops.
“Spending honest time with people we have never met and with whom we sometimes have differences of culture and theology,” was also noted by the bishops. The bishops’ official report on the first day noted that some of the things they were least grateful for “included the disjunction between the Lambeth Indaba Process and future decision-making. Many compared the deep and collegial conversation of the Indaba Process with the more contentious hearings held by the Windsor Continuation Group and the Covenant Design Group.”
The afternoon session discussed “extending the Lambeth Conference experience,” as the bishops spoke to questions surrounding the “environment; global warming; poverty reduction; and improved communication throughout the Communion.” Bishops present at the meeting reported that many bishops saw Lambeth 2008 as a success. No adverse actions were taken against the Episcopal Church for its innovations in doctrine and discipline. However, concerns over the Anglican Covenant’s possible restrictive nature were voiced, with several bishops stating they would not welcome nor abide with limits to their authority.
Other bishops stated that they did not believe the Episcopal Church would be sanctioned for its actions. One bishop stated that he believed the personal relations established at Lambeth would override theological divisions, while a second bishop stated that Dr Rowan Williams’ deference to the internal canons of each province made it impossible for the Episcopal Church to be read out of the Anglican Communion. The consensus, one bishops told Religious Intelligence, was that the Anglican Communion was unlikely to discipline the Episcopal Church. During the “informal” evening session devoted to a discussion of the case of Bishop Robert Duncan, the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, David Beers, and the Bishop of Lexington urged the bishops to depose Bishop Duncan.
On Sept 12, the day Bishop Schori announced her decision to bring Bishop Duncan before the House of Bishops to be punished for his view that diocese may withdraw from the Episcopal Church, Bishop Sauls mailed to each bishops a spiral bound indictment of the Pittsburgh bishop, detailing his alleged sins and canonical infractions.
Details of the evening session are unclear, and there was no consensus from those queried as to how matters would proceed. The hearing on Bishop Duncan will commence at 10:00 am local time on Sept 18, and extend to an afternoon session.