Today the Archbishop of Canterbury presented the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group to the ACC for them to discern its recommendations and discuss a possible resolution. (Read here) In summary, the recommendations are as follows:
1. That the Instruments of Communion commit themselves to a renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.
2. The requests for the moratoria continue - urgent conversations should be facilitated with those provinces where the application of the moratoria give rise for concern. All breaches of moratoria, while not morally equivalent, are of equal threat to our life in Communion.
3. The Archbishop of Canterbury should have a bishop from the wider Communion act on his behalf in Communion affairs. It was also suggested there could be regional appointments from the local episcopate. The Secretary General should be the executive officer of the Communion and an Executive Committee should be established to work with the ABC in responding to emergency situations.
4. Lambeth Conference: new patterns of meetings, smaller meetings between plenary conferences with diocesan bishops only or regional meetings
5. Primates Meeting - should neither overreach or underreach its authority and responsibility. Their advice should be "received with readiness to undertake reflection and accommodation".
6. ACC- work needs to be reviewed and it needs primatial investment in Joint Standing Committee
7. Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity Faith and Order should produce a concise statement on the Instruments of Communion.
8. The Communion Covenant is an essential element in rebuilding confidence in our common life
9. Pastoral Forum and Pastoral Visitors should be adopted without further delay
10. Mediated Conversation on Parallel Jurisdictions - at which all significant parties could be gathered
The draft resolution is as follows:
a) thanks the Archbishop of Canterbury for his report on the work and recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group.
b) affirms the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group.
c) encourages the Archbishop of Canterbury to work with the Joint Standing Committee and Secretary General to carry forward the implementation of
these recommendations as appropriate.
d) affirms the request of the Windsor Report (2004), adopted at the Primates’ Meetings (2005, 2007 and 2009) and supported at the Lambeth Conference (2008) for the implementation of the agreed moratoria on the Consecration of Bishops living in a same gender union, authorisation of public Rites of blessing for Same Sex unions and continued interventions in other Provinces, and urges gracious restraint in all these areas.
e) requests IASCUFO to undertake a study of the role and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting in the Communion, their ecclesiological rationale and the relationships between them in line with the recommendation of paragraph 76 of the WCG Report, and to report back to ACC-15
Later in this piece, the Rev. Philip Ashey, a priest in the Church of Uganda and C.O.O. of the American Anglican Council, will comment on proposals 9 and 10.
How will the ACC make up its mind on these matters? We were told today that the discernment groups will consider these resolutions. Their responses will be fed back to the resolutions committee who will frame a final resolution for the decision-making plenary.
It is to be hoped that the process of feeding back discernment fares better than the experiences of Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth and Bishop Harrower of Tasmania at Lambeth 2008 who complained of manipulation of the "Indaba" like processes. The fact is that approaches of "consensus" favour the preferences of those who are charged with assessing the consensus.
What of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presentation?
He concluded with these words:
"Talking about moratoria while deeply difficult for many of us is an attempt to talk about the way in which we allow one another space, hold back to committing ourselves to something that the communion itself cannot commit itself to. The Anglican Communion is a place where it is possible for some people to say "I will hold back as long as I can have a conversation where I can explain why this might have been a good thing". Both ends of the spectrum need to do this. Those from North America who speak of the impossibility of going back on the blessing of same sex unions and ordination of a person in a same sex union, would say "we have discussed this at length and depth and come to these conclusions for ourselves." Those who have intervened have said "we have been trying to respond to manifest distress among fellow Christians. We are not empire building - we are trying to offer a churchly home for people who feel homeless. Try and understand it. Allow that to be there on the table without prejudging where we end up."
He ended: "Before we say goodbye to each other we owe it to the Lord of the church to make that effort to have those conversations and take each other seriously in the gospel. My hope is that this report will help us to do this." (In the absence of a text, this is presented as a faithful but not verbatim report).
So what are we presented with? In essence it would appear that the Archbishop is preparing himself and the communion for a significant change. He admitted it could no longer be the communion it was 20 years ago. Therefore the proposals are not an attempt to put the clock back, put Humpty Dumpty back together again or the toothpaste back in the tube.
Rather they could be seen as a time-honoured process, whereby a group with senior power seeks to retain that power while all along seismic shifts are taking place at other levels. These proposals are not about solving the current crisis or bringing the divisions in the Communion to an end. These proposals are about continuing the listening process, enabling people to restate their positions over and over again without any time limit, and accepting that there will be some ruptures and breaks but still keeping them within the current instruments of communion which are being modified to take account of them.
I tested this observation on two senior Episcopal participants in the current meeting who agreed with this analysis.
Now on to the Rev. Philip Ashey’s comments on the Pastoral Visitors Scheme and the idea of mediated conversation on parallel jurisdictions.
+Rowan Williams asserted today during the open plenary session that the Pastoral Visitor’s scheme recommended by the WCG (para. 91) was "not an attempt to breathe new life into [the Archbishop's] Panel of Reference," but rather an attempt to raise up professionally-trained mediators to begin facilitating conversations.
Unfortunately, the Archbishop failed to give any factual basis for the distinctions between the Panel of Reference and the Pastoral Visitors scheme. There are no facts to suggest that the Panel of Reference lacked training in mediation, nor that they failed to facilitate conversations with those who are aggrieved by TEC’s innovations and the leadership of TEC. In fact, the Panel of Reference responded to the petition of Church of the Redeemer in its dispute with the Episcopal Bishop and Diocese of Florida. The Panel of Reference dispatched two capable members to interview and negotiate with both sides-retired Archbishop Maurice Sinclair of the Southern Cone, and former ACC member and attorney Robert Tong of Australia. After two years of "hard and painstaking work," they proposed an agreement whereby Redeemer would return to the Diocese of Florida, canonical sanctions would be lifted from the clergy, litigation would cease, and alternative episcopal oversight would be offered by the bishop of a neighboring diocese acceptable to both Redeemer and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. Archbishop Williams will remember sending this recommendation to the Episcopal Bishop of Florida and asking him to cancel a scheduled court appearance in their litigation against Redeemer as a sign of good faith.
Bishop Howard rejected Archbishop William’s invitation and the recommendations of the Panel of Reference and went ahead with the court appearance and seized the property.
Given such precedents and the acceleration of litigation by TEC since then, it is almost impossible to imagine a Pastoral Visitors scheme that would experience any more success than the Panel of Reference.
Certainly the Pastoral Visitors scheme is doomed to fail if the mediators do not hear from all parties in the dispute, and the WCG report calls for all "significant parties" to take part in the conversation. While it is commendable that the Visitors had their first meeting February 23-28 at Virginia Theological Seminary to hear from representatives of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, it is inexcusable that they did not contact any of the bishops or clergy associated with the Anglican Church in North America. This hardly counts as good pastoral practice on their part. If their argument is that they needed time to plan their approach first, it would be a matter of integrity to urge such contact immediately to fulfill the concern to establish a professionally mediated conversation at which "all significant parties could be gathered."
The Windsor Continuation Group report recommends that, "The aim [of the professionally mediated conversation] would be to find a provisional holding arrangement which will enable dialogue to take place and which will be revisited on the conclusion of the Covenant Process, or the achievement of long term reconciliation in the Communion." (emphasis added)
Those who left TEC after years of "dialogue" over the fundamentals of the faith and issues of human sexuality understand the futility of this process. They crossed the Red Sea (figuratively speaking) and were rewarded by inhibition, deposition, loss of income, costly litigation, and/or loss of their churches. At present, during this post-Alexandria Communiqué period of "gracious restraint," (1) the Rev. Don Armstrong and his wife are today being evicted by TEC litigation from the home they purchased with the vestry of Grace Church; (2) the 18 volunteer vestry members of Grace Church are being sued by TEC and the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado individually for the mortgage on the church buildings from which they have just been evicted; and (3) the vestry of St. James Newport Beach is also being sued individually for $6 million in legal fees by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
For such victims of TEC’s attempt to literally destroy them corporately, individually, and financially, all such talk of "professionally mediated conversations" by the Archbishop of Canterbury, his representatives and the ACC is pure fantasy and utterly divorced from reality.
They will not be repatriated to Egypt-and certainly not under any arrangement that views them as the problem, and not TEC.
And there lies the rub with a "provisional holding arrangement". Anyone familiar with legal language knows what a "holding arrangement" or "holding tank" is: it’s the room where "troublemakers" are held before they are brought before judge and/or jury for a plea, trial and sentencing.
Elsewhere, the Primates refer to faithful Anglicans in North America as people "[with whom] we earnestly desire reconciliation." Whether intended or not, the language of paragraph 101 of the WCG Report casts orthodox Anglicans in North America as the troublemakers who need to be reconciled to the rest of the Communion. This language ignores the schismatic actions of TEC that have torn the fabric of the Communion, and continue to shred it to pieces.
This is also reinforced by the language in paragraph 101-the only language which refers to the ACNA-which declares that "Any scheme developed would rely on an undertaking from the present partners to ACNA that they would not seek to recruit and expand their membership by means of proselytization."
What does this warning mean? Does "proselytization" include church planting? Does it include fulfilling the Great Commission? Does it include people asserting their constitutional right to free exercise of religion by transferring from a TEC church to an ACNA church? This heavy handed limitation on ACNA smacks of a kind of ‘protectionism" of TEC by the Communion. It rescues the revisionist leadership of TEC from the consequences of preaching a false gospel-which they confidently and falsely predicted would grow the church.
Instead, between 2002 and 2007, TEC’s average Sunday attendance dropped 118, 818-the equivalent of 381 people leaving every week. This would be the same as 5 average sized congregations (73 people) leaving every week for 6 years. By contrast, and during the same period of time, the Anglican Mission in America, one of the founding members of the ACNA, grew from 10 churches to 134-with another 40+ missions as of this date preparing for parish status.
Sadly, this condition of the WCG recommendation misses an opportunity to stop the hemorrhaging of Anglicans in North America and to bless the mission of the ACNA. Instead it seeks to impose a limitation with a warning that contradicts the Communion commitment to evangelism, discipleship, church growth and mission.
Finally, for those who are alienated within the Episcopal Church, the aim of the "professionally mediated discussion" has already been determined: "WCG believes that the advent of schemes such as the Communion Partners Fellowship and the Episcopal Visitors scheme instituted by the Presiding Bishop in the United States should be sufficient to provide for the care of those alienated within the Episcopal Church from recent developments." (emphasis added)
According to this recommendation of the WCG, those within TEC will have two alternatives to choose from: a Communion Partners Fellowship scheme that has no details as yet beyond DEPO and mere fellowship, or an Episcopal Visitors scheme imposed by the Presiding Bishop. What is the point of gathering those alienated by TEC for a "professionally mediated conversation" when the results have already been pre-determined? Is it an opportunity for further indoctrination in the false gospel of TEC? Or institutional loyalty? Or simply an exercise designed to wear down their resistance to false teaching?
This report from the WCG is the culmination of five years of conversation, dialogue, schemes, reports, and committees that have all failed to adequately address the crisis before us. These efforts have failed in part because they have not adequately talked with or heard from those most hurt by this crisis, those persecuted orthodox Anglicans in North America. Skeptics will be forgiven for recognizing in these WCG recommendations the same processes that have failed to hold the Communion together, and the same processes of delay that TEC will take advantage of while imposing a false gospel at home and throughout the rest of the Communion.
 Paragraph 101 of the Windsor Continuation Group report.
 Communiqué from the Primates Meeting in Alexandria, February 5, 2009, paragraph 14.
 These statistics are taken from The Episcopal Church’s online membership data.
 Paragraph 101 of the Windsor Continuation Group report.
UPDATE: Here is the audio of today's press conference:
BB NOTE: Very interesting switch that's happened over the years between 2003 and 2009. The Windsor Report was written for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates. But, according to Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary to the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Covenant is written for the Joint Standing Committee.
How does it feel? That's what I hear. How does it feel?
It seems clear that the Anglican Design Group wants to keep the door as wide open as possible for churches to sign on for the Covenant while the Joint Standing Committee want to narrow the invitation to those who are on the ACC list.
What happens if a province doesn't sign on? Uh, nothing.
Rowan Williams on the Anglican Covenant
Challenge & Hope for the Anglican Covenant
Towards an Anglican Covenant
If there is a sign up of many provinces and others who don't, it's possible that there would be a two tier communion. Rowan Williams would prefer a stronger Covenant text rather than a weaker covenant text that has no substance, even if not everyone can sign on. This is not the case for the Joint Standing Committee.
Archbishop Gomez says that if Section IV is removed it will end up making the Anglican Covenant a Non-Covenant. The intention is that there will be on up or down vote on the Covenant. They recognize there might be an attempt to drop Section IV but that would compromise the integrity of the whole document.
Archbishop Gomez expressed his concern for the state of the Anglican Communion if some of the proposed resolutions before General Convention this summer are passed (same sex unions and barriers to ordination), creating an air of uncertainty in the Communion.
Cameron said no fudge. The best language is Rowan's language as seeing the covenant as an intensification of current relationships, like couples moving toward marriage. But if some churches don't want that kind of relationship, refusing to enter a deeper relationship than it will damage the relationship.
LATE NIGHT UPDATE: From the Anglican Journal:
Bishop Gregory Cameron, former deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion and secretary to the Covenant Design Group said he detects that many delegates to the 14th Anglican Consultative Council meeting here would like a “tighter time frame” for the approval process of the proposed Anglican Covenant rather than the recommended 2014 deadline.
The question of when member churches of the Anglican Communion should state whether they would be signing on to the Covenant “is obviously surfacing” and he has heard from some council members “that they would like to see a tighter time frame for the reception of the covenant than that proposed,” Bishop Cameron told a press briefing. “Obviously it’s too early to say where the mind of the council will settle. But there are certainly some that say a tighter time frame would be more appropriate.”
Reacting to Bishop Cameron’s statement, the lay delegate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Suzanne Lawson said, “Interesting.” She added, “I think that would be difficult for the Canadian church. I actually spend a good deal of time thinking about how change comes about and time is an important element in that. If we are to be looking in Canada at something that will take seriously the Covenant and reframe our thinking, we need some time to talk about it at General Synod in Nova Scotia and we may need more time three years from then.” General Synod, the Canadian Anglican church’s governing body, which gathers every triennium, is scheduled to meet in Halifax in 2010.
Ms. Lawson said, “We need to respect the provinces where that is a required amount of time.”
The goal of 2014 was recommended because governing bodies of some member churches would not be able to meet until that date, explained Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, primate (senior bishop) of the Church of the Province of Australia and a member of the Joint Standing Committee, an international body that includes the primates and the ACC. He also said that the polities of at least three or four member churches require two meetings of their governing bodies to render a decision on the covenant.
Archbishop Aspinall said there was “nothing to prevent a church moving very soon should it wish to” but the process recognizes the principle in the draft that “the communion guides and each church decides,” while being mindful of the implication of the matter to the communion. The Anglican Communion, composed of 80 million Anglicans in 44 regional and national churches in more than 160 countries, has been deeply divided in recent years over the issue of sexuality.
Bishop Cameron, who is the newly consecrated bishop of the Church of Wales’ diocese of St. Asaph, also said that it remained unclear about what would happen to provinces that choose not to sign on to the Covenant, but that it would be up to the church’s Instruments of Communion to decide the issue. “We’re feeling our way,” he said. (The four Instruments of Communion are the primates’ meeting, the ACC, the Lambeth Conference of bishops, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.)
Earlier, Bishop Cameron and Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, gave conflicting statements about whether there was any connection between adoption of the covenant and participation in the life and Instruments of the Communion.
Canon Kearon said that the membership and participation in the communion of provinces which decided to opt out of the covenant would not be altered, while Bishop Cameron had said, “at the moment, there is no linkage” but added that if 15 or 20 member churches approve the covenant “it might move quite quickly and give it more gravity.”
Asked to clarify, Bishop Cameron said, “we’re talking about a dynamic process … a process which is evolving and there’s no doubt that in the original vision for the covenant, it was envisaged that all the provinces of the communion would sign up to the covenant and that it would govern the life of the Anglican Communion in participation in the instruments of the communion.”
As the covenant process has evolved, said Bishop Cameron, “some have started to ask questions about what happens if others don’t sign up.” He added that it was the view of the Covenant Design Group that “at this stage of the covenant’s life, it didn’t want to link those two things – participation in the covenant with membership of the Instruments of Communion. It wanted to keep the two distinct.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, he said, has articulated in two papers – Challenge and Hope for the Anglican Communion and Towards an Anglican Covenant – that “if we get to the stage of the life of the Anglican Communion where there were large numbers of churches signed up to the covenant and other provinces that weren’t signed up we will have to talk about some sort of two-tiered Anglican Communion.” The two tiers would be an inner fellowship based around the covenant and a broader fellowship of churches which have not signed the covenant.
Bishop Cameron added, “The Archbishop of Canterbury is on record as saying that he would prefer a stronger covenant text even if it meant that not all provinces could sign up rather than a weak covenant text which really didn’t have any substance to it.”
He said that the positions that he, Mr. Kearon and the Archbishop of Canterbury have articulated are not to be seen as definitive policy statements. “We’re trying to explore what the world what might look like if some provinces signed up to the covenant or not.”
Archbishop Drexel Gomez, retired primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies and chair of the Covenant Design Group, said if the ACC accepts the covenant proposal in its final form, and the covenant comes into force, “there is a provision in the text that opens the possibility for dioceses or entities other than the provinces signing up. That’s going to be a second level issue.”
One paragraph of the proposed covenant says, “It shall be open to other churches to adopt the covenant.” It does not, however, define “other churches.”
Asked whether it meant that other entities, including those groups that have left their dioceses or provinces could sign up to the Covenant, Archbishop Gomez said, “it wouldn’t be our job to put teeth into that.” He said it would be up to the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and the ACC to determine which groups other than member provinces of the Communion can adopt the Covenant. “They're the gatekeepers as it were of the covenant process,” he said.
Bishop Cameron said that the Covenant Design Group had expressed its own opinion on who may sign the agreement, stating, “where it is not ruled out by the constitution and canon of any particular province, there’s no reason why a diocese should not express its solidarity with the covenant.”
The bishop also said the crucial question before the ACC now is whether they believe the final draft of the proposed covenant, called the Ridley-Cambridge Draft, is “mature enough” to be offered to the provinces for adoption.
He said delegates would spend the entire day Wednesday in discernment groups. After that, the ACC members are expected to determine the next step of the covenant process. The question before the meeting, said Bishop Cameron, is can the ACC confirm or affirm that the covenant process and the Anglican Covenant is the right way to strengthen promote common life in the communion.
The final draft resolution will reflect what comes out of the discernment group discussions, he said.
“The whole process is designed to allow people to take a reflective, discursive, consensual approach as a way to conduct Anglican Communion business,” he said. “It’s worth pointing out the process rather than assuming that the council now will make a swift judgment either way on this resolution.”