The deputation to the 2006 General Convention from the Diocese of Bethlehem (of which I am a member) gave a presentation last night to foks from the northern part of the Diocese. One of the points I made as part of the presentation was to remind people that the Windsor Report is not really about the issue of Human Sexuality, but instead about the ways in which different Provinces of the Anglican Communion deal with matters about which they disagree. At the moment the Provinces of the Communion disagree about the issue of a “gay bishop” who is living in relationship that has not been sacramentally blessed. But other there are plenty of other issues out there to keep us busy: Women’s Ordination, the Role of Scripture in relation to experience, Lay Presidency of the Eucharist, etc.
There was general agreement by everyone in the room that intentionally recasting the debate in these terms lowered the emotional temperature of our discussion by several 10’s of degrees. It allowed us to talk to each other about the question and separate out our concern to respond pastorally to the members of this denomination who are gay or lesbian.
So I was delighted to read the following introduction to a report issued by the Windsor Report working group of the Church of Ireland.
The debate on where to locate the limits of legitimate diversity within the Anglican Communion is not a new one. For example, the Donaldson Committee Report arising out of Lambeth 1930 disucssed the matter at some length and the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood is a more recent example of a “limits of diversity” debate. Similarly the debate which issued in Lambeth 1.10 was an attempt to provide the current position on the limits of acceptable diversity on one aspect of human sexuality.
…[T]he procedure by which contentious issues affecting the entire Communion have been addressed and resolved in the past has not been adequate to deal with the more recent issues arising, for example, out of the debate on human sexuality and may prove not be adequate to deal with further contentious issues as they arise.”
It’s nice to have this sort confirmation of what I was saying to folks last night.
The response of the people in the room was quite telling. First they expressed surprise that this was what the Windsor Report was really about. They had intuited that the subject of the report was specifically about the consecration of +Gene Robinson. Second they expressed frustration that they were just now finding out about this now.
When I framed the question of the Windsor Report to them in simplistic terms: “Should we be Episcopalians first and Anglicans second or vice versa?” the response was unanimous that we should be Anglicans first. In other words they felt willing to trade some of the autonomy of being an independent entity for the benefit of being part of a larger world-wide Communion.
The big question of course is that we don’t know yet what we as The Episcopal Church would be agreeing to be subordinate to yet. And I think that’s a key point. I’m not willing to sign on a dotted line until I have a clearer sense of what I’m doing. But I’m also willing to vote to keep talking with other Provinces about how we can relate to and be responsible to each other.
I hope that in the end, the resolutions that actually make it to the floor of General Convention make it possible for me to cast that vote.