he 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in
Columbus, Ohio, from June 13, 2006, to June 21, 2006. This triennial
ingathering of the Episcopal faithful has been described by the Rev.
Dr. Gregory S. Straub, Executive Officer of the General Convention
Office, as a combination of legislative assembly, bazaar of goods and
services, and family reunion.
Once More, Clearly and Charitably:
Deimel and Wells on the Issues before Us
Christopher Wells, author of “Wounded
in Common Mission” and I exchanged e-mail messages about my
paper, “Saving Anglicanism” (see below). Ostensibly, we are on
different sides—probably not really opposite sides—of the
current disputes within the Anglican Communion. One thing led to
another, and we decided to undertake a dialog aimed at greater
understanding of one another’s position. We thought this might
be interesting—perhaps even helpful—to those who will be called
to act on resolutions at General Convention affecting Episcopal
Church-Anglican Communion relations. Christopher and I have
indeed found this a useful exercise. To read about it, and to
read the dialog itself, click here.
N.B. Some material
referenced here originally appeared on the Anglican Communion
Institute Web site but is (as of May 2010) no longer available
there. Links are now provided to local copies that should be
substantially identical to the originals. Also, Christopher
Wells subsequently revised and expanded his “Wounded in Common
Mission” for publication in Anglican Theological Review.
You can read his revised paper
General Convention is the
decision-making body for the Episcopal Church. It is responsible for the
church budget, for liturgy and music used by the church, and for mission
initiatives. General Convention rates a certain amount of press coverage
simply because it is one of the world’s largest deliberative assemblies.
Most of what it does most of the time, however, is of little interest to
the average Episcopalian, much less the average American. The Episcopal
Church is not one of the larger churches in America.
In 2003, however, the attention of the world’s press was very much on
General Convention, then meeting in Minneapolis. The reason was that the
body was to vote on whether the election of partnered gay priest Gene
Robinson to be Bishop of New Hampshire would be consented to. As had
been the case for several conventions, whether the church would approve
liturgies for blessing same-sex unions was also on the table. The Rev.
Canon Gene Robinson did, in fact, become a bishop. The blessing of
same-sex unions remained in an ecclesiastical gray area, being tolerated
but not officially authorized by the church.
The vote on Canon Robinson touched off a firestorm in the Anglican
Communion, as conservatives protested what the 74th General
Convention had done. Whereas the provinces (churches) of the Anglican
Communion have traditionally been considered autonomous, conservatives
seemed determined to intimidate, if not order, the Episcopal Church to
rein in its innovative behavior.
A milestone in the process of managing the commotion was the publication
of the so-called Windsor Report in October 2004. This report was the
product of an international panel, the Lambeth Commission on Communion, assembled to consider what should be
done. The Windsor Report raised
serious questions as to whether the Anglican Communion could survive as
a fellowship of churches, and it advocated decreased provincial
autonomy, along with a corresponding development of central authority.
The report, along with other elements of the Communion, challenged the
Episcopal Church to adopt this centralizing program as a sign of good
faith that it intended to remain a part of the Communion.
The polity of the Episcopal Church requires that General Convention
speak for the church. Neither the church’s nominal head, the Presiding
Bishop, nor its Executive Council, a kind of convention in recess, can
act independently of the will of the convention. Thus, it falls to the
75th General Convention to provide an official response to
the Windsor Report and to related pressures being brought to bear on the
church by conservatives. Although the churches of the communion are
hardly of one mind as to what Anglicans usually refer to as “the way
forward,” as a practical matter, the so-called “Windsor process” seems
to be the only game in town.
prepare the church for responding to the Windsor Report, the Special
Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion was
created. It issued a report proposing a response consisting of 11
resolutions to be voted on by General Convention. This set of
resolutions might be described as constituting a limited and reluctant
acceptance of the vision articulated by the Lambeth Commission.
Conservative Episcopalians see this as an inadequate response; liberal elements of the church are more ambivalent, and some fear that
it may be a sell-out.
My reaction to the Special Commission’s report, “One Baptism, One Hope
in God’s Call” was initially one of alarm. Upon further reflection,
however, it did seem as though the Episcopal Church was not being
encouraged to give away the store. I was nevertheless not completely
satisfied with the recommendations. I began writing an essay arguing
that conservatives have not played fair and that, under the
circumstances, the Episcopal Church should be wary of granting
As I worked on writing the essay, it grew longer and longer. My colleagues in
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh suggested that I split it in
two and that I work on analyzing the 11 proposed resolutions first,
returning to the background discussion later. I took this advice, and,
under PEP auspices, issued “What Should General Convention 2006 Do?
Commentary on the Resolutions Proposed by the Special Commission on the
Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion” on May 23, 2006. This
document contains a brief introduction to the resolutions and comments
on them point-by-point. I week later, on May 31, 2006, I finished
“Saving Anglicanism: An Historical Perspective on Decisions Facing the
75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church,” which
reviews how the church got into its present situation and warning that
the proposed response to the Anglican Communion might be fundamentally
defective. PEP helped promote this document without actually endorsing
The two documents may be read separately or the latter may be read as an
introduction the former. In fact, I am unsure what the wisest course may
be for the Episcopal Church. I do feel strongly, however, that bishops
and deputies should not be making a decision without detailed knowledge of the
events described in “Saving Anglicanism.” In that essay, I argue that
Anglicanism, a special approach to the Christian Gospel, is of more
importance than the Anglican Communion, which, I fear, in an ironic turn
of events, may be abandoning authentic Anglicanism.
Click on a button below to download the corresponding report. Both
essays are offered as PDF files designed for duplex printing. If you do
not have software to view PDF files, click on the “Get Adobe Reader”
button to download and install free software for the purpose.
|Saving Anglicanism: An Historical Perspective
on Decisions Facing the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal
|What Should General Convention 2006 Do?
Commentary on the Resolutions Proposed by the Special Commission
on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion
— LED, 6/4/2006