Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bishop Howe

Bishop John Howe is no lefty. I would argue that his relative satisfaction with the House of Bishops statement carries a lot of freight. I applaud his commitment to the conversation. He is a real Anglican.

Dear Diocesan Family,

I said last month that I did not think there would be any surprises in the meeting of the House of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was wrong. The House leaned much farther toward what the Archbishop and the Primates of the Anglican Communion asked of us than I believe anyone expected.

In the end we produced two statements (see links at left). One of them is a “contextual” narrative about the whole of our experience in New Orleans, touching upon a wide variety of specific topics. The other is our response to the requests made of us by the Primates in their Communiqué from Dar es Salaam last February.

In their Communiqué the Primates asked us to:

· Make an unequivocal covenant that the Bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their Dioceses or through the General Convention, and
· Confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention (in 2006) means that a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex relationship will not receive the necessary consents (from other Bishops) until or unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Anglican Communion as a whole.

In my opinion, we did not fully comply with either of these requests, but we came much closer than I ever thought we would.

The Bishops have made a careful distinction between “public Rites” and “private blessings.” In many Dioceses permission to use officially authorized public Rites has been withdrawn, and the House as a whole has, indeed, confirmed that until or unless there is a “new consensus” there will be no such authorization. There is an implicit acknowledgement that in some places private blessings are still being offered as part of the “pastoral response” the Primates themselves said might be called for.

In reaffirming B033 from last year’s General Convention, the Bishops stated that “exercising restraint” means withholding consent, and that specifically pertains to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons.

Many voices have already been raised, denouncing the Bishops’ Statement as “non-compliance.” I disagree. I would characterize the decisions of the House of Bishops as being in very substantial compliance with what the Primates asked of us, and I believe there was a far higher level of concern for the unity of the Communion evident throughout our meeting than I have ever witnessed previously. On behalf of all the Bishops, I thank you for your prayers.

With love to all of you in our Lord,
+ John

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