General Convention, and, for that matter, every member of the Church is ultimately accountable to Jesus Christ. Well, that would seem to make sense, no?
Bonnie calls it in a no-nonsense way. Following the requests of the Communiqué would violate foundational principles -- if not in letter, then in spirit -- in our polity. . . not to mention undermine the God-given dignity of a significant number of our members.
Put another way, we are being asked to violate our baptismal covenant. And if that does not give us pause, then nothing will.
As I read the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I am deeply troubled by its implications for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
I continue to offer the Primates my affection, prayer and companionship along the way of the Cross and I respect their leadership of our Communion. Their Communiqué, however, raises profound and serious issues regarding their authority to require any member Church to take the types of specific actions the Communiqué contemplates and whether they have authority to enforce consequences or penalties against any member Church that does not act in a way they desire. The type of authority for the Primates implicit in the Communiqué would change not only the Episcopal Church but the essence of the Anglican Communion.
The polity of the Episcopal Church is one of shared decision making among the laity, priests and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops does not make binding, final decisions about the governance of the Church. Decisions like those requested by the Primates must be carefully considered and ultimately decided by the whole Church, all orders of ministry, together.
Some are asking whether the Primates can ask our House of Bishops to take certain actions and put a deadline on their request. Yes, they can ask. There are larger questions that need to be addressed, including: Is it a good idea for our House of Bishops to do what they have asked? Is the House of Bishops the right body within the Episcopal Church to respond to the Primates' requests?
Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit's call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin.
To honor all of the Primates' requests would change the way the Episcopal Church understands its role in the Communion and the way Episcopalians make decisions about our common life. Our church makes policy and interprets its resolutions and Canons through the General Convention and, to a lesser extent, the Executive Council.
As president of the 800-plus member House of Deputies, it is my duty to ensure that the voice of the clergy and the laity of our Church will be heard as the Church discusses and debates the Primates' requests and that that process will not be pre-empted by the House of Bishops or any other group. I have already begun to work toward that end.
All Anglicans must remember that the second Lambeth Conference in 1878 recommended that "the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members."
This has been the tradition of the Anglican Communion. To demand strict uniformity of practice diminishes our Anglican traditions.
Our tradition of autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion, that come together because of our love of Christ and our common heritage, has allowed us to focus on mission and evangelism to our broken world which is in desperate need of the Good News of God in Christ. In recent times, however, we have spent too much of our time, talent and treasure debating if we ought to deny some people a place at the table to which Jesus calls us all. Instead, we must listen to each other – really listen and not just read reports – so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving through all of us and calling us to be more faithful.