I am particularly struck by his take on the recent consent process for The Ven. Mark Lawrence in the Diocese of South Carolina. Generous to our Presiding Bishop is not too strong a statement in describing Bishop Howe's words on this here. His theological convictions make his take on the matter all the more credible, it seems to me.
It is also a good to see a read of the tenor of the House of Bishops from the "other side," although I leave that in quotes most self-consciously, as it might well misrepresent the sense of collegiality that Bishop Howe appears to have felt.
I will reiterate here my staunch support for the decisions of the Episcopal Church in recent years. I am not a theological moderate in most eyes. So I confess I might be tempted to nitpick Bishop Howe's pastoral letter in places, but that would only show my arrogance, and obscure the much more important evidence he graciously presents that says to me that the efforts to divide the Episcopal Church are failing.
That is Good News for all of us. Were that so with the Anglican Communion. I dare to hope.
It is good to know that true common ground is at last being identified and claimed. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are starting to see a path forward, and many of us just may travel it together despite our heartfelt differences.
by John W. Howe
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I want to give you a few impressions of this week's meeting of the House of Bishops as it moves toward its conclusion tomorrow. Let me give you a couple of positive reflections: First, Katharine Jefferts Schori has done a stunning job in leading this meeting.
One of the Bishops said tonight, "If you had told me six months ago what a good leader she is, I would not have believed you." She has been absolutely even-handed, and I have had less a sense of being "managed" than I have in any meeting of the House in 18 years. When asked questions she is clear, and she allows this House to do it's business in a totally straight-forward manner.
Secondly, I think there has been a better sense of collegiality than we have experienced for a long time. One of the new Bishops said last night that he received an email from someone in his diocese that said, "I will bet the atmosphere is less than cordial."
And his response was, "It is far more cordial than I had dared to hope." We were assured that no action would be taken at this meeting regarding the two major requests that were directed to us by the Primates' Communique (no more consents to the elections of partnered gay Bishops, and no more blessings of same-sex relationships).
There has been much discussion of both of these requests, and a number of individual Bishops have very clearly expressed their unwillingness to agree to either of them. But there has been no official action taken by the House as a whole regarding them. The tenor of the discussion makes it clear (to me) that whenever we do address them (presumably in our September meeting), there will be an overwhelming decision to say No.
But that has not happened this week. Professor Katherine Grieb, of Virginia Theological Seminary, gave a brilliant analysis of the proposed Anglican Covenant, as seen through the "grid" of the Primates' Communique, which, in my opinion, NAILED the reasons why the "progressives" cannot accede to the Primates' requests. You can read it at http://www.titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/. What has been addressed is the attachment to the Communique called "Recommendations of the Primates."
The proposals for the formation of a "Pastoral Council" and the "Pastoral Scheme" have been thoroughly rejected as incompatible with our Constitution and Canons. (Please note: I do not believe they are incompatible, and I voted against this rejection. But that is the opinion of the great majority of our House.) The Presiding Bishop was asked whether she still has the authority to appoint a "Primatial Vicar," and her answer was Yes.
So that may still happen, but it will not be within the framework envisioned by the Communique. She was very clear that within our polity the PB has very limited "oversight." She is responsible for episcopal consecrations, for visiting every diocese at least once within her nine year term, and for the canonical discipline of Bishops. She said that the first two of these responsibilities can be delegated, and she is willing to do so.
The third cannot. (As I have told you previously, I have regretted the use of the terminology of "Alternative Primatial Oversight" within the "Appeal" from our Diocese since we made it - for precisely this reason. What we are really concerned about is protecting our relationship to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and our continuing "full constituent membership" in the Anglican Communion.)
The other major action we took today was to send a letter asking and urging the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other members of the Primates' Standing Committee (five members, including both the ABC and the PB) to meet with us for three days of prayer and conversation around these divisive issues of human sexuality.
This was a proposal I made, and it was passed unanimously. (Apart from "courtesy" resolutions, I think that may be the first time we have passed anything unanimously in my eighteen years in the House!) We believe there is sufficient misunderstanding and miscommunication that this face to face meeting is urgently needed, and we have invited these persons to meet with us, at our expense, any time such a meeting can be scheduled between now and the end of September.
As I am sure you know, Fr. Mark Lawrence, who was elected the next Bishop of South Carolina, did not receive the required number of consents from the Standing Committees of the Church by the canonical deadline, and Bishop Schori declared the election "null and void."
There was a very unkind article in USA Today yesterday about Bishop Schori regarding this. However, Bishop Ed Salmon (retired and acting Bishop of South Carolina) assured us tonight that Bishop Schori "bent over backward" to get this election ratified, and the problem was with the Standing Committees. A sufficient number actually was received, but some of them were in improper form, and some of them were unsigned.
Bishop Salmon said that a new election will be held, probably within 45 to 60 days, and that Mark Lawrence has said he will run again "if he is asked to do so." The probability seems to be that he will run, will be re-elected, and this time the consents will be on time and in proper order.
I am very grateful for your prayers, and for the privilege of being your representative at what may have been the most important meeting of the House of Bishops in my time as your Bishop. Warmest regards in our Lord,The Right Rev. John W. Howe