A Pastoral Letter to the Anglican Communion Network

BB NOTE: We have learned that the intention of this pastoral letter was that it would be made available to the members of the ACN first and then go for wider distribution later. But we have also learned that the progressive blogs have put it up right away, which we here at the cafe are delighted to learn. As we can see in the text in the letter, it is clear that Bishop Duncan speaks to the amazing unity that continues with those who still worship in TEC churches, as well as those who are worship in CANA, AMiA, and other parishes that are under the pastoral protection of Anglican primates in ICON. It is an unexpected surprise to see that this letter is getting such wide distribution on the progressive blogs for it means that it will reach a wider audience – not only the content of the letter, but it’s compassionate voice of pastoral wisdom. Our prayers continue for Bishop Duncan and the team at the ACN offices, to the courageous Windsor bishops, as well as to our faithful brothers and sisters in AMiA and ICON and The Episcopal Church. But we also pray for those who are unsure, who don’t quite know what this all means, who are questioning and wondering – as we see in the Psalms, the Lord does not discourage our questions, especially when they come from the heart. This is a time to ponder and pray. To God be the glory.

9th March, A.D. 2007
Third Friday of Lent

TO ALL WHO ARE A PART OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION NETWORK OR ARE ALLIES IN ITS WELFARE:

Beloved in the Lord,

The Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania considered in great depth the plight “of those congregations and dioceses within the Episcopal Church who have sought alternative pastoral oversight because of their theological differences with their diocesan bishop or with the Presiding Bishop.”(1) The hope of the Primates’ Meeting, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is that a “sufficiently strong scheme” can be put in place so as to be “sufficient for all dissenting congregations and dioceses to find their home within it.”(2) Another way to say this is to say that a sufficiently strong plan must be found for the congregations and dioceses of the Anglican Communion Network (plus any others from the wider Windsor coalition that may desire similar insulation). The responsibility for developing such a system has been given to the wider coalition of Windsor Bishops who signed on to the “ Camp Allen principles” – a group that includes the Network Bishops – to shape such a system, a system to be led by a Primatial Vicar. (3)

There is much question as to the degree to which the vision for an international Pastoral Council and a domestic Primatial Vicar would leave the Network “within” the Episcopal Church. At the start, one has to say that the eighty-six congregations of the Network’s International Conference ( Uganda, Kenya, So. Cone and Central Africa) are neither under nor within the Episcopal Church, anymore than are the one hundred and forty churches in the Anglican Mission and CANA. Since the Key Recommendations of the Dar es Salaam Meeting anticipated “a place for [AMiA and CANA] within these provisions,” there is envisioned something much different than can be described as “within” the Episcopal Church.

For the hundreds of Network congregations in the Network Dioceses and Convocations, (who claim to be what they have always been, which is the Episcopal Church where they are) I want to share the following assessment. Most of us are at present within the Episcopal Church. This is where the Network was principally called to stand. One can be “within” something and not “under” it. The Network has been proving that for the last three years. The Dar es Salaam Communique and Key Recommendations represent a last attempt at reconciliation in the Anglican Communion and in the Episcopal Church. What the global leadership of the Anglican Communion has proposed is a marital separation. Pastorally, the church recommends such separations because they sometimes bring restoration of right relationship. Both parties are still technically within the marriage.But marital separations never leave one party “under” the other; such an arrangement would be doomed to failure from the start. The words of the Dar es Salaam Communique and Key Recommendations are carefully chosen.Any sense that the Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar are “under” majority TEC is absent from the documents themselves, would surely doom the vision to failure, and could hardly prove “a sufficiently strong scheme.”

Whether this last effort to reconcile both the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Communion and the two parts of the Episcopal Church to each other can succeed is, in human terms, up to the Network, to the Windsor Bishops, and to the wider House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Three things must be said:

1) As Network Moderator, I will do everything I can to bring the hopes of the Primates Meeting to fruition.Necessarily, I will attend the meeting of the House of Bishops about to convene. The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked for “generosity and graciousness” in response to what the Primates have done. I will go in that spirit. Attendance at the meeting of the House of Bishops, however, should not be construed as anything more than doing what the situation requires. It remains that “the theological differences” with the Presiding Bishop and with those Diocesan Bishops who have taught and acted contrary to received Faith and Order (as upheld in the Windsor Report, and the Dromantine and Dar es Salaam Communiques) are of such magnitude that discussion of the issues before us is the limit of our participation in the life of the House of Bishops at the present time. This represents no alteration of the grounds on which most Network Bishops have participated in the House of Bishops since August of 2003.

2) The Windsor Bishops (which includes the Network Bishops) – all those who adopted the Camp Allen principles (4) – will meet shortly after Easter to shape our part of what the Primates’ Meeting has envisioned. Obvious agenda items include discussion about a Primatial Vicar, about a “sufficiently strong” plan for the Network and Windsor minority, and about imagining whether any form of ministry could be designed that would be acceptable to those who have gone out.

3) The House of Bishops will have to respond to us and to the recommendations of the Primates’ Meeting in a vastly different manner than has characterized the majority’s behavior toward us in recent experience. As already stated, the Archbishop of Canterbury has called on all to “approach [the] challenges with a spirit of graciousness and generosity.” (5) Pray toward this end.

From the earliest days, we in the Anglican Communion Network have known that our vocation is to stand for the Faith once delivered to the saints, in submission to the whole Anglican Communion. From the earliest days, we appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Primates (6) to make that possible in an increasingly hostile environment here in the United States. Again, the Archbishop and the Primates have heard us. Again, they have spoken. They have determined to give the Episcopal Church one more chance to make it clear about the majority’s intentions vis a vis the teaching of Lambeth I.10, the Windsor Report and the Dromantine Communique.

Most of us, but certainly not all, in the Anglican Communion Network now believe that it is the Episcopal Church majority’s clear and continuing intention to “walk apart” in matters of Faith and Order. Nevertheless, we owe it to our beloved Communion to follow the Primates’ wisdom as to how to take a last step in that discernment. The Primates have established a deadline of September 30th for the Episcopal Church’s entire House of Bishops to make an “unequivocal” response. (7) For all that is ahead, the Anglican Communion Network will continue to work with those “within” and with those who have “gone out” for a biblical, missionary and united future for North American Anglicanism. There can be no turning back from that Godly commitment: the Network’s vision from the beginning. “And since we have this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” [2 Cor. 4:1]

Please continue to pray with fervor for me and for all who lead, as well as for all who are having an especially hard time with yet one more time of waiting and of testing.Your prayers are the vehicles of our Lord’s victory realized in the crises and crosses we face at every level both great and small.

Faithfully in Christ,

Moderator, Anglican Communion Network

NOTES:
(1) Archbishop Rowan Williams, Pastoral Letter to the Primates, 5th March 2007.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Key Recommendations of the Primates, 19th February 2007.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Archbishop Rowan Williams, Pastoral Letter to the Primates, 5th March 2007.
(6) Dissenting Bishops’ Statement, 5th August 2003.
(7) Key Recommendations of the Primates, 19th February 2007.