From the Bishop of Egypt’s Address to the House of Bishops "For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn …"

Here is an excerpt from the “Address of Bishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican province of Jerusalem and the Middle East to the House of Bishops in New Orleans. Please note that I’ve typed this in real time.

… My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very difficult truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.

I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion. This is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence of the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from the other congregational churches. I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares “the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that … are bound together not be a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.” With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church on faith and one Lord.

It is clear that your actions have resulted in one of the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost; and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.

My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say that it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1:10) of the rest of the Communion.

Sitting around the table requires humility from all of us. One church cannot say to the rest of the churches “I know the whole truth, you don’t”. Sitting around one table requires that each one should have a clear stance before the discussion starts. It also requires true openness and willingness to accept the mind of the whole. We do not have to be in one communion to sit around one table. We do so when we dialogue with the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox an with other faiths. It would be extremely difficult to sit around one table when you have already decided the outcome of the discussion and when you ignore the many voices, warnings, and appeals from around the Communion.

Today I appeal to you to respond with great clarity to the requests made in Dar Es Salaam. If you accept the Primates’ recommendations, would you be able to give assurance that the Executive Committee and the General Convention of TEC would ratify your response? It is the responsibility of the Bishop to guard the faith as we promise during our consecration. In many if not in most parts of the Communion and the historic churches, present and ancient, matters of faith and order, is the responsibility and therefore the authority of the Bishop to safeguard and teach.

If you don’t commit yourself to the Dar Es Salaam recommendations, would you be willing to walk apart at least for period during which we continue our discussions and dialogue until we reach a common understanding, especially about the essentials of our faith? Forgive me when I say that for many of us in the Communion, we feel that you have already walked apart at least theologically from the standard teaching of the Communion.

I know that you value personal freedom and independence. The whole world learns this from you. You need to demonstrate this by securing freedom for the American orthodox Anglicans who do not share your theological direction. Show your spirit of inclusiveness when you deal with them. I am afraid to say that without this more and more interventions form other provinces is going to happen.

Matt is also blogging the entire document at StandFirm here.