One day after the release of the much-anticipated report from the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the state of the world's third largest Christian communion remains uncertain.
Conservative global leaders of the Anglican Communion welcomed the recommendationsin what is being called the Windsor Reportfrom the 17-member panel, but only if the report's recommendations are "taken seriously."
The Windsor Report "represents a genuine way forward for the future of the Anglican Communion," states Bernard Malango, a member of the Lambeth Commission.
"If the recommendations of our report are not taken seriously, then the question of our future together in the Anglican Communion will remain, and greater division may result," said Malango, head of the Anglican Church of Central Africa, which includes Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
The 93-page document, which spells out the Communion's response to the contentious consecration of openly gay cleric Gene Robinson by the Episcopal Church (USA) last November, urges ECUSA to apologize for the consecration's consequences, invites those who took part in the consecration to consider self-initiated resignation, and suggests a ban on any future consecrations of any candidate who is "living in a same-gender union."
The report also reprimands the ECUSA, along with the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada, for developing rites for same-sex marriages and authorizing gay marriage, which "constitutes action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith."
"The Episcopal Church (USA) has caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion," the report states.
The Anglican Communion is a global body of more than 77 million Christians in autonomous regional churches, who profess shared commitment to the identity, theology, and traditions of the historic Church of England. ECUSA, with 2.4 million members, is one of 38 Anglican provinces worldwide.
Archdeacon Oluranti Odubogun, secretary general of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, embraced the theological stance of the Windsor document. His was one of the most vocal provinces in denouncing the Robinson consecration.
"Ordaining homosexuals is heresy, unbiblical, should never have been done and should be reversed," said Odubogun. With more than 17 million Nigerian Anglicans, the Church of Nigeria is the second-largest province in Anglicanism after Britain. "Homosexual behavior is deviant, unbiblical, un-Christian, and unnatural," he said.
Other primates or leaders in the global communion also welcomed the report but voiced concern that perhaps the recommendations are not forceful enough.
But the ultimate outcome of the recommendations made by the Commission depends on the actions of the ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster, he said
"They've already said they're sorry for the pain they've caused, but that is like an adulterous husband saying to his wife: 'I'm sorry I've hurt you,'" Venables said. "It doesn't deal with the underlying problem."
In a preliminary written statement released Monday, Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of ECUSA, stated that he and others in the American church "regret how difficult and painful actions have been in many of the global provinces," but reaffirmed "the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry."
Global South primates meeting
The Windsor Report recommendations fall short of what the primates of the Global Southrepresenting 55 million Anglicans in 18 provinces, including Nigeria, Central Africa, and South Americacalled for in a joint statement released in April.
The Global South leaders told the Lambeth Commission that the Windsor report should include "a specific call" to the ECUSA to "repent; revoking and rescinding their decision" to consecrate Gene Robinson.
The Global South primates also said in their April 16 declaration that the Windsor report should include a timeline of three months, after which, if conditions have not been met, "suspension and ultimate expulsion" of ECUSA should be enacted.
While the Windsor Report, does "invite" an apology from ECUSA, it does not ask ECUSA leaders to revoke or nullify the actions taken in the Robinson case. Nor does the long-awaited report include a timeline in which the apology from ECUSA must take place.
Several primates representing the Global South are reportedly meeting in London this week to draft a formal response to the Windsor recommendations. It is not clear when that document will be released.
Preventing the Global South from leaving worldwide Anglicanism is a major focus of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, according to Donald Armstrong.
Armstrong is the executive director of the Anglican Communion Institute, a theological think tank that provided consultation for the Windsor Report at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Commission.
"Our concern from the Anglican Communion Instituteand from the point of view of the Archbishop of Canterburyis to keep the global south in the Anglican Communion," said Armstrong.
He said he believes the language of the report will be strengthened when the Anglican leaders meet to ratify the document in February 2005.
"The primates will add teeth," Armstrong said. "They will move the language from gracious to decisive."
"(The Global South) don't want to abandon Anglicanism within North America," he continued, "they just want to clean it up."
"If the American church does not repent, then it will have to realign."
Such a realignment could entail "a great migration of churches" shifting into alternative oversightperhaps from "retired conservative bishops or other provinces," Armstrong said.
A divisive document
Edith Humphrey, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a member of the Primate's Theological Commission in the Anglican Church of Canada, fears that the vagueness of the report may actually contribute to further fracturing of the Communion.
"There is no required response," explains Edith Humphrey. "It is all couched in invitational or volitional terms."
The strongest language, she notes, is used to reprimand bishops, including church leaders in the Global South, who have crossed provincial and diocesan lines to provide oversight to orthodox Anglicans who have been in conflict with their local leadership over the Robinson issue.
These bishops, according to the report, are called upon to express regret, affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
The report is "suggesting everybody is at fault and therefore nobody is at fault," Humphrey said.
"I think we need very much to be in prayer," Humphrey concluded. The controversy over sexuality, which has already led to hemorrhaging within Anglicanism in the West, Humphrey said, could lead to a "realignment of Anglicanism in terms of larger Christianity."
"Perhaps the experiment of Anglicanism has run its course and we are not able to continue," she said.
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Our other coverage of the Windsor Report and its fallout includes:
Windsor Report Leaves Conservative Episcopalians Hopping Mad | Conservative network leader: "The disease of the U.S. church has found its way into this report." (Oct. 19, 2004)
Disappointed Anglican Conservatives Mull Options, Threaten Revolt | Americans must belong to Episcopal Church, report says. (Oct. 19, 2004)
Report Rebukes Episcopalians for Disunity but Declines Sanctions | U.S. church in limbo as conservative dissidents mull their options. (Oct. 18, 2004)
Weblog: Anglican Report Treats Conservatives Harsher than Liberals | News, predictions that commission would sanction Episcopal Church were greatly exaggerated. (Oct. 18, 2004)
Anglican Primates Respond to the Windsor Report | What church leaders from around the world are saying about the Eames Commission and the future of Anglicanism. (Oct. 18, 2004)