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ACC Chairman addresses Executive Council of ECUSA

Posted on: March 7, 2006 12:07 PM
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John Paterson, bishop of Auckland and chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), told the Executive Council that he hopes General Convention will rigorously debate the Windsor Report while keeping in mind the communion that Anglicans share.

"The Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church," he said. "I would be so bold as to say that the reverse is also true. The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion. The ACC needs the Episcopal Church."

Paterson, speaking to the Council's opening session March 6, also apologized for the ACC's decision to limit the participation of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada's delegations to the last ACC meeting in Nottingham, England in June 2005.

Noting that the vote to ask the churches to voluntarily withdraw their members passed by two votes, Paterson said the decision "ostracized" the delegations.

"I apologize and at the same time I commend your representatives for the manner in which they managed to somehow stay with the body that was treating them so badly," Paterson said.

The delegations made presentations to the ACC during the Nottingham meeting answering the Windsor Report's concerns over consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the blessing of same-gender unions. The delegations gave up their seats and votes at the meeting. The ACC, which meets every three years, is the Communion's principal consultative and representative body.

The full text of Paterson's remarks follows.

Address to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, USA, 7 March 2006.

I want to begin with an expression of appreciation to the Presiding Bishop for making it possible for me to be here in person to address matters relating to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Episcopal Church. The warmth of your welcome and the extent of your hospitality to me as Chair of the ACC is in marked contrast to the manner in which the body that I chair treated the representatives of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada last June in Nottingham. One of the pleasures of my six year term as Primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, quite apart from the relief that that term has now ended, was to sit alongside Frank Griswold, as a colleague and as a friend, and to appreciate that here was a man of integrity, with a faith that is insightful, and a mind that is able to communicate that faith.

The second word I have is one of apology.

I was saddened personally by what took place at ACC13 in Nottingham. I chaired the session at which a vote was taken to endorse the Primates' request that 'in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the ACC, for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference'. Your representatives were not permitted to speak or to vote on that resolution. It was carried by two votes. The effect of it was to ostracise the American and Canadian representatives, who were forced to live apart and walk apart. I apologise and at the same time I commend your representatives for the manner in which they managed somehow to stay with the body which was treating them so badly. There was a dignity in their bearing in the midst of their sadness and the Episcopal Church can be quietly proud of your people. Nevertheless, it happened on my watch, and this is my personal apology.

In my address as Chair of the ACC in Nottingham I had some fairly strong words to say about what I saw as happening in the Anglican Communion. I said those things because I happen to be one of a small number of people who have first-hand experience of three of the four so-called 'Instruments of Unity' or 'Instruments of Communion' as the Windsor Report has recommended they be called namely the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. Only the Archbishop of Canterbury has experience of all four.

Allow me to quote from that address briefly:

We are in fact experiencing changes in the inter-relationships of the Instruments of Unity as we speak. The Primates' Meeting met for years without making any recommendations or passing resolutions, with the one exception in the late 1980's expressing reservations about constitutional changes in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. But that is now changing, and the 'enhanced responsibility' which successive Lambeth Conferences and the Inter Anglican Doctrinal and Theological Commission recommended is finally being taken on board. Yet the ACC needs to take care lest such enhanced responsibility on the part of one of the Instruments of Unity move from the art of gentle persuasion to what has been called 'institutional coercion'. The fact that the Lambeth Commission on Communion was asked to report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose office is itself one of the Instruments of Unity, 'in preparation for the ensuing meetings of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council' yet has found that the Instrument which happened to meet first, has taken steps to recommend that the Instrument which was to meet subsequently can only meet without its full membership, is at least slightly premature, if not coercive and somewhat punitive. A body which exists by means of a constitution agreed to by all the member churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is required by that constitution to be 'consultative' cannot consult fully or properly if all of its members are not sitting at the same table. It is surely not for one Instrument of Unity to disempower another?

My next word is one of commendation. Along with a number of others in the Communion, I take the view that the Episcopal Church thus far has been exemplary in the attention that you have given to the recommendations of The Windsor Report. Of course you have your General Convention soon, and that body will make up its own mind about these matters. The process of reception is moving along, and at considerable cost to your own ministry and mission the Episcopal Church has acted carefully and well. I hope that the call in The Windsor Report for all Provinces to exercise generosity and charity as the process gathers pace does not go unheeded. Those qualities are yet to be shown by some.

Despite its partial exclusion from participation in the structures of the ACC, the Episcopal Church has demonstrated a quality of leadership in relation to Windsor that I have greatly admired. The paradox is that in the midst of our apparent disunity the Episcopal Church as an opportunity to be a living symbol of Anglican unity. You have within your ranks a wide cross-section of Episcopalians. Labels are notoriously unhelpful, but they help to identify the rich diversity of Anglicanism. Many in the Communion are holding out the hope that the Episcopal Church's ultimate response to Windsor will be an inclusive one, a response which both liberal and traditionalist might be able to own.

Last June in Nottingham I sat and listened with growing appreciation to the two presentations made by representatives of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. Both groups had gone to great lengths to prepare detailed presentations, within a limited time frame, and they were sensitive, inclusive and courteous. Both of those presentations are important contributions to what we have now called 'the listening process' as mandated by Lambeth Resolution 1.10, by the Primates Meeting, and by a Resolution of ACC 13. An English priest has been employed at St Andrew's House in London, at the Anglican Communion Office, to facilitate that process. Many of us hold the hope that we have begun a conversation, not only within the Episcopal Church and across its differences, but a conversation which might invite other Provinces into dialogue and hopefully mutual understanding.

The same is true of my own Church. Parts of the New Zealand Church rejoiced at the election, confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson. Other parts found it very difficult to accept, and it has thus sharpened the debate and heightened the differences in our Church. We are attempting the dialogue, and as God knows, it is not easy. But it has to take place.

Another important aspect of all this is the ecumenical dimension, and further than that, the interfaith dimension. The Anglican Consultative Council is charged with bringing together and facilitating the various ecumenical dialogues, so that our partner Churches can speak to one central Anglican partner rather than try to work with 43 independent member churches of the Anglican Communion. Little wonder, then, that the ACC is particularly cautious about the conduct of the listening process, and the manner in which the conversations proceed about human sexuality, out of respect for the very different views that are held in particular by the Roman Catholic Church, and in the wider sense by the Muslim world. Not that we are to be dictated to by the views and values of others, but if a wider consensus is ever to be reached on these matters, then a sensitivity to others and a respect for difference is going to be essential. And those are Anglican virtues are they not?

I suspect that a study of the history of the Episcopal Church might discover much evidence of a respect for, encounter with, and an inclusion of, a number of issues. This church was way out in front in respect of the ministry of women. What is now evident is that there is a need for a theology of inclusion, whereby those who may differ from others theologically and perhaps in their ecclesiology, are still able to remain in the same room.

For all its imperfections, The Windsor Report is the document before the Communion, with suggestions for a way ahead. I hope the General Convention debates it rigorously, and then generously shares its conclusions with the Churches of the Communion.

The Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church. I would also be so bold as to say that the reverse is also true. The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion. The ACC needs the Episcopal Church. I used to take some pride in stating that the ACC is the most representative body in the Anglican Communion. That suffered a body blow from the Primates Meeting in Ireland and from ACC 13. But let me conclude with what I said in Nottingham:

The ACC gives voice and hope and strength and dignity to those 80 million or more Anglicans who say they belong to us, and look to us to represent them, but who are not themselves Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons or ACC members. They are the laos, they are the people of God, and they are our people, and they are importantly and impressively represented in the ACC, and I believe they want us to stay together, to live with difference, and not have difference forced upon them. Many Anglicans know what it is to have been colonised, and have no wish to repeat that experience in a new colonising of the mind and heart. Let ACC-13 declare to our watching and rather anxious church that our Communion is indeed a living Communion, that God lives, that God loves, and that we can continue to worship and serve God from our many different perspectives, while still proudly calling ourselves 'Anglicans'.

Article from:  ENS Episcopal News Service