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A RESPONSE

The following is a joint letter from its twelve signers, all of whom are contributors to the Covenant-Communion web site. Others who wish to have their names appended to the list of signers may do so be posting a comment to that effect at: covenant.communion.org.


We write as an informal group of Episcopalians who share a desire to remain active and loyal members of the Episcopal Church. Most of us find ourselves profoundly at odds with several controversial decisions made by our leaders (General Convention, the Presiding Bishop and Church Center staff, Executive Council, among others) over the past several years. We are alarmed that they seem to represent a consistent trend away from theological, ethical, and pastoral norms that we understand as essential to Anglican faith and practice. Others among us are more open to the reconfiguration of some of these traditional boundaries, yet are concerned that the manner in which this process has been pursued has needlessly alienated many within our own church, raised substantive issues of mutual accountability between Anglican provinces, and increased the awkwardness in our relations with many ecumenical partners, both locally and globally.

We are deeply saddened by the steady stream of departures from the Episcopal Church that this ongoing crisis has provoked, especially as it has moved beyond individuals to include parochial and diocesan structures. We are not, as a matter of conscience, inclined to join them in their decision to leave. Moreover, we have varying degrees of disagreement with their perception of the necessity or advisability of doing so. Nonetheless, we are not without significant empathy for their position, and hold many of them as cherished friends and co-laborers in the work of the gospel. It is our desire to do whatever may be within our power to prevent the fences that have recently been erected between Anglicans (seen as protective fences by those who have erected them) from evolving into permanent walls, and, should it please God, to facilitate the conditions under which they might be removed.

At the same time, even amidst our deep uneasiness, we can confidently affirm that the Episcopal Church has not—in a formal and official and corporately univocal way—abandoned the inheritance of faith and practice that underlies Catholic and Anglican Christianity. We rejoice in the orthodoxy of our Book of Common Prayer (1979), in both its liturgical and catechetical texts, as well as the creedal documents that it includes. We recognize it as articulating the faith and teaching of the Episcopal Church, despite the statements and actions of some leaders that are reasonably construed as departing from it.

Moreover, we are cognizant of our obligation under the vows of our common baptism to assume the good faith and honorable intentions of fellow Episcopalians with whom we may have deep differences on contested questions. We find it important as a matter of principle to avoid demonizing or anathematizing those whom we disagree, even as we remain forthright in the articulation of our disagreement. We rejoice in any opportunity to make common cause with those whom we may perceive as adversaries (never enemies) in acts of gospel witness and service that transcend our differences.

In these days of great difficulty—indeed, crisis—within both the Episcopal Church and the entire Anglican Communion, we find it worth observing that many of those whose names appear below who would only recently have been considered “moderately conservative” in the Episcopal ecclesio-political spectrum now, as a result of rapidly shifting dynamics, occupy the veritable “right-wing fringe” of the Episcopal Church. A number of us feel mounting pressure to distance ourselves from the public image of the very church of which we are devoted members. This is not an indefinitely sustainable situation. It seems “meet and right,” on a number of levels, to seek some measure of structural relief as would decrease that pressure and allow us to live and move and have our being as Episcopalians. If the new “conservative fringe” is to remain securely connected to the institutional whole, some accommodation to their perceived need for insulation from many of the actions of that institutional whole, and the utterances of its leaders, would be immensely helpful.

We are therefore grateful to call attention to some recent “discussion points” (attached below as an Appendix) articulated by the Rev. Michael Russell, one whose own views are generally aligned with what might be called the “majority party” in the Episcopal Church, as a positive contribution to the process of seeking the sort of equilibrium that many of us on both sides of the divide desire. Among ourselves we have a variety of assessments of his specific proposals, and realize that, even if were able to speak with one voice on them, Father Russell does not speak for any authorized constituency, so his ideas only represent a starting point. Nonetheless, we appreciate the spirit in which they are offered, and find some of them both intriguing and worthy of further discussion.

It would be premature for us to put forward any concrete counter-proposals at this time, even if we were able to do so. In any case, we have no standing to do so. Our hope in making this public statement is to serve as a catalyst—one among many, perhaps—toward a fuller consideration of the challenge of creating and preserving a secure place within the structures of the Episcopal Church for those who hold traditional perspectives that do not reflect those currently held by the leadership, perhaps even including resolutions—legislative and otherwise—for consideration by the 76th General Convention next July.

Signed:

The Reverend Anthony F.M. Clavier
The Very Reverend Matthew Gunter
The Reverend Nathan Humphrey
The Reverend Dorsey McConnell
The Reverend Daniel H. Martins
The Very Reverend Dr. Jean McCurdy Meade
The Reverend Canon Neal Michell
The Reverend Matthew S.C. Olver
The Reverend Bruce Robison
Dale Rye, Esq.
Craig David Uffman, M.Div.
Christopher Wells

Appendix (per Mike Russell+)

1) DEPO for congregations as has been outlined and endorsed up and down the real and fictive Communion structures. This works for conservative parishes in liberal Diocese and liberal parishes in conservative Dioceses.
2) Canonical protection for cultural islands in our church, liberal or conservative. As long as there is DEPO as outlined there is not pressure to make culture islands like Ft. Worth itself to be forced to ordain women, for example, their parish could make it happen through DEPO, as well as women being placed.
3) Discussion of canonical changes that allow for some process to deal with concerns about uniformity and accountability towards respecting and affirming the creeds.
4) Modernize the curriculum of William White as a way of ensuring that all TEC clergy have command of some common body of writings. I think three years of seminary education is too little given the corpus of material to be mastered. But within that there should be some common library of reading that all must do so that we can respect the breadth of this Church.
5) Specific canonical sanction and review for testing the spiritual blessings of proposals that test the bonds of affection, with a review structure that takes into account the wider Communion.
6) Reciprocal Provincial participation in the Councils of the church. In essence this would have give some selection of foreign bishops (think of pulpit exchanges) voice and vote in every Province’s deliberative body. Sort of a perpetual mini-Lambeth. Every Bishop would participate over time in this process.
7) Discuss the creation of leases for disputed properties that allowed those who have left TEC to stay in t
hem with three caveats:
a) If they congregation ever ceases to be in a Communion relationship with Canterbury/York they must surrender the property;
b) They must cease all verbal assault on TEC: and
c) They must send whatever the assessment would be to the local Diocese to the WWAC for use in world mission/relief efforts.

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