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BY RALINDA B. GREGOR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Tension between Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and The Episcopal Church's (TEC) Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori escalated after the announcement of consequences for consecrating a non-celibate lesbian as bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury announced May 28 that TEC and other provinces that continue to violate the Windsor moratoria must withdraw from the ecumenical councils of the church and can only serve as consultants rather than members of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order.
The archbishop's Pentecost Letter to the Communion, which announced these consequences, was met with immediate pushback from Episcopal Church leadership.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responded with her own Pentecost letter issued June 2 in which she railed against "the troubling push toward centralized authority" demonstrated by the archbishop's letter. She wrote that, "We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures." She also criticized the imposition of sanctions on provinces which have formally breached the moratoria through decisions taken by their governing bodies, while "such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private."
"I don't think it helps dialogue to remove some people from the conversation," she told reporters after her June 8 address to the Canadian General Synod.
While Lambeth's action to remove TEC representatives from ecumenical councils represents some tangible sanction against the province, it does not carry the same weight as being removed from any of the instruments of communion, not being invited to the Lambeth Conference or being asked to refrain from attending meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council. On the broad spectrum of consequences, its impact could be likened to an ecclesial slap on the wrist.
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's response suggested something more was going on behind the scenes, and there is evidence that stiffer consequences were delivered privately. The Church of England Newspaper reported on a letter sent to the presiding bishop: "The chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, David Booth Beers, told bishops attending the May 24 to 28 Living Our Vows bishops' training programme at the Lake Logan Episcopal Center in North Carolina that in this letter Dr. Williams had asked the Presiding Bishop to consider absenting herself from meetings of the Anglican Communion's Standing Committee and the Primates Meeting in light of the Episcopal Church's violation of the moratoria on gay bishops and blessings, those present tell CEN."
However, the presiding bishop told reporters on June 18 that she would be attending the meeting.
It appears that although the Archbishop of Canterbury can decline to invite bishops to the Lambeth Conference if he wishes, he does not have the authority to remove Standing Committee members.
The conflict continued to escalate as Jefferts Schori, who was scheduled to preach and preside at Southwark Cathedral in London on June 13, was asked by Lambeth Palace not to wear her mitre. Additionally, the presiding bishop's office was asked to provide evidence of her ordination to each order of ministry in order to comply with the Church of England's Overseas Clergy Measure of 1967.
Episcopal News Service reported Jefferts Schori as saying that these requirements were "nonsense." She said, "It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre."
|Jefferts Schori carrying her bishop’s mitre under her left arm. (Photo courtesy London SE1)|
There has been considerable controversy in the Church of England over plans to approve women bishops, and Jefferts Schori's visit came just days prior to the General Synod's debate on the measure.
During the service, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori did not wear her mitre as requested-but she carried it as she processed. Her vestment neckline prominently exposed her bishop's shirt and collar.
Although 15 Southwark diocese clergy members wrote The Times (London) to express their concern in advance of Jefferts Schori's visit, the cathedral's dean defended her, saying, "I believe the Chapter and congregation of this church will walk the same path as the Episcopal Church of America ... They have behaved entirely in accord with their canon laws and their freedom as an independent Province of the Church, not imposing or interfering with others with whom they disagree but proceeding steadily and openly themselves."
The conflict played out again in the exchange between TEC Executive Council members and The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, during the June 16-18 meeting of the Executive Council. The Executive Council invited Kearon to attend since he was vacationing in the U.S., and he took the opportunity to explain why the Archbishop of Canterbury had removed TEC from the Communion's ecumenical councils. Episcopal News Service reported that he said, "There is a logic which says if you do not share the faith and order of the wider communion then you shouldn't represent that communion to the wider church." Executive Council members questioned why sanctions had not been imposed upon all provinces that violated the moratorium on "border crossing" and dismissed Kearon's explanation that it was not as serious as the consecration of gay and lesbian bishops.
The Living Church reported that TEC House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson said in her closing remarks to the Council, "I'm still an Anglican, and nobody, whether it is a person who is told that they are an Anglican pope or that they should not be an Anglican pope ... can tell me that I'm not an Anglican." †