ECUSA House of Bishops: A Statement, September 25, 2007
- House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007
A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion
In accordance with Our Lord's high priestly prayer that we be one, and
in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and
in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make
disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as
a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout
the world, we offer the following to The Episcopal Church, the
Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger
Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our
common life in Christ.
"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its
blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23.
The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the
Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee
of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting
our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have
both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was
a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in the
power of the Holy Spirit.
Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our
relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful
listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed
our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction
that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard
from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.
The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican
Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward
next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal
Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership
among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore
necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and
the General Convention.
* We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006
(The Election Of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and
Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the
consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life
presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further
strains on communion."
* We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the
blessing of same-sex unions.
* We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.
* We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited
bishops and call for them to end.
* We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide
consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and
* We call for increasing implementation of the listening process
across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.
* We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed
desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate
in the Lambeth Conference.
* We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil
rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.
Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention
The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive
Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion
Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative
Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate
evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling
upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise
restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to
the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider
church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House
acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included
among those to whom B033 pertains.
Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for
use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions
until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General
Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able
to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In
the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for
persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our
In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops
do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note
that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond
with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations."
They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of
private response to situations of individual pastoral care."
We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors
for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would
be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal
life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and
analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed
by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have
generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses
will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue
conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such
ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal
Incursions by Uninvited Bishops
We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited
bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the
statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of
the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established
ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include
respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical
boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit
ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor
Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such
incursions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We
offer assurance that delegated
episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.
In their communiqué of February 2007, the Primates proposed a
"pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep
concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own
primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The
Executive Council reiterated our concerns and declined to participate.
Nevertheless, we recognize a useful role for communion-wide
consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking
alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and
lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our
Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner
that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.
The Listening Process
The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican
Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and
lesbian Anglicans fully into the Church's conversation about human
sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this
process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and to participating with
others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural
contexts conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an
important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this
listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained
members of our constituent churches, and so is well-placed to engage
every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to
identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these
The Lambeth Conference
Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop
of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to
attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with
hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships
with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these
relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such
We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received
an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of
Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to
participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our
Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor.
It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.
Justice and Dignity for Gay and Lesbian Persons
It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus
in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our
shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and
lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or
policy that does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or
violates their dignity as children of God. We call all our partners in
the Anglican Communion to recommit to this effort. As we stated at the
conclusion of our meeting in March 2007: "We proclaim the Gospel of
what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every
human being, and of justice, compassion and peace. We proclaim the
Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no
slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's
children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life
of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's
children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal
participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel
that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and
children as well as those who are persecuted because of their
differences, often in the name of God."
 The Communion Sub-Group noted that "the resolution uses the
language of 'restraint', and the group noted that there has been
considerable discussion since General Convention about the exact force
of that word. By requiring that the restraint must be expressed in a
particular way - 'by not consenting ...', however, the resolution is
calling for a precise response, which complies with the force of the
recommendation of the Windsor Report." The group also noted "that
while the Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates
for the episcopate who were living in a same gender union, the
resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a
range of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group
welcomed this widening of the principle, which was also recommended by
the Windsor Report, and commend it to the Communion."