Utah's Bishop, Carolyn Tanner Irish: Statement on Windsor Report
I believe all
of us are grateful to the members of the Lambeth Commission, appointed
by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, following the action of
Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) in voting to affirm the
election of Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire. Robinson
is a gay man living openly with his partner in a covenant relationship.
Our action caused great distress to some in the American church and
'strained the bonds of affection' among other members of the Anglican
The task of
the Commission was to seek ways of strengthening our unity as a Communion.
Their work cannot have been easy, since diversity and provincial autonomy
have always been hallmarks of Anglicanism. Homosexuality was the presenting
issue, but ultimately the Commission determined that it had to consider
matters of polity or governance in the Communion as well. This appears
to be the primary challenge of the resulting 'Windsor Report' (so-calle
because that is where the Commission held its last meeting).
itself is lengthy and complex. We will spend considerable time reflecting
on its analysis and discussing its recommendations. I sincerely hope
the conservative bishops in our church will join in this process, though
for the most part they have not attended House of Bishops meetings
since the summer of 2003.
My sense is
that the Report challenges all of us to go more deeply and stretch
more broadly in our understanding of how we are to live out the gospel
in this enormously challenging world-within the structures of our tradition
and the bonds of our affection. The Report does not reprimand the US
Episcopal Church as some had hoped it would. We are, however, called
to sensitivity and patience, and to the use of every opportunity for
education, reflection, and communication.
I believe we
are perfectly willing to apologize for any harm and hurt our actions
have caused, and many among us have done so publicly. On the other
hand it is entirely unlikely that we will be willing to set the clock
back on the actions themselves, or to cease acting inclusively-'respecting
the dignity of every human being' as we promise in our baptismal vows.
What would a reversal such as that say to our gay sisters and brothers?
Go back to the closet? To deceit and dishonesty?"Further, our church
has not acted rashly or in haste, without study, conversation, and prayer
over a long period of time. A significant majority of our governing body
(the 2003 General Convention of The Episcopal Church) had a strong sense
of timeliness and rightness about our church's actions.
Anglican Communion] are not in fact a church, but a communion of autonomous
and interdependent churches all over the world who trace their historical
roots to the Church of England-the American Episcopal Church being
the first of these outside the British Isles. Our bonds are not confessional
(uniformity of belief) nor do we share common histories or cultures.
I do have concerns about more tightly articulated and centralized structures
of governance in our Communion. I doubt that these would be helpful
to our ultimate unity and communion in Christ, or in our care and affection
for one another. Indeed they may yet again present a distraction from
our active mission in God's world, or even divide us further.
—Carolyn Tanner Irish
Bishop of Utah
October 20, 2004