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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 Communion.

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).

The Report 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.

We [The 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.

So personally, 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