The Panel of Reference & New Westminster Diocese
For over three years now, most of the Communion’s attention has been focussed on the Episcopal Church of the USA due to its decisions at the 2003 General Convention. It is easily forgotten that the current crisis was really triggered a year earlier when, in June 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster decided to authorise same-sex blessings through a synodical vote (the third, following similar votes in 1998 and 2001) and the consent of its bishop, Michael Ingham. This action was not only clearly in opposition to Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 but also to the 1979 statement of the Canadian House of Bishops that they “do no accept the blessing of homosexual unions”. In response to the Synod’s decision, eight parishes left the Synod and took various actions to distance themselves from the diocese.
Last week this situation hit the headlines again as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference issued their report and recommendations on the situation in the diocese. The following section sets that Report in the wider context of earlier Communion responses to New Westminsterbefore turning to explore and evaluate the Panel’s findings, reasoning and recommendations.
Communion responses to New Westminster
The Archbishop of Canterbury
On his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in the month after these decisions, Rowan Williams wrote to the Primates making clear that
the Lambeth resolution of 1998 declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion, and what the Communion will and will not approve or authorise. I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns or repudiates this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion (italics added).
The Anglican Consultative Council
A few months later the ACC met in Hong Kong (Sept 15-26, 2002) with Bishop Ingham present. Among its resolutions was Resolution 34 –
This Anglican Consultative Council, being concerned about a range of matters of faith and order which have arisen since we last met, and having in mind the constant emphasis on mutual responsibility and interdependence in the resolutions of successive Lambeth Conferences, from the call in 1867 for "unity in faith and discipline by due and canonical subordination of synods" (1867, IV) to the call in 1998 for a "common mind concerning ethical issues where contention threatens to divide" (1998, IV 5 (c)) calls upon:
dioceses and individual bishops not to undertake unilateral actions or adopt policies which would strain our communion with one another without reference to their provincial authorities; and
provincial authorities to have in mind the impact of their decisions within the wider Communion; and
all members of the Communion, even in our disagreements to have in mind the "need for courtesy, tolerance, mutual respect and prayer for one another" (1998, III.2 (e)).
The Primates’ Meeting & Windsor Report
The next meeting of the Instruments was the Primates’ Meeting in Brazil in May 2003 where the Primates discussed ‘True Union in the Body?’ and made the following statement on 27th May:
The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.
While the Primates were meeting, on May 23, Bishop Ingham issued a rite of blessing of committed same sex unions and wrote to the six parishes which had voted to permit such blessings. On May 28, the day after the Primates’ Meeting, the first blessing ceremony took place.
The Primates next met at Lambeth, in October 2003, in the aftermath of General Convention. There the Primates stated
At this time we feel the profound pain and uncertainty shared by others about our Christian discipleship in the light of controversial decisions by the Diocese of New Westminster to authorise a Public Rite of Blessing for those in committed same sex relationships…
They proceeded to state that
Therefore, as a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster…
we must make clear that recent actions in New Westminster and in the Episcopal Church (USA) do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole, and these decisions jeopardise our sacramental fellowship with each other. We have a particular concern for those who in all conscience feel bound to dissent from the teaching and practice of their province in such matters. Whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates.
Their starkest warning related to the consequences of proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson –
This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).
But they continued,
Similar considerations apply to the situation pertaining in the Diocese of New Westminster.
The Meeting also set up the Lambeth Commission whose report – The Windsor Report – was published just over a year later. It commented at some length on the situation in New Westminster (the index lists paras 27, 122, 136-9 and 143-4). Among its conclusions were that
The overwhelming response from other Christians both inside and outside the Anglican family has been to regard these developments as departures from genuine, apostolic Christian faith… (28)
The Commission not only reported the response of others, it also offered its own interpretation and affirmation of the significance of these actions:
We believe that to proceed unilaterally with the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions at this time goes against the formally expressed opinions of the Instruments of Unity and therefore constitutes action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it, and of bonds of affection in the life of the Communion, especially the principle of interdependence (143)
It recommended that
Bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation. Pending such expression of regret, we recommend that such bishops be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We recommend that provinces take responsibility for endeavouring to ensure commitment on the part of their bishops to the common life of the Communion on this matter (144).
When the Primates met at Dromantine in February 2005 they reaffirmed this position, making clear (para 12) that
We as a body continue to address the situations which have arisen in North America with the utmost seriousness. Whilst there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion, the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered.
They did not mention New Westminster by name but instead focussed on the province of the Anglican Church of Canada. They were persuaded that ‘in order for the recommendations of the Windsor Report to be properly addressed, time needs to be given to the Episcopal Church (USA) and to the Anglican Church of Canada for consideration of these recommendations according to their constitutional processes’. However, they requested the two churches to withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council until the next Lambeth conference. They also (para 15) set up the Panel of Reference which has now, nearly one and a half years later, produced its first report:
In order to protect the integrity and legitimate needs of groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces, we recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury appoint, as a matter of urgency, a panel of reference to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches for such members in line with the recommendation in the Primates’ Statement of October 2003
The Panel of Reference on New Westminster
The context, role and findings of the Panel
Even by the time of Dromantine in February 2005 a number of the New Westminster parishes had – after various failed attempts to find a solution within the diocese and province - left their diocese and province (and their properties) in order to come under the jurisdiction of Primates from elsewhere in the Communion. Similar to the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) they styled themselves as the ‘Anglican Communion in Canada’ but were later required to change their name and became the ‘Anglican Coalition in Canada’. Other parishes, however, stayed in the diocese and appealed to the Panel when it was created. It is the report on their appeal which has now appeared.
In making an assessment of the Panel’s work it is important to reconsider their remit. The Archbishop of Canterbury, in referring the New Westminster situation to the Panel, was recognising that
there is a serious dispute concerning the adequacy of schemes of delegated or extended episcopal oversight or other extraordinary arrangements which may be needed to provide for parishes which find it impossible in all conscience to accept the ministry of their own diocesan bishop…
The task of the Panel at this stage is simply
To make recommendations to the Primates, dioceses and provincial and diocesan authorities concerned
The central finding and recommendations of the Panel are ‘entirely within the provisions made by the House of Bishops’ (3) of the Anglican Church of Canada as
the provision of a scheme of Shared Episcopal Ministry [SEM] by the Canadian House of Bishops in 2004 offers a model which we believe to be appropriate, with some additional safeguards designed to take account of the special circumstances prevailing in this case, given the protracted and deep divisions which exist (Recommendation 3).
In short, the seriousness of the problem in the diocese is recognised (and there is nothing in the Report that offers support to the diocese’s conduct either in terms of the decision to bless same-sex unions or its provision of alternative oversight). However, the existing provincial scheme of modified oversight provision for such situations is found to be sufficient with minor modifications. The specific requests of the appealing parishes have therefore been rejected:
The Panel of Reference cannot recommend the proposals of the applicants for transfer of jurisdiction either to the AniC or to CAPAC (Recommendation 1)
The reasoning of the Panel
In order to understand and evaluate these findings it is necessary to explore the central steps that led to this conclusion of rejecting the solution requested by the parishes. These fall into three broad areas:
· The Panel’s interpretation of its role and of the current situation in the diocese and wider Communion
· The relationship of the diocese to the wider Communion
· The nature of jurisdiction
The panel’s interpretation of its own role
Within this, there are three key factors.
FIRST, the panel places great emphasis on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for
The Instruments of Unity of the Communion to work tirelessly towards reconciliation and healing, “that the world may believe”.
It hopes for ultimate resolution in an Act of Reconciliation as proposed by The Windsor Report (6), twice quoting (7, 20) the report’s statement that “while the temporary provision of pastoral oversight is in place there must also be a mutually agreed commitment to effecting reconciliation”. Thus, a fundamental principle is that
the stated aim of both TWR and of the Panel is to achieve reconciliation and healing. Steps which formalise the transfer of episcopal ministry on a longer term basis can not be justified unless formal reconciliation has demonstrably proved impossible to achieve (8)
They state that
SEM or any other scheme of alternative oversight can only be a temporary relief and protection, if necessary, for those who find themselves in dissent from their diocese or province, until the presenting issue is resolved and theologically sustainable reconciliation achieved (27)
The Panel’s work can only be fairly assessed when there is a recognition that this model of seeking reconciliation is fundamental to its whole rationale.
SECOND, a further crucial plank in the argument is the language of ‘temporary’. The word appears 11 times and in some crucial places (italics added):
The situation which has been referred to the Panel is therefore properly to be understood as a temporary breakdown in relationships between the dissenting congregations and their Diocese. Should the dispute concerning the authorisation of public rites for blessing of same-sex unions be resolved by the Canadian General Synod in 2007, as all concerned will hope and pray that it will, any arrangements put in place for the temporary pastoral care and oversight of those parishes may then conceivably give way to a formal Act of Reconciliation, as envisaged by s.156 of TWR (6)
The temporary nature of the dispute, until determined one way or another by the Anglican Church of Canada and within the Anglican Communion, has a direct and important bearing on the kind of proposals which may be made by the Panel of Reference for the extended episcopal care of those who have declared themselves to be in impaired communion with the Bishop and Diocese of New Westminster (8)
From the text of the submission it seems that the authors of the AS hope to achieve rather more than temporary episcopal oversight for the Networks which they have established or joined, locally within Canada and in North America (29)
Extended ministry of the kind envisaged by TWR and by the Panel may need additional provisions to ensure the security of those receiving a temporary ministry of pastoral oversight, but the analogy of delegated or shared episcopal ministry can not be extended in order to divide jurisdiction, which defines the office and the see of the diocesan bishop (34)
In the present temporary situation, the Panel recognises that an agreed scheme of extended episcopal ministry needs to be offered to a number of clergy and parishes within the Diocese of New Westminster, which will both provide for their spiritual needs and offer assurance of continuity for their distinctive theological tradition (Recommendation 2)
It is, therefore, clear that the Panel sees its recommendations as simply another separate ‘holding operation’ in the midst of the current crisis. The Panel’s self-understanding is clearly stated in paragraph 5:
Recommendations to resolve the issues relating to doctrine and authorisation of liturgy, which are the source of the dispute between the applicants and the Diocese, the Diocesan Synod and their Bishop, the Rt Revd Michael Ingham, are set out in TWR. It is not the function of the Panel of Reference to advise or comment on these issues, which await the response of the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada at its meeting in 2007. The wider Anglican Communion itself will have to find a resolution to these issues in New Westminster and elsewhere through its Instruments of Communion (5).
It is here clear that the Panel is looking for an internal provisional solution (through the 2007 General Synod) to the more fundamental issues related to the Windsor Report and Lambeth I.10 and is seeking to find interim arrangements that may assist future reconciliation.
This appears to be a repetition of a logic similar to that found in the Windsor Report. It involves bypassing one contentious area in order to address the fallout from it. The logic runs something like this:
a) The Lambeth Commission was not set up to deal with matters of sexuality which had been addressed elsewhere by the Instruments (supremely in Lambeth I.10) and had their own systems of review.
b) The Commission was to address the question of how the Communion responds when a province disregards the Instruments in this area.
c) The Commission should therefore pass no judgment on the substance of Communion teaching on sexuality.
a) The Panel are claiming that they are not set up to deal with matters of the Windsor Report and processes which are being addressed elsewhere at a provincial level. In the words of the Primates, ‘in order for the recommendations of the Windsor Report to be properly addressed, time needs to be given to the Episcopal Church (USA) and to the Anglican Church of Canada for consideration of these recommendations according to their constitutional processes’ (Dromantine).
b) The Panel was to address the question of how the Communion responds when parishes (or dioceses) appeal to it as they find themselves in a province which has disregarded the Instruments but has not yet formally responded to the Windsor Report
c) The Panel should therefore pass no judgment on whether or not the recommendations of the Windsor Report and its path of reconciliation are being followed by the diocese or province.
Thus the Panel’s statement in para 8 (quoted above) and its claim
It is for the Communion, through its Instruments, following the processes set out in TWR, to deal with these presenting issues. SEM or any other scheme of alternative oversight can only be a temporary relief and protection (27).
Inevitably to those most under pressure from decisions in New Westminster (and TEC) this looks like a policy of infinite deferral by impotent Communion structures in the face of constant harassment by powerful diocesan and provincial structures determined to disregard Communion appeals. Once again, the danger is that the Communion instruments and such bodies as the Panel will be seen as unable to keep up with the pace of events on the ground.
This approach of differentiation of tasks and deferral of judgments is even more problematic in this case. This is because – as noted above – the Communion has clearly and regularly spoken to the diocese and bishop of New Westminster and, in over four years, the bishop and diocese have shown no signs of responding even remotely adequately. In fact, the Panel notes, but without any comment, that far from accepting the Report and its recommendations
The Diocese of New Westminster disputes the narrative and interpretation in TWR of events in the Diocese, and questions the standing of TWR within the Anglican Church of Canada and in the wider Anglican Communion (3).
THIRD, in addition to the focus on reconciliation and the temporary nature of the current situation, it is necessary to recognise the Panel’s assessment of the significance of the events that have led to the problems it must address.
TWR is critical both of those bishops, dioceses and provinces which have crossed the recognised boundaries of Anglican doctrine and the ordering of Anglican Ministry; and of those bishops and primates who have crossed the territorial boundaries of other dioceses and provinces in order to minister to those who have declared themselves unable in conscience any longer to receive the ministry of their own diocesan bishop (4).
Although true, this, by treating the two actions as equivalent, seriously distorts the Windsor Report. As Robin Eames said in presenting his Commission’s report to the Primates at Dromantine:
The intervention by bishops in a jurisdiction other than their own without the agreement or invitation of the relevant Episcopal and/or primatial authority is described in the Windsor Report as a threat to communion and a breach of the bonds of affection. It has been argued by some that the Report accorded equal judgement to these actions as in the case of ECUSA and the Church of Canada. I cannot accept this criticism. I ask the Primates to look at the language of the Windsor Report. It has been argued that interventions of this nature may be defended as a consequence of the developments in ECUSA and Canada but the Commission had to conclude they also represent a threat to communion and the bonds of affection. However a careful reading of the language we use in the report does not deal with the two instances in the same way.
The Panel’s focus on this creates a number of problems for its subsequent analysis and recommendations.
First, it fails to make clear that the parishes which have appealed to the Panel are precisely those which have sought to work with the Instruments in a collegial manner. They have not (unlike some of the parishes which objected in 2002) simply departed unilaterally from their diocese to come under other provinces.
Second, it gives the impression that no form of crossing territorial boundaries “in order to minister to those who have declared themselves unable in conscience any longer to receive the ministry of their own diocesan bishop” is acceptable. The Windsor Report, interestingly, stressed that the fundamental problem was the unilateralism of such actions. If it is being said or assumed by the Panel that in no circumstances and by no means can such interventions ever be justified then that represent a significant development. In fact a case can be made that there is a Christian duty for Christians to seek to come under the jurisdiction of another bishop if their bishop departs from the catholic faith and a duty for other bishops to provide such episcopal ministry.
Third, it fails to recognise that Dromantine significantly amended this aspect of the Windsor Report. The Report spoke of Archbishops ‘both taking initiatives, and…responding to invitations from clergy purporting to place themselves under their jurisdictions’ (TWR 29) and called on bishops ‘to effect a moratorium on any further interventions’ (TWR 155). However, at Dromantine the Primates expressed the moratorium in terms simply of a commitment ‘neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions’ (para 15) while American and Canada responded to TWR.
Fourth, and most significantly, as Archbishop Drexel Gomez has pointed out in his comment on the Panel’s recommendations, the Windsor Report (and various other statements from the Instruments, as noted above) have passed very strong judgments against the actions of New Westminster diocese. Most notably that,
We believe that to proceed unilaterally with the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for same sex unions at this time goes against the formally expressed opinions of the Instruments of Unity and therefore constitutes action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it, and of bonds of affection in the life of the Communion, especially the principle of interdependence (143)
Here we see an alternative model to that of portraying the dispute in terms of two equally serious errors (as implied in para 4, quoted above) which need a process of reconciliation. This model views the situation in terms of parts of the Communion having departed from the faith and practice of the church catholic.
These different models have, as will become clear, major implications for how the wider Communion should respond to parishes in dioceses which effect what Windsor calls a ‘breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith’. In particular they lead to divergent understandings in relation to the question of jurisdiction. Prior to studying that, however, the current status of the diocese and province within the Communion must be examined.
The relationship of the diocese to the wider Communion
A central plank in the parishes’ appeal which is rejected by the Panel is stated in para 19 of the Panel’s report. They claim that
the Diocese of New Westminster is no longer in communion with “the great majority of the primates and congregants of the global Anglican Communion” with which the ACiNW wishes to remain aligned. The authors quote from the constitution of the Anglican Church of Canada, in its Solemn Declaration of 1893 (cited in AS 4.2.6) in which the Church declares itself to be “in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world”. In order to continue in full communion, they argue, “we cannot at present function in structural fellowship with Bishop Ingham and the diocese of New Westminster”. (AS 3.2.3)
The response to this is given in para 21:
The argument that in order to remain “in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world” it is necessary for dissenting clergy and parishes to separate themselves from the diocese of New Westminster, adopting a title for their organisation which implies that they represent the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, in addition to or instead of the diocese and Bishop Ingham, can not be sustained. The Church of England itself remains in full communion with the Diocese of New Westminster and Bishop Ingham, pending resolution of the presenting issue, and therefore with all of its clergy, members and parishes, including those who dissent from its diocesan synod decision but remain in full fellowship with the Bishop and the diocese, together with the dissenting parishes unless they formally withdraw themselves from the Anglican Church in Canada. Even if this were not the case there is no evidence that communion with dissenting parishes would in fact be broken since such provinces which have declared impaired communion have made it clear that they remain in communion with those whom they regard as faithful.
The response is, however, itself flawed and so cannot be sustained. Clearly it is true that the Church of England remains in full communion with the diocese and the province. However, the parishes refer to the solemn declaration that speaks of being “in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world”. That is clearly no longer the case. This is because, as the appeal states, many – probably the majority - of Anglicans worldwide are no longer in communion with the diocese of New Westminster.
The Panel believes that this fact is not significant because “provinces which have declared impaired communion have made it clear that they remain in communion with those whom they regard as faithful”. Again this is true but it presents, as Archbishop Drexel Gomez has noted, a two-fold problem.
Firstly, it is difficult to explain ecclesiologically or canonically how, in an episcopal communion, a diocese or province can be in full communion with parishes that remain under the jurisdiction of a bishop with whom the provinces have declared impaired or broken communion. At the very best this is an anomalous situation.
Secondly, the appeal’s claim that, in order to continue in full communion, ‘we cannot at present function in structural fellowship with Bishop Ingham and the diocese of New Westminster’ (on account of his departure from catholic faith and practice and breach of the bonds of communion) likely has the support of most if not all of those dioceses and provinces which have declared impaired communion with the diocese. If that is the case, then those provinces which wish to remain in communion with these parishes need only to make their assessment and rationale clear and the Panel’s argument fails not just ecclesiologically but pragmatically and politically as well. If this is indeed the situation then their proposal that the parishes remain under the jurisdiction of the diocesan is not viable if they wish to remain in communion with provinces that have broken or impaired communion with the diocese. They must therefore either stay in the diocese and share in its impaired/broken communion or else leave to come under another bishop who is in full communion with the other provinces.
The reality of the situation is that there are a growing number of places within North America – of which New Westminster is a prime example – where although the diocese and province remains in full communion with the see of Canterbury they are not in full communion with many other provinces of the Communion. This inevitably raises questions as to what it means to be “in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world” or, to quote the Preamble to the Episcopal Church’s Constitution, “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion”.
The parishes also claimed that “the province has been suspended from the Anglican Communion until 2008” (quoted para 25 of the Panel Report). This is rejected by the Panel as factually incorrect – “In fact the Anglican Church of Canada was asked voluntarily to withdraw its representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council until the Lambeth Conference in 2008” (25). Here again the Panel’s response must be considered both correct and yet also incomplete and thus to a certain extent misleading. In that there is no formal mechanism for ‘suspension’ the parishes are in error. However, few would deny that the request was made with the recognition that failure to follow it would likely lead to the Instruments becoming unworkable and the likely division/realignment of the Communion. It thus amounted to suspension in all but legal terms. The ACC confirmed the Primates’ request and also made clear specifically what it entailed in terms of non-participation. The Church of Canada (along with TEC) is therefore in an unprecedented situation within the Communion – a form of voluntarily accepted self-exclusion from Communion common councils. The Panel’s Report does not do full justice to this ecclesial reality and its bearing on the situation in New Westminster (whose actions are the primary cause of the wider province having to withdraw in this manner until it answers Windsor in 2007).
In summary, the situation in New Westminster can really only be addressed in the light of the wider damage to relationships of communion created by that diocese’s actions. It is true that both the diocese and the province currently remain in full communion with the Church of England. However, the diocese finds communion impaired or broken with a large number of Anglican provinces and the province has had to acknowledge it cannot participate in Communion councils. These different relationships are closely correlated with the two different models noted above – some maintaining communion while reconciliation to a dispute is being sought, others declaring impaired or broken communion in the face of actions they see as departures from catholic faith and for which there has been no repentance, thus rendering reconciliation impossible. In order to be adequate, any response to appeals from those who have faithfully, and at some cost, opposed the diocese’s actions that have led to this situation must acknowledge this reality of broken and impaired communion with many provinces. It is only in the light of this ecclesial reality that issues surrounding jurisdiction and oversight can be addressed.
The nature of jurisdiction
The parishes requested that they be granted – as they had sought from Bishop Terry Buckle – oversight with jurisdiction. As the panel notes in para 18:
In a paper provided in the AS at 3.2.3, the reasons why such a scheme was unacceptable to the dissenting congregations are set out, published somewhat later on 22 January 2004 by Rev Dr J I Packer and Revd David Short. They state that “Without personal discretionary jurisdiction, any oversight the EV exercises is of a puppet nature because it remains at the discretion of Bishop Ingham and is thus his own oversight by extension, and therefore offers no protection for the protesting parishes.” Two of the issues specifically named by the applicants are the continuity of ministry in the parishes, and their property. (AS 4.1.3 and 4.1.4).
They have been quite clear that ‘“the only step which can truly protect the orthodox... is true adequate episcopal oversight with jurisdiction ceded to another bishop.” [our italics]’ (quoted in para 28).
The parishes therefore rejected the proposed Shared Episcopal Ministry (SEM) scheme (para 24)
on the basis that it does not offer jurisdiction to the Bishop providing extended episcopal ministry and therefore fails in their opinion to provide adequate protection against “persecution and harassment” of clergy and parishes; leaves control of the ordination and appointment process in the hands of the diocesan bishop; and offers no protection against unfounded property or disciplinary lawsuits. (AS 126.96.36.199)
The Panel acknowledges that ‘the Shared Episcopal Ministry [“SEM”] scheme offered by the Canadian House of Bishops is not acceptable as it stands to the applicants’ (9) and states that there ‘seems to be no room for doubt that a form of extended episcopal ministry in which they can have confidence is urgently needed for the dissenting parishes in New Westminster’ (26).
It also acknowledges that
The scheme proposed by Bishop Ingham and the diocesan synod is not accepted by those opposed to the decision taken concerning the blessing of same-sex unions. In order to work as the Windsor Report intends, “this oversight must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community, so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership. While the temporary provision of pastoral oversight is in place there must also be a mutually agreed commitment to effecting reconciliation.” (TWR s.151) A bishop under the direct control of the diocesan, as initially proposed in the scheme of June 2002, who retains the full authority of his or her office, is unlikely to satisfy those for whom the ministry of their diocesan has become unacceptable as a matter of conscience and principle (20).
Nevertheless, the Panel refuses to recommend any change in relation to jurisdiction despite this being a central concern of the parishes. There appear to be three reasons for this.
· Firstly, they wish to distinguish between jurisdiction and oversight and to maintain a unity of jurisdiction.
· Secondly, they are concerned that they are being asked ‘to extend recognition to one or more new entities, including the Anglican Network in Canada and other bodies outside the Anglican Church in Canada’ (29).
· Thirdly, but not explicitly, this conclusion appears connected to their understanding of their limited role and the need for a realistic set of recommendations.
FIRST, there is the questions of the distinction between jurisdiction and oversight. The Panel states:
Jurisdiction refers to the office of a diocesan bishop, defined in Anglicanism by the territory assigned to the see in question, and by the bishop’s rights and duties within the diocese as set out in the law applicable in the province concerned. It includes guardianship and promotion of Christian doctrine, both in the bishop’s own teaching, and in ensuring the standards of education and orthodoxy of the clergy serving in the diocese. It includes discipline, exercised by supervision of the clergy and parishes of the diocese, expressed in the case of the clergy by an undertaking of canonical obedience to the bishop. The bishop is called to be a focus of unity within the diocese, and representative of the unity of the wider church within the Communion (31)
For jurisdiction to be transferred to another bishop implies a division of the ministry of the chief pastor of the diocese, its clergy, congregations and places of worship. Jurisdiction is not shared with suffragan or assistant bishops, who may however share the delegated pastoral oversight of the diocese with the diocesan, as may others invited to share in particular tasks or ministries. Such delegation must have the consent of the diocesan bishop concerned (33)
The fundamental question here is whether or not the bishop of New Westminster is in fact exercising proper jurisdiction. Given the Communion’s judgments in the Windsor Report and various other statements by the Instruments (quoted at the beginning) it is impossible to claim that he is clearly fulfilling his duties of ‘guardianship and promotion of Christian doctrine…’ or acting as ‘a focus of unity within the diocese, and representative of the unity of the wider church within the Communion’. At the very least this issue is in serious question, especially given the bishop’s failure to respond, after two years, to the Windsor Report.
SECOND, The Panel has a more serious concern which is that of extending recognition to one or more new ecclesial bodies. Clearly this would run the risk of creating and giving a status to a new ecclesial body when the Anglican Church of Canada as a whole has not responded to Windsor and, if the Panel is to be believed, there is a real hope that (unlike the General Convention of the Episcopal Church) they may recognise the seriousness of New Westminster’s actions and confirm the judgment of those appealing by declaring the synod’s action ultra vires. Here the question of the ‘temporary’ nature of the situation is significant and it is wise to be cautious about instituting alternative structures outside the Anglican Church of Canada.
However, it would be possible to recommend that parishes be free to be placed under the jurisdiction of another bishop (or college of bishops) within the Canadian church until the situation in New Westminster was regularised and the bishop was committed to fulfilling his duties of guarding and promoting the faith and being a focus of unity. Historically there are many precedents for bishops exercising jurisdiction in certain places outside of a geographically bounded diocese and so to establish a small number in New Westminster diocese for a temporary period during the current crisis would be consistent with Anglican polity.
The problem with this is partly that it appears the parishes were seeking extra-provincial jurisdiction and they may find any jurisdiction from within the Anglican Church of Canada problematic given its ambiguous status as a province within the Communion. However, the more serious problem relates to the third area -
THIRD, any transfer of jurisdiction usually requires the consent of the diocesan bishop and the Panel may well have concluded that despite the parish’s request it is either impossible or imprudent for it recommend such a transfer. Here, if they had taken more seriously the judgments made by the Communion concerning the actions of New Westminster and the rejection of these by the diocesan bishop, they might have been bold enough to recognise that we are in a situation in which the norm of unitary jurisdiction and no delegation of jurisdiction without consent may need to be challenged. If the Communion is clearly committed – as the Archbishop of Canterbury has recently stated – to I.10 and Windsor then the Panel is in effect requiring parishes to remain under the jurisdiction of a bishop who has acted ‘in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it, and of bonds of affection in the life of the Communion, especially the principle of interdependence (TWR 143)’. They are, in addition, recommending that they (and some congregations currently detached from diocesan structures) re-integrate more fully, including in terms of financial contribution, despite the diocese showing no awareness, let alone penitence, that it has created such fundamental breaches.
This theological argument faces two practical hurdles which may explain why – even if they had given it the weight it deserves – the Panel would still draw back from challenging the diocesan bishop’s jurisdiction. The first of these relates to their lack of authority to do so. Provinces will have their own canonical systems of depriving a bishop of his jurisdiction and there is no supra-provincial means of doing this. Indeed, it could be argued that the Primates at Dromantine rejected any such developments when they stated
While we welcome the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury as that of one who can speak to us as primus inter pares about the realities we face as a Communion, we are cautious of any development which would seem to imply the creation of an international jurisdiction which could override our proper provincial autonomy (para 10).
The second practical hurdle is that the Panel is authorised simply to ‘make recommendations to the Primates, dioceses and provincial and diocesan authorities concerned’ and clearly to propose that a diocese cede jurisdiction – even if only temporarily and to a bishop or bishops within the same province – would most likely lead to rejection. Were the parishes then to seek to move out from his jurisdiction it would likely lead to law suits, not least over church property. Given the Panel’s desire to work for reconciliation such an outcome would be counter-productive. The question remains, however, whether it would not be both legitimate and proportionate for the Communion to act in such a way.
It is clear that the question of jurisdiction must now be seriously addressed by the Instruments. This is not least because of the more serious situation in North America where parishes in a number of dioceses are in a similar situation to those in New Westminster – committed to the Communion teaching and remaining in full communion with the Communion but under the jurisdiction of a bishop committed to actions that effect a break in Communion.
If it is claimed that within the Communion all bishops must maintain full jurisdiction and their jurisdiction can only be ceded with their consent (or by provincial proceedings to remove from office) then the instruments of communion will have declared themselves incapable of providing an orthodox episcopacy for Windsor/Communion parishes under non-Windsor/Communion bishops. Those parishes will inevitably start to look elsewhere - as the parishes in New Westminster are already being encouraged to do by those in the Anglican Coalition in Canada and some in TEC are being invited to do by AMiA. This will only increase the fragmentation and disorder in North America.
The Panel’s recommendations
It is therefore clear that there are a number of serious limitations, weaknesses and flaws in the Report’s analysis of the situation and its reasoning which lead to its rejection of the parishes’ appeals. It is, however, important to recognise its strengths despite these limitations. There is, it must be noted, nothing favourable stated about the actions of the diocesan bishop and in a number of places there are strong criticisms either implicitly or explicitly. The whole report is premised on the fact that this is a situation where the actions of the bishop mean that it is necessary to provide alternative oversight that ‘must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership’ (TWR 151, quoted para 7). The reality of this is shown by reference to actions taken in the diocese which lead the Panel to state:
It is a matter of agreement that Canon 15 was imposed on the parish of St Martin, Vancouver, where the locks were changed, and a number of lay officers removed under the authority of the Canon. The applicants fear that similar action could be taken against the congregations which they represent, without the intervention which they seek. Such action is clear evidence, in our view, that the task of finding an agreed system of extended episcopal care for those concerned is a matter of considerable importance and urgency (11).
It is also clear that what has been offered by the diocese is inadequate:
A bishop under the direct control of the diocesan, as initially proposed in the scheme of June 2002, who retains the full authority of his or her office, is unlikely to satisfy those for whom the ministry of their diocesan has become unacceptable as a matter of conscience and principle (20)
Despite the difficulties with the line of argument in relation to jurisdiction, this makes clear that the Panel does not wish the diocesan to retain the full authority of his or her office. It is clear that the Panel has sought to understand (and as far as possible supply) what the parishes were asking for when they asked to come under a different jurisdiction (24):
· ‘adequate protection against “persecution and harassment” of clergy and parishes’ ;
· removal of control of the ordination and appointment process from the hands of the diocesan bishop; and
· protection against unfounded property or disciplinary lawsuits.
In the words of the second recommendation:
an agreed scheme of extended episcopal ministry needs to be offered to a number of clergy and parishes within the Diocese of New Westminster, which will both provide for their spiritual needs and offer assurance of continuity for their distinctive theological tradition.
It is quite a damning judgment (and one that – as noted above – sits uneasily with the claim that the current diocesan has true jurisdiction) that the bishop of New Westminster cannot provide this.
On this basis the panel then seeks to work with the provincial arrangements. Here the complexity of the language of ‘jurisdiction’ again needs to be noted. The March 2004 Report commending SEM noted that
The Task Force sees the way forward in the voluntary agreement of the bishops to some temporary ceding of jurisdiction. All of the following models are premised on this "generosity of spirit" (6.1, italics added).
The Nov 2004 addendum noted that
The original report of the Task Force offered background information leading to the development of several models of AEO all of which presumed the existence of a high level of generosity of spirit, which would permit some temporary ceding of jurisdiction in a number of areas of episcopal authority (italics added).
However, it then proposed a system where (in para 5) it stated that
The duties of the bishop involved in Shared Episcopal Ministry takes as its point of origin the example of dioceses where there is/are suffragan bishop(s). He or she would not have jurisdiction but would be part of the process on appointments, episcopal visits, confirmations, pastoral care of clergy, advice on potential ordinands and participate in ordinations. This model would honour the process of appointment that each diocese currently follows. The diocese would insure that wide ranges of theological perspectives were represented on the committee dealing with postulants for ordination (italics added).
It is this proposal which the Panel commends but – in another strong implicit critique of New Westminster - ‘with some additional safeguards, designed to take account of the special circumstances prevailing in this case, given the protracted and deep divisions which exist’ (Recommendation 3). Among these safeguards are that
The Diocese of New Westminster should indicate formally that any previous disciplinary action against any clergy concerned is now at an end and that any record of this has been deleted from personal records (4d)
A written assurance should be provided to the four parishes concerned that the Diocese has no intention of pursuing civil legal action against them or their officers or trustees on the basis of the dispute which began in June 2002, and does not intend to use Canon 15 in respect of church properties during the agreed period of temporary episcopal ministry provided by SEM (4e)
There is also the safeguard that nobody could be licenced to the parishes against their wishes (thus preserving their integrity) because they would required the signature of the visiting bishop.
That the Diocese of New Westminster and the province have responded positively to these recommendations is a promising (and, given the original rejection of SEM by Bishop Ingham, surprising) development. Especially given the irony that the Archbishop of the internal province is now Bishop Terry Buckle, there is obviously now much more likelihood that the SEM proposals as supplemented by the Panel’s recommendations may give the necessary practical protection even if some of the theological justification offered remains weak.
It remains, however, a major sticking point for many that the bishop providing extended episcopal ministry receives delegated authority from the diocesan and acts on behalf of the diocese (4b). This means that, although he or she ‘should be involved at all stages’ (4c) of appointment and selection of ordination candidates the diocese seems to retain control of these. It is also the case that Bishop Ingham as the diocesan can veto appointments by refusing to licence newly appointed or ordained clergy. Perhaps even more serious a difficulty is that, ‘the congregations concerned should be willing to regularise their connections with the diocese, in matters such as diocesan synod attendance and the payment of diocesan assessments, in the course of the period of shared episcopal ministry’ (4f). To ask for this even though neither the synod nor the bishop have revoked the actions which created this crisis and have thus steadfastly refused to take the first step on the path of reconciliation is very difficult to justify.
It is clear that some or all of the Panel’s specific recommendations reflect the proper concern for reconciliation alongside the desire to protect vulnerable minorities within the diocese of New Westminster. However, the Windsor Report was clear that reconciliation has a particular shape
We have already indicated some ways in which the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Diocese of New Westminster could begin to speak with the Communion in a way which would foster reconciliation’ (TWR, 156).
The diocese and its bishop have clearly refused to begin to speak in such ways. Indeed the Panel itself notes (para 3) that ‘The Diocese of New Westminster disputes the narrative and interpretation in TWR of events in the Diocese, and questions the standing of TWR within the Anglican Church of Canada and in the wider Anglican Communion’.
All Christians will declare a commitment to reconciliation but the New Westminster situation confirms that there are broadly three distinct models at work in the Communion concerning what this means.
First, for some (such as Bishop Ingham) it would appear that the dispute arises because of an exclusive and intolerant (some say Puritanical or fundamentalist) mindset that has invaded traditional Anglicanism. Reconciliation is therefore understood to take the form of acknowledging that developments such as blessing same-sex unions are part of the acceptable diversity of Anglicanism and to be embraced within a united episcopal structure. Those who struggle with this may be granted temporary means of alternative oversight but this should be as minimal and undisruptive to the principle of mono-episcopacy as possible, cannot challenge jurisdiction and should be a temporary measure until those who require it become reconciled to the reality that Anglicanism treats this as a matter indifferent. It is clear that this understanding has widespread support in much of North America and parts of the Church of England but it is equally clear that it is incompatible with both Lambeth I.10 and the Windsor Report which the Archbishop of Canterbury has again recently confirmed to be the basis for future developments:
It is clear that the Communion as a whole remains committed to the teaching on human sexuality expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and also that the recommendations of the Windsor Report have been widely accepted as a basis for any progress in resolving the tensions that trouble us. As a Communion, we need to move forward on the basis of this twofold recognition.
On this basis, however, there are two distinct models which lead to different responses to TEC and New Westminster and threaten to create further tensions and divisions.
Second, for some the dispute arises simply (or at least primarily) because the actions in New Westminster and TEC were a pattern of behaviour that caused offence and breached the bonds of communion. We are now in a process of seeking reconciliation along the lines proposed in the Windsor Report and at Dromantine. This requires respect for provinces as they follow their internal processes of deliberation. For the US those have been completed at General Convention 2006 (and the question now is to consider how much they represent a step of reconciliation) while for Canada (and New Westminster within it) they will be determined by General Synod in summer 2007.
It remains unclear what the Communion will (or even can) do should these processes not bear fruit in a way that resolves the dispute and so aids reconciliation. Indeed it is not fully clear how we will know (or who will determine whether) enough has been done by the two churches. However, in the meantime, the Communion can seek to encourage provinces to develop systems of alternative oversight in order to assist their internal minorities who fear persecution. It is the work of the Panel of Reference to respond to individual appeals in relation to these systems. It cannot, however, pass judgment on the Windsor process or touch matters of jurisdiction or intervene directly within an autonomous province.
Third, there is a model which sees the dispute arising not simply on a matter of process (though that is serious enough in that it was a breach of bonds of affection and so a sin against Christian love of neighbour) but on a matter of substance. Reconciliation therefore requires clear repentance and turning away from any action that “constitutes action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it”. Where this is no sign of such repentance and no embracing of Windsor’s recommendations there must be patience and forebearance but there must also be a recognition that until there is such repentance the bishops concerned have departed from catholic faith and practice. They have therefore forfeited (at least to some degree) their right to jurisdiction as they are not guarding and promoting Christian teaching or acting as a focus of unity. The provision of orthodox episcopal ministry with jurisdiction for those under their authority who request such ministry is therefore perfectly reasonable, perhaps even required. It should, however, be provided in as orderly a way as possible and in a provisional manner which keeps open the path of reconciliation for as long as possible rather than instituting a permanent alternative jurisdiction.
Those who hold this view can both separate their own provinces from those they view as in error and offer to receive clergy and parishes into their own jurisdictions. It is such activities which the Primates warned at Lambeth in 2003 would spread and damage the Communion and which the Windsor Report sought to bring to an end. The longer it takes TEC and New Westminster/Canada to demonstrate their willingness to walk the Windsor path of reconciliation the more difficult reconciliation becomes. The more such signs of impaired and broken communion develop without reference to the Instruments of Communion, the more disorderly the Communion becomes. And the more likely it is that there will ultimately have to be some realignment with new instruments established through which these provinces can act collegially.
In the midst of this complex and messy situation, the Panel has clearly sought to address the parishes’ genuine concerns in its practical recommendations. However, it has perhaps been over-cautious and has certainly refused to acknowledge either the seriousness of the situation or take account of the stubborn refusal of the diocesan bishop to respond to Windsor. These weaknesses combine with an incomplete account of the relationship of New Westminster to the Communion and the inviolability of jurisdiction to produce proposals that although they go a very long way to meeting the needs of the parishes may – as the Panel itself implicitly recognises in para 20 – sadly prove insufficient to provide a viable way forward.