Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Let the games begin

Well, the Eames Commission Report is out, and the fur is already flying. Look at an AP report by Robert Barr in London today:

...Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, in a statement released in London, said it was the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Canadian diocese of New Westminster that pushed the worldwide Anglican Communion "to the breaking point."

"Why, throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the global south, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible?" he said.

"Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behavior? The imbalance is bewildering," he said. He added that it was suprising that "the primary recommendation of the report is 'greater sensitivity' instead of heartfelt repentance."

In its report released Monday, the commission called for apologies from both sides, and for a long-term process of reconciliation and defining the relationship among the world's Anglican churches.

It urged the Episcopal Church not to elect any more gay bishops and for conservative African bishops to stop meddling in the affairs of other dioceses.

That point outraged Akinola, who earlier this month visited the United States to explore the possibility of serving as an alternative bishop to disaffected Episcopalians.

"We have been asked to express regret for our actions and 'affirm our desire to remain in the communion.' How patronizing!" Akinola said in the statement.

"We will not be intimidated."

The Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, Frank T. Griswold, has been equally unyielding. On Monday he expressed regret for the turmoil in the Anglican Communion but reaffirmed his belief that the church was right to promote Robinson.

Akinola praised the report's call for the Episcopal church to halt to further promotions of gay clergy to bishoprics. It also called for Episcopal congregations and churches in the New Westminster diocese of Canada to stop sanctioning blessings of gay partnerships.

"If they do not repent and return to the fold, they will find that they are all alone," Akinola said. "They will have broken the Anglican Communion."

Akinola's sharp reaction contrasted to that of another conservative leader, Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, who was one of the 16 people who served with Eames in writing the unanimous report.

"The tone of our report represents an intentional offering from the members of the communion to facilitate healing and reconciliation," Gomez said Monday, appearing with Eames at a news conference launching the report.

Eames' commission was not asked to explore the rights and wrongs of homosexuality, and it refrained from any comment.

However, it sharply criticized the Episcopal Church and the Canadian dioceses for going moving ahead on the issue without full consultations among the 38 national churches which constitute the global communion.

According to the report, "neither the diocese of New Westminster nor the Episcopal Church has made a serious attempt to offer an explanation to, or consult meaningfully with, the communion as a whole about the significant development of theology which alone could justify the recent moves.

It doesn't look like there will be much reconciliation, although I'm pleasantly surprised by Gomez' statement.

You can't get much less conciliatory than Akinola's rhetoric. He is The Man Who Would Be Archbishop of Canterbury -- or the equivalent in a new union. He has no interest in reconciliation. At least Griswold is trying to hold an olive branch, even if it isn't a huge one.

Meanwhile, our own John Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, seems to have read only half of the report -- the one calling for ECUSA to apologize, according to a report in The Lakeland Ledger, a Central Florida newspaper. His eyes must have skipped right over the commission's comments addressed to conservative leaders.

Wait, here's a statement from the Bishop:

The Windsor Report provides a comprehensive and extremely balanced analysis of "where we are" and how we got here. The bottom line is that both the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada have acted with blatant disregard for the rest of the Communion, and the fallout from those actions has  been disastrous. I welcome the Report's recommendations and I hope these  two great Churches will move quickly to implement them.
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central  Florida

So much for reconciliation. We'll just have to see what develops.

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