Here I examine the second half of the ECUSA House of Bishops statement. It reads:
5. We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.
6. We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.
7. 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.
8. We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.
5. This is in direct response to the Primates communiquÃ© of February 2007 where the Primates proposed a pastoral scheme that would allow bishops from outside of ECUSA to step into ECUSA parishes and provide pastoral oversight. This, of course, was found offensive by the ECUSA bishops. Why? Because they feel most competent to provide such pastoral oversight? Perhaps but this is not the main reason why the bishops have rejected this proposal. Rather, they reject it because “this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk.” That’s right, the bishops are motivated more by their territorial concerns and the “autonomy” of the ECUSA. “Autonomy,” what is the ECUSA, a small sovereign country, or a part of the Church of Jesus Christ? What should be motivating these bishops as the pastors of pastors? Their desire to be pastoral or their need to protect a non-biblical provincial arrangement? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the provincial arrangement of the Anglican Communion is a good system, when utilized for the good of the people. But when used only to make petty territorial claims, then the provincial system is a casualty of territorialism and possessiveness.
6. The bishops seem most interested in furthering the “listening process” so that they can promote their liberal agenda. They write, “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.” In other words, if we can get gays and lesbians into the conversation then we can promote our agenda in other provinces as well, especially in those places that currently believe that homosexuality is a sin. For ECUSA bishops, any “listening process” that they are interested in would need to promote their own agendas.
7. Many bishops from around the world have indicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury that they will not attend Lambeth Conference 2008 if the ECUSA bishop of New Hampshire is present. It is likely a wise decision on behalf of the Archbishop not to cause further unnecessary division by the presence of the one ECUSA bishop who is proving to be the bane of many of the ills in the Anglican Communion. It appears, therefore, that the ECUSA bishops would rather divide the Communion further than ask that the bishop of New Hampshire stay home for this one. Again, this just makes it further apparent that the ECUSA bishops (or at least many of them) just don’t get it. When claiming that you’re desirous to engage in a “listening process” but then insisting that you want to cause further division is irrational at best.
8. This is an important statement, and one that all Christians should strive to endorse. Of course, to support such a position does not mean that one cannot also espouse unequivocally that homosexuality is a sin. “Civil rights” does not have to equal “marriage” or “adoptive rights.” The problem with this statement, in this context, is that the ECUSA bishops again demonstrate that they are missing the clear message from the majority of the rest of the Anglican Communion. The ECUSA bishops insist that we need to affirm these rights “as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality.” Again, there is already a consensus in this regard in the larger Communion and it is time that the ECUSA bishops recognize this and stop issuing such vague statements and making such generalized platitudes.
In conclusion, this most recent statement is nothing other than a reiteration of positions that the House of Bishops have espoused for some time. Nothing new has been said.