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Windsor Report

Details of the press conference.

18 October 2004

This is a report on the Press Conference rather than the report itself.

Brian Parker (Church of Ireland Press Officer) introduced Robin Eames the Chairman of the Commission.

Archbishop Robin Eames gave an introduction to the report. He stated that recent developments in North America had become a source of division. The report was produced for the Archbishop of Canterbury who received it on Friday and it would be tabled at the Standing Committee of the Primates who were meeting today.

Eames had told Rowan Williams that they had come to a common mind as the diagnosis and the remedies that could be offered. Members of the Commission held sharply different views but they believed that the 44 Provinces of the Communion belong together and this had helped them to produce some unanimous recommendations. They were looking for healing and reconciliation not division and punishment. Eames stated that mission is better served by unity although he did not attempt to justify this claim except by reference to the political situation in Northern Ireland. Eames claimed that the Commission was made up from people around the world.

He stated that the Commission had wanted to discern the will of God for the Communion. He made much throughout of the unanimity of the Commission and stated that the report does not offer any easy judgement on the situation, nor does it offer any easy solutions.

The size of the Communion was stated to be 78 million, a slightly higher figure than normally given and still containing the estimated 22 million for the membership of the Church of England.

Eames spoke about the nature of 'communion. Commission had a fundamental conviction that our future lies together as an act of witness and service to the gospel.

He stressed the right of each Province to autonomy whilst not being free to take decisions which affect the whole Communion without giving proper consideration to this. He stated that ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster have breached the bonds of Communion in the actions they have taken. The justification for this was the unacceptability of the actions for the rest of the Communion.

The Commission had debated long and hard about what the consequences of this action should be. Some wished it to be seen as a legitimate development of diversity. However, they Commission as a whole had rejected the idea that this was an issue over which discernment was required, the Communion already had a clear view. Other wanted discipline but the Commission felt that there was no mechanism for discipline. Eames said that some of the actions taken had become part of the problems we face. Bishops had seen fit to interfere in provinces other than their own. They unanimously believed that they should not impose or attempt to impose punishment. Rather they should call on all parties to be the mature Christians that God calls them to be.
They wanted people to examine their consciences, put the common life together to the fore, and seek reconciliation.

Eames pointed out that the Lambeth Conference has spoken clearly before on the issue of homosexual practice and that it spells out where we are 'at this time'. Eames laid very heavy stress on the words 'at this time'. He went on to say that until Lambeth 1.10 is 'superseded' it expresses 'where we are now'. He also drew attention to the clause in Resolution 1.10 about the commitment to listen to others and read into the words far more than they warrant.

Finally Eames spoke about his experience of the peace process in Northern Ireland stating that reconciliation comes when people want it to be.

Throughout this introduction Eames revealed his own position. It has been clear before from statements he has made that it is only a matter of time before the majority come to accept that homosexual practice is legitimate. What matters whilst this development of doctrine is going on is that we put unity first, try to get on and don't let the differences ruin the Communion..

Archbishop Drexel Gomez then addressed the meeting. and made four points.
First, he stressed, again, that this was an unanimous report. He said that it represented the highest degree of agreement possible given the views of those involved (for which read - it is the lowest common denominator). He praised Archbishop Eames for his leadership and stressed that they had been able to achieve consensus through what he appeared to call the Anglican way of discerning truth, by shared worship, sacramental fellowship and bible study together. He laid on thickly the fact of unanimity.

Second, Gomez stressed the tone of the report in that they were able to transcend the 'unfortunate style' of some of those engaged in the debate. He wanted people to display Christian charity.

Thirdly, he emphasized the worth and value of the Anglican Communion. God has given us 'the potential to become a great fellowship within the wider Church'. The Communion should uphold the primacy of Scripture whilst allowing rigorous theological exploration.

Fourthly he reiterated the need to embrace Communion as a principal of church life. He said, without any attempt at justification, that the closer we are brought together the more effective we will be in mission.

Gomez ended with a quote from Augustine of Hippo : 'To God one journeys; not in chariots and ships but the journey consists in nothing but the will to go.'
Gomez wanted all sections of the Communion to have the will to go forward for the sake of the Gospel.

There followed a brief period of questions.

Bates (Guardian): How long will it take to implement the covenant? Is it worth the paper it is written on if people can choose to ignore it.
(The Covenant had not been mentioned in the press conference to this point.)
Eames : The covenant concept is not written in stone but offered as part of the package that they are seeking to bring to the Communion to cement and make more obvious the common commitment. Anglicans don't want a central curia but do want something to help and solidify the commitment to one another. He said that Chapter 1 provides the background for what follows in the report because they did not want to move towards a central
curia. Therefore some means was needed to enhance communion.

Jennings (Catholic something or other) : Asked about whether there could be any meaningful dialogue with Rome given the meltdown taking place in the Communion.
Eames : He disputed the claims about meltdown and went on to say that we are on a pilgrimage learning what it means to understand one another in a divided world. He said that the Anglican Communion is at a crossroads but
was facing up to this fact.

Someone asked whether this was a similar issue to the consecration of women Bishops. Whether we are not at the point where some will go ahead regardless on this new others whilst others will not.

Eames gave a confusing reply which seemed to say that the important similarity between the present report and the report he chaired on Women Bishops was that it is an attempt to address the issues.

Ruth Gledhill asked about para 134 on page 68. Specifically she wanted to know whether Frank Griswold, primate of ECUSA would be asked to step back from Primates meetings. She also asked what would constitute a proper expression of regret by ECUSA.
Eames did not appear to answer the second part of the question but drew attention to the fact that he had already stepped down as co-chairman of ARCIC. He stressed that there is nothing in the report that is telling anyone that they must do anything, rather they are being invited to consider their response.

George someone pointed out that in the Press Conference Eames had twice used the expression 'homophobia' whereas the Lambeth Conference statements had declined to use this expression. He asked Eames to explain what he meant by the term.
Eames said that he had been troubled by the ways in which things had been said and said that some of the things the Commission had heard were 'quite vicious'. He seemed to see homophobia in terms of physical and verbal violence.

L.A. Times: Following up on what is said about Griswold. Does the
Commission address the situation where, for example the Anglican Province of Uganda has assumed oversight of parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Eames drew attention to paragraphs 153 to 155. Again he said that they were addressing the consciences of all the provinces of the Communion and pointing out what they must do to heal wounds. He said that this was a matter for the provinces to resolve not the Communion. Autonomy must be respected. He said that those who had gone into other provinces without permission have contributed to the threats to communion.

Someone asked : How to reconcile saying there should be no homophobia and the call to some that they should 'stand down'.
Eames seemed to say that what was being addressed by the report is the process by which ECUSA reached their decision, without regard for the Communion as a whole. The report is not directly addressing the issue of morality.

Asked whether the report was a fudge Eames opined that it was not.
Rather, he said, it was the 'first report of any kind' that has addressed
precise details of the life of the provinces.

David Phillips, General Secretary, Church Society


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