Bishops’ consecrations on hold

Agreement reached to halt consents to elections and public same-gender blessings until 2006 convention
April 1, 2005

Episcopal Bishops, in response to the request from Anglican primates that no more gay bishops be consecrated, voted March 15 to withhold their consent to the consecration of all bishops before General Convention meets in June 2006.

In a vote they described as “nearly unanimous,” the 140 bishops wrote that it was their “heartfelt desire to be responsive and attentive” to the concerns expressed in the Anglican Communion’s Windsor Report last October and by the primates’ meeting in February. The primates requested that the U.S. and Canadian churches withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council, the legislative body of the Anglican Communion, for three years.

The bishops, in what they called A Covenant Statement, expressed “deep regret” for the pain General Convention’s decisions caused in other parts of the communion by confirming Gene Robinson as an openly gay bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire and tacitly accepting local diocesan option to bless same-gender unions.

“We offer our sincerest apology and repentance for having breached our bonds of affection by any failure to consult adequately with our Anglican partners before taking those actions,” the bishops declared. They pledged they would not authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, nor bless such unions themselves at least until the 2006 General Convention of 2006. The Windsor Report issued by the Lambeth Commission on Communion had requested that moratorium.

They did not act on the request to withdraw from the ACC, deferring the decision to Executive Council and to the Anglican Consultative Council itself. “We lack the authority in our polity to make such a decision,” they said.

What this means

At this moment, at least nine dioceses have begun the process of selecting a new bishop – California, Eastern Michigan, El Camino Real, Northern California, South Carolina, Southwest Florida, Southern Ohio, Tennessee and West Texas. The process in those dioceses is now unclear. In the Diocese of Southern Ohio, for instance, all nominees have been announced, and the electing convention has been set. Southern Ohio diocese is host for the 2006 General Convention.

The bishops’ covenant encourages all dioceses now in that process to delay elections of bishops until at least 120 days before General Convention, even though that may mean hardship. They state, “[W]e believe that Christian community requires us to share the burdens of such forbearance; thus it must pertain to all elections of bishops in the Episcopal Church.”

Crossing boundaries

In recognition that some bishops have crossed diocesan boundaries in violation of church canons, they pledged to stop that practice. They requested that bishops and clergy canonically resident in other provinces of the communion do likewise.

At the conclusion of their six-day meeting, the bishops issued, “A Word to the Church” stating they believe the Covenant Statement had been “achieved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” and praying that it would be seen by brother and sister Anglicans as a sign of “unwavering commitment to life in communion.”

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury welcomed the bishops’ statement. "They have clearly sought to respond positively to the requests made of them in the Windsor Report and in the communiqué issued after the recent primates meeting,” he said. “It is clear that there has been a real willingness to engage with the challenges posed.”