The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, meeting January 27 in its 38th annual convention, continued its support of a request for a relationship with an Anglican Communion primate other than Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori but was rebuffed in an attempt to move farther away from the Episcopal Church.
"The Anglican Mission in America, and the Provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Southeast Asia, and the Southern Cone all have congregations here in the United States. This practice has been thoroughly condemned by the Windsor Report and the Primates of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, it goes on," Bishop John Howe said in his address.
"That some members of our congregations, and even some of our clergy, may be entertaining thoughts of affiliating with one or another of these jurisdictions is deeply disturbing to me, and I believe it should be to all of us," he said, noting the diocese's declaration to be a "Windsor [Report]-compliant" diocese. "Well, you can't be 'Windsor-compliant' if the only parts of Windsor you comply with are those you like."
Howe said that the diocese's constitution declares that the Episcopal Church has "rightful jurisdiction in this country."
"To recognize as legitimate the intent of any of our congregations to seek 'alternative Anglican/Episcopal jurisdictions' is therefore unconstitutional, and out of order," Howe said. "Thus, the only policy I can envision is already in place: if you must leave, you are free to do so; and you will do so with our affection and blessing, but the Diocese of Central Florida, and this bishop, will work with those who stay."
Two resolutions were withdrawn after Howe ruled them out of order during his convention address, and warned against attempts to challenge his ruling.
One of the resolutions would have directed the Diocesan Board to appoint a task force to develop a policy no later than June 1 "for negotiating with parishes intent on embracing alternative Anglican/Episcopal jurisdictions."
Howe said that the resolution would violate the diocese's constitution and canons delegating legislative power to the Diocesan Board.
The other resolution would have stated that the diocese "confirms that it will continue to accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."
Howe said that a no vote would have been an attempt to amend the diocese's constitution without going through the constitutional process.
"There is no problem in continuing to accede to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church," Howe said. "The problem is in exposing that accession to the possibility of its not being reaffirmed -- by putting it to a vote. Were this Convention to vote no, we do not continue to accede to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, we would, in effect, be denying a major element of our own identity, and such a vote would be contrary to our Diocesan Constitution. Moreover, every bishop, priest, and deacon in this church subscribes to the following oath when he or she is ordained: '...I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of The Episcopal Church.' Voting against this resolution would constitute a violation of this declaration."
During his address, Howe recounted a meeting he and 10 other Episcopal Church bishops had with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, last May.
"I had the opportunity to ask him directly: 'If it is the conclusion of the Primates that The Episcopal Church has begun to 'walk apart' from the rest of the Communion, what will be the status of those Dioceses that wish to remain in 'full constituent membership,' and who are committed to being 'Windsor-compliant'?' His answer was no less direct: 'I will not abandon them,' he said. And he repeated it a second time, 'I will not abandon the faithful.'"
The complete text of Howe's address is available here.
Delegates to convention adopted resolutions to:
- request the clergy and laity of this diocese to "pray daily and diligently for the Episcopal Church and its leadership, for the Anglican Communion and its Primates, that God may guide them to unity in Christ and repentance, open their hearts and minds to His word and will, and grant them wisdom, strength, and discernment of His agenda for His church."
- express "its gratitude to God for the faithfulness of the Global South Primates in their efforts to provide spiritual haven" for the self-identified "Windsor [Report] dioceses" and those belonging to the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes; "for their consulting with the Archbishop of Canterbury; and for their facilitating of our appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight; say that the diocese "looks forward to working in a new relationship with the Anglican Communion as it shall be defined by the Primates Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury."
- affirm its support for the Windsor Report and the development of the Anglican Covenant and for diocesan leadership, requesting that it continue its support of the development of a Covenant, and "declare our desire to maintain full constituent membership in the Anglican Communion."
- require anti-racism training and other training prescribed by diocesan risk-management policies for all people elected by diocesan convention to diocesan office or elected as deputies or alternates to General Convention.
- note Anglicans for Life's work of "affirming life within the Anglican Communion and by this resolution signals our ongoing support for life from conception to natural death."
- support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and urge members of diocese to study and similarly support the MDGs.
Complete texts of the adopted resolutions are available here.
The Diocese of Central Florida comprises about 36,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 87 congregations.