Update: ACC affirms Windsor Continuation Group recommendations

Effort to add moratoria on property litigation narrowly defeated
May 7, 2009

Published at 4 p.m. EDT, this story updates an earlier bulletin.


The representatives of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) affirmed May 8 the Windsor Continuation Group's final report, which includes moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.

The resolution noted the "deep cost" of observing those moratoria and calls the Anglican Communion to "pray for repentance, conversion and renewal; leading to deeper communion."

The members narrowly rejected (33-32) an attempt to add a fourth moratoria that would have banned litigation over the taking of property by those who leave a diocese or province.

The text of the resolution follows.

The ACC:

  1. thanks the Archbishop of Canterbury for his report on the work and recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group;
  2. affirms the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group;
  3. affirms the request of the Windsor Report (2004), adopted at the Primates' Meetings (2005, 2007, 2009), and supported at the Lambeth Conference (2008) for the implementation of the agreed moratoria on the consecration of bishops living in a same-gender union, authorization of public rites of blessing same-sex unions and continued interventions in other provinces;
  4. acknowledges the efforts that have been made to hold to the moratoria, gives thanks for the gracious restraint that has been observed in these areas and recognizes the deep cost of such restraint;
  5. asks that urgent conversations are facilitated with those provinces where the application of the moratoria gives rise for concern;
  6. encourages the Archbishop of Canterbury to work with the Joint Standing Committee and the Secretary General to carry forward the implementation of the Windsor Continuation Group report recommendations as appropriate;
  7. asks the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order to undertake a study of the role and responsibilities in the Communion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting; the ecclesiological rationale of each, and the relationships between them, in line with the Windsor Continuation Group report, and to report back to ACC-15;
  8. calls the Communion to pray for repentance, conversion and renewal; leading to deeper communion.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has voice and vote on the ACC by way of her seat on the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committee, spoke against the attempt to add a ban on litigation, as did Episcopal Church clerical representative Ian Douglas.

Jefferts Schori told the council that church leaders have a "moral and fiduciary responsibility to see that [assets] are preserved for the purpose for which they were given."

She noted that property litigation is not limited to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. She said that church leaders in Harare, Zimbabwe; the Sudan, Brazil and Jerusalem have all been forced to go to court to preserve property.

Douglas said he feared "moratoria creep" would allow any Anglican body to issue a call for a certain practice to be banned. Adding a moratorium on property litigation, he said, would "increase the chaos in the communion."

Diocese of Peru Bishop Bill Godfrey, representing the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, unsuccessfully called for a "listening process for those involved in litigation," so that they "feel that justice is being done" and that "the ACC hears them."

Episcopal Church episcopal representative Diocese of New York Bishop Catherine Roskam suggested that, a listening process should include the voice of "joyful Episcopalians -- both liberal and conservative -- in the re-constituted dioceses of the Episcopal Church."

"There's much good there," she continued. "They're faithful Episcopalians and their voices need to be heard as well."

Earlier in the debate, Episcopal Church lay representative Josephine Hicks spoke against having the resolution's second resolve to "affirm" the continuation group's recommendations. She argued that while the Episcopal Church had "complied with all the moratoria -- at a significant cost," others have not honored the ban on cross-boundary interventions. These interventions occur when bishops and priests from other communion provinces enter the territory of the Episcopal Church to minister to disaffected members of the church, without the traditionally required permission of the local bishop.

Hicks said that those incursions "have continued unabated and unapologetically" since they began in 2000, a full three years before the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, the event to which many claim the incursions are a response.

"The last nine years have persuaded me that those who participate in cross-boundary activity have no intention of stopping, regardless of what the Episcopal Church does or what the primates say or what the Lambeth Conference says or what the ACC will say," she said. "It's time to move beyond the moratoria -- to allow the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and others to be true to themselves and their members, and to allow all members to participate fully in the church and in furthering God's mission."

Paragraph 34 of the Windsor Continuation Group's final report seems to be the first place where a recommendation that property litigation ought to end is referred to as a "moratoria."

That paragraph notes what the writers call "the fact that a fourth moratorium requested by the unanimous voice of the primates at Dar es Salaam in 2007 -- to see the end of litigation -- has also been ignored." A footnote to this paragraph calls the request one of the primates' "key principles."

The communiqué from the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam included the following statement in its "key recommendations" section: "The Primates urged the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations."

The communiqué does not characterize this recommendation as a fourth moratorium and the continuation group's report did not include a so-called fourth moratorium in its list of moratoria recommendations. However, references to such an addition to the original list of three have come up in the ACC's private discernment groups. Some reporters at the daily news briefings have also repeatedly framed questions around "the fourth moratorium."

The Anglican Communion is made up of around 77 million members in 44 regional and national churches around the globe in 164 countries.

The ACC is the Anglican Communion's most representative decision-making body and includes bishops, clergy and laity. While it has no jurisdiction over the provinces of the communion, it makes policy, approves the Anglican Communion Office's budget and encourages the communion's members to engage together in mission and ministry.

More information about plans for the meeting is available here.

Video clips from the meeting can be found here.

In other business, Bishop James Tengatenga of the Diocese of Southern Malawi, in the Church of the Province of Central Africa, was elected to succeed Auckland Bishop John Paterson as chair of the ACC meeting. Tengatenga will serve in that role until the conclusion of the 2015 ACC meeting.

Full ENS coverage of ACC action on the continuation group's report and the proposed Anglican covenant will follow.