[Stand Firm] 4 April 2007--The decision by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church to reject the Pastoral Council, and the much harsher statements about the character and responsibility of the primates meeting as an Instrument of Unity, made by individual Bishops of the Episcopal Church, have caught many of us off guard.
We leave here to the side the accounts of the Presiding Bishop’s understanding of her role at Dar es Salaam in respect of the communiqué, and her subsequent interpretations of that role in the context of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC). Much of this is simply confusing. At times there appears to be a willingness to concede that the Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar schemes are fully within the realm of canonical viability, and desirability. At other points this becomes contested.
It would be useful therefore to state in simple terms what is at stake and what is possible, in the light of the hard work undertaken by the primates, including the Presiding Bishop of TEC, at Dar es Salaam.
1. The Lambeth Conference charge of “enhanced responsibility” for the primates as an Instrument of Unity/Communion stipulates that actions they request are to accord with the constitution and canons of the Province in question.
2. The Primatial Vicar and Pastoral Council scheme do not in principle violate either of the above, and the details need to be carefully worked out within TEC and not rejected ab initio.
3. The point of this scheme is to help TEC address its own problem of full compliance with requests of the Instruments of Unity/Communion and so remove the reason for foreign interventions. The proposal of the communiqué in this regard is not “injurious” but indeed helpful to TEC.
4. The actions taken by the primates are not juridical but pastoral, and should be received in that same spirit.In the light of this, and in view of the difficulties with compliance with the requests of the primates, what is the way forward?
We suggest the following....