Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Scottish Waiting

Recently I have been downloading and trailing through available free software, and it's thanks to TopOCR (much better than SimpleOCR) that I was able to convert what looks like an image based .PDF file to text by Scottish Episcopal Church Bishops on the proposed Anglican Covenant. The same seemed to be the case for its response to the Alexandria meeting of Primates. This software is primarily based on using a camera for turning images of letters into typed letters, but basically I used the excellect and free PDF X-Change reader and XML based editor and exported the pages to images, and then inserted these images into TopOCR just downloaded and installed (does multiple pages - just keep opening the images of text). The irritating SimpleOCR has gone and this has replaced it. By the way, this software trail explains my lack of blogging recently, and this downloading is ahead of a few churchpeople getting new computers and for me to suggest good free software to add to the Open Office the chap puts on for them.

Thinking Anglicans presents both .PDFs. See below for what the Scots say - in text. What do I think of their answers? Well luke warm may be too high a temperature for their response to this increasingly pointless Covenant (February 2009)- pointless because Akinola of Nigeria is heading in a different direction and is an ecclesiastical thug, he has recognised the Anglican Church of North America (a collection of oddballs and refugees) and the right wing coalition of which this is a part observes no moratoria. Disappointing but no real commitment as such as The Scottish Episcopal Church holds to the moratoria (March 2009). Once the impasse is broken it is clear where the Scottish Episcopal Church will move, but it won't move first.

The St Andrews Draft Anglican Covenant: A Response from the Faith and Order Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church

1. We would again like to express our thanks to the Covenant Drafting Group for the work they have undertaken on behalf of our Communion. In particular, we are grateful to see comments from our previous submission reflected in the commentary on that draft, for example in the discussion of the terms 'covenant' and 'concordat'; and we are heartened by the sense of dialogue which has thereby been affirmed. In this present response we would like to continue that dialogue, both through our responding to the three questions to which we have been asked to reply, and through our reporting to the Covenant Drafting Group comments which have been passed to us through the Province-wide discussions that have recently taken place concerning the St Andrews Draft Covenant.

2. Question 1: Is the Province able to give an 'in principle' commitment to the Covenant process at this time (without committing itself to the details of any text)?

At the 2008 General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, members considered the motion 'That this Synod affirm an "in principle" commitment to the Covenant process at this time (without committing itself to the details of any text)'. Following debate, the motion was amended to 'That this Synod affirm an "in principle" commitment to participate actively in discussions regarding the future shape of the Anglican Communion at this time (without necessarily committing itself to the concept of a Covenant)'. This motion was passed by a significant majority.

3. Question 2: Is it possible to give some indication of any Synodical process which would have to be undertaken to adopt the Covenant in the fulness of time?

The mechanism for the formal adoption of the Covenant would need to be debated, in particular the ways in which it would relate (or not) to the Code of Canons. A decision regarding the particular process to be followed for the adoption of the Covenant would be made by our Faith and Order Board, once the final version of the Covenant were made available. If the Board were to recommend that the appropriate process to follow would be one akin to the adoption of a new Canon of the Church, the process would take a full one year period. Such a process would take a minimum of twelve months involving two readings of the Covenant at successive meetings of General Synod. During this period, the proposal to adopt the Covenant (and any necessary canonical amendments) would be passed to the dioceses for discussion and comment. These comments would be considered by General Synod at second reading stage. Acceptance of the proposal to adopt the Covenant would require a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of Synod (Bishops, Clergy and Laity). Since General Synod takes place in June each year, any proposals for adoption would need to be available by not later than April. If received later than that, they could not be considered for a first reading at General Synod until the June of the following year (with a second reading at General Synod the year after that). Depending on the content of the Covenant and the implications for our Canons, a period of drafting the necessary canonical amendments might be needed before the twelve month period referred to above could be commenced.

4. Question 3: In considering the St Andrews draft for an Anglican Covenant, are there any elements which would need extensive change in order to make the process of synodical adoption viable?

We do not believe this to be the case. As a general principle, however, the more a proposed Covenant moves into considerations of proscription and sanction, the harder it will be to reconcile it with existing canonical structures (and, possibly, with the requirements of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, for which the Code of Canons is the Constitution of the Scottish Episcopal Church).

5. Further to the responses above, we would like to commend to the attention of the Covenant Design Group the following points, each of which was raised by a number of respondents in our recent Province-wide discussions of the St Andrews Draft Covenant.

There remains a deep unhappiness in many quarters concerning the use of 'Covenant' terminology, which is felt to be theologically inappropriate. In Scripture a Covenant classically refers to a relationship between God and humankind: it is one-sided, and is an expression of Grace rather than of a quasi-legal understanding which appears to be characteristic of the draft Anglican Covenants.

The increased powers given to the Instruments of Communion raise very significant questions concerning their representative nature, and the manner of their appointment.

We continue to doubt whether expressions such as 'common mind' and 'matters understood to be of essential concern' (section 3.2.4) are meaningful without significant further elaboration.

There are practical doubts over whether a Covenant can in any case be a practical means of addressing the issues which our Communion is currently facing. We note with sadness that 'cross-border' incursions on episcopal jurisdiction have not stopped at the present time, despite the call for a moratorium.

There appears to be an urgency about prosecuting arrangements for a Covenant, in the hope that it will be able to solve the problems it is addressing; and this urgency can only be deleterious to a genuine consultative process.

6. There remains a very deep desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion, of which the Scottish Episcopal Church often considers itself to be a 'founder member', and to which we feel ourselves bound by the warmest ties of friendship and affection. It is our hope and our prayer that those ties may persist and be deepened through the current conversations around the possible adoption of an Anglican Covenant.

February 2009.


College of Bishops Response to Anglican Primates' Letter of February 2009

The Anglican Primates met in Alexandria in February 2009. At the conclusion of their meeting, they issued a communiqué in the form a letter addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion, entitled Deeper Communion; Gracious Restraint. The College of Bishops has since had the opportunity of a first hand report of the Prmates' meeting from the Primus and considered that it would be appropriate to issue a short response to the Primates' letter, including comment on the so-called "Anglican Moratoria".

The College welcomes the fact that the Primates were able to talk honestly and openly together and that despite the alienation and pain felt by many parts of the Communion, there was nevertheless a spirit of graciousness in evidence in the meeting. It shares the desire expressed by the Primates for the Communion to flourish and remain united and it equally desires the flourishing and unity of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The College notes and shares the conviction of the Primates that God is calling Anglican Churches to deeper communion, which may be significantly furthered through our adoption of a period of gracious restraint. That restraint is to be exercised in the three areas covered by the Moratoria, namely the ordination of those in same-gender unions to the episcopate, the authorisation of rites for same-sex blessings and cross-border interventions.

The College of Bishops recognises that, whilst the "Lambeth Indaba" document records that "there is widespread support for the moratoria across the Cornmunion" and that they "can be taken as a sign of the Bishops' affection, trust and goodwill towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and one another", it also agrees that, in practice, there are likely to be difficulties in the moratoria being upheld across the Communion. The concept of a moratorium also gives rise to some difficulty for the College in that it is not clear when, or in what circumstances, a moratorium would end. Indeed, the terminology of "moratoria" is itself unhelpful insofar as it suggests the temporary suspension of activity which had previously been current. With those reservations, and endeavouring to act within a spirit of "gracious restraint" and in the interests of the unity of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the College of Bishops intends to observe the moratoria and comments further as follows:

1. Ordinations of persons living in a same gender union to the Episcopate: ordinarily, the election of a Diocesan Bishop would be expected to have a significant effect on the life of the diocese (and perhaps a less significant impact in the wider church). However, it can be observed from the repercussions of the- consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson that the ordination to the episcopate of a person living in a same gender union, at the current time, could reasonably be expected to have a very significant impact on the life and position of the Province within the Anglican Communion. The College is aware that there are many members of the Scottish Episcopal Church who will find this particular moratorium difficult to accept. It is also aware that there are significant numbers of Scottish Episcopalians who find the ordination of a person living in a same gender union equally difficult to accept. The Bishops recognise that we live in a Province within a Communion where we have not yet reached agreement on these issues. Having regard to the terms of the Primates' letter, the recommendations of the Windsor Report, the terms of the "Lambeth Indaba" document and the fact that the ordination to the Episcopate of a person living in a same gender union would, in the opinion of the College, conflict with the strongly held convictions of significant numbers of Scottish Episcopalians and other Anglicans within the worldwide Comrnunion, the {college of Bishops believes that, for the time being, all who have responsibility within the process of the election of any new diocesan bishop should seek to act within the spirit of this requested moratorium.

2. The blessing of same-sex unions: in its Statement dated 4th March 2005, the College noted that the Scottish Episcopal Church had, even before the 1998 Lambeth Conference, sought to be welcoming and open to persons of homosexual orientation in its congregations and to listen to their experiences. The College recognised that on occasion this led clergy to respond to requests to give a blessing to persons who were struggling with elements of their relationship and who asked for such a prayer. The College expressed its gladness to note that the concern of the Windsor Report and of the Primates'Cornmuniqué issued in February 2005 had not been with such informal pastoral responses to individual situations but was rather about the official authorization of a liturgical text for the blessing of such unions. The College further expressed the view in 2005 that given that there was still much fluidity in the debate of such matters, it would certainly be premature to move formally to authorise such a liturgy. The College of Bishops interprets the moratorium on the blessing of samesex unions as a moratorium on the authorization by the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, or by individual Bishops, of a formal rite of blessing for same-sex unions. At the current time, members of the College remain of view that it would, certainly be premature, and some would say wrong, to authorise a rite for such blessings.

The College also recognises that very different views exist within the Scottish Episcopal Church as to the appropriateness of informal blessings by clergy of samesex unions. It is the practice of the individual Bishops neither to give official sanction to such informal blessings, nor to attend them personally.

3. Cross-border incursions by Bishops: no roomer of the College of Bishops has engaged in a cross-border incursion and the view of the College is that the existing geographical boundaries of Provinces and Dioceses within the Anglican Cornmunion should be observed.

The Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church for the College of Bishops

March 2009


Anonymous said...

I greatly esteem the Scottish Episcopal Church ... But I have to say: it hardly exists. My partner and I (active Anglicans in the sense that we go to church every Sunday) have had two recent holidays in the north of Scotland -first in Tarbert, then on Mull - and it was the Devil's own job to find a Scottish Episcopal church. When we did, they were very nice. But there was hardly anyone there ... My point? Simply this: church people of all hues have to compromise their own 'purity'. All very well singing the praises of the Scttish Episcopal Church (and I agree), but that church really has to pull its finger out and it has to do deals with church people it dislikes/despises and who dislike and despise it.

Same goes for you, so-called 'Pluralist'.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

You can do deals and make your ethical intentions clearer, and to make sure they are not just words.

I do deals by my own failures and by mixing with those who are people like me. But deals include final deals, points not to cross, the covenant (properly speaking - of trust) before the contract (the deal).

The SEC is not a state Church, and has other associations. After the defeat of the Jacobins, the modernists as in Edinburgh thrust ahead almost like revolutionaries, and the SEC was associated with an unwanted past, but its very independence gave the American Anglicans an episcopal future in a way the Methodists did not securely enjoy. In the present moment it seems paralysed into inaction, but when the Americans jump and the impasse ends, it will move then.

Some of us are not bureaucrats and have a different view also of belief, and that gives some freedom to make the case. That's what I do.