[Note: You can download the PDF of this file here. Additionally Bishop Bauerschmidt has set up a web page where he is sharing sermons and other statements (this is a temporary page as upgrades to the diocesan web site continue.)]

I read with great interest this week the Communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting of February 19th, 2007, and their recommendations for a way forward for the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part.

The Primates spent time in prayer, bible study, and reflection on the mission of the Church. They had an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in the cathedral in Zanzibar, a place of worship built on the former site of a slave market. They heard, among other reports, about the Millennium Development Goals and about a study of Theological Education in the Anglican Communion. They assented to the initiation of a Communion-wide study of the methods of Scriptural interpretation.

It was within the context of these things that the Primates engaged the issues arising from the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report of 2004. Related to these issues, the Primates heard a report concerning the process of listening to the experiences of homosexual persons that was initiated by the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, as well as a report on the work of the Panel of Reference established by the Primates in 2005 to monitor the adequacy of provisions made for groups in theological dispute with their own bishop. The Primates also heard a report from those charged with drafting an Anglican Covenant, the establishment of which they believe offers the possibility of more firmly anchoring the common life of the Communion.

A large part of this meeting was spent by the Primates in assessing the response of the 2006 General Convention to the requests made by the Windsor Report, as affirmed by the Primates in 2005. The Primates heard from the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, as well as from three Bishops of our own Church with varying perspectives. The Primates also had the opportunity to meet with and hear from our own Presiding Bishop.

In light of all this, the Primates’ Communiqué judges the response of the Episcopal Church in 2006 to lack clarity in regard to the authorization of rites of blessing for those in same-sex unions. The Communiqué acknowledges that some of the Primates also believe that the Episcopal Church has not yet given sufficient assurances concerning a requested moratorium on the election and consecration to the episcopate of candidates living in a same-sex union. The Primates recognize the seriousness with which our Church has addressed the requests of the Windsor Report, and the apology that the General Convention has made. Still, in order to clarify these two issues, the Primates have asked the House of Bishops to “make an unequivocal common covenant” that they will authorize no Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions, as well as confirm that the passage of Resolution B033 in 2006 means that a candidate for the episcopate living in a same-sex union will not receive the necessary consents to be consecrated. They have asked for these assurances to be given by the end of September, 2007.

The Primates also engaged the issue of the need for healing and reconciliation that now exists in the Episcopal Church. The Primates recognize that a number of bishops, clergy, and lay people have made explicit their commitment to the proposals of the Windsor Report, judged the response of the Episcopal Church to date to be inadequate, and wish to remain a part of the Anglican Communion

(the main points among the so-called “Camp Allen principles”). The Primates recognize, as well, that the interventions in the life of the Episcopal Church by some Primates and bishops from other Provinces, contrary to the Windsor Report, have exacerbated a situation of recrimination and hostility. They also recognize that some dioceses and bishops are unable for a variety of reasons to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop, and have requested provision for “alternative primatial ministry”. These considerations call the Primates to undertake some exceptional provisions for the Church in this interim time, before its clarification in the longer term by the adoption of an Anglican Covenant by the Churches of our Communion.

The details of this interim solution are detailed in a schedule attached to the Communiqué. The Primates will establish a Pastoral Council to act on their behalf, in consultation with the Episcopal Church. The Council will consist of members nominated by the Primates, the Presiding Bishop, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Council will be working on a number of issues around the need for healing and reconciliation. To this end, the Council will also put in place a Pastoral Scheme that will rely on bishops of the Episcopal Church who are overtly committed to the “Camp Allen principles”, in consultation with the Council and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop, to nominate a “Primatial Vicar” who shall be responsible to the Council. The Presiding Bishop in consultation with the Council will delegate powers and duties to the Primatial Vicar. When these provisions for pastoral care are in place, interventions by other Primates will end.

I appreciate the very gracious way in which the Presiding Bishop has worked with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the Primates to shape these proposals for pastoral care. I believe the Primates have offered us a way forward in a period of great difficulty for the Church in its common life. I rejoice that the Primates of our Communion, in spite of real differences, were able to reach a common mind and to offer a common interim proposal to us.

The Diocese of Tennessee is on record, at its most recent Convention, in stating that “the findings and recommendations of the Windsor Report represent the best way forward for the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion”. In addition, the Diocese remains committed to being a “full and active part of the Anglican Communion, in unity with the See of Canterbury, and the Episcopal Church USA; forgoing our own local desires for the sake of the greater Anglican Communion; and a conciliar approach to decision-making in the life of the Church and the Anglican Communion by working with and heeding the collective wishes of the Communion before making unilateral decisions”. As Bishop, I am committed to the “Camp Allen principles” that the Primates have looked to in their Communiqué as providing a way to care for the Church during this interim period. I hope that we can provide the assurances that are now being asked of the House of Bishops. I recognize that these assurances will come at some cost for gay and lesbian members of the Church.
One of the very important statements made in the Primates’ Communiqué is this: “We believe that it would be a tragedy if the Episcopal Church were to fracture, and we are committed to doing what we can to preserve and uphold its life”. I heartily concur with the Primates. We need to pay attention to this in our common life in the Diocese of Tennessee. The Primates have given us a Pastoral Scheme that allows us to move ahead, holding up before us the possibility of continuing as the Communion of Churches that I am convinced we are called to be.

– +John Bauerschmidt