One of the interesting aspects of reading denominational news sources is that they frequently don’t report what the leadership considers bad or inconvenient news (or if they do so, it’s only long after the fact). Stuff that isn’t congenial to the agenda just gets dropped down the memory hole, the thinking being that that way no one will ever hear it. But since the blogosphere came into its own, that’s no longer possible.
A case in point is the address made to the Episcopal House of Bishops yesterday by the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Mouneer Anis. He was blunt, to the point, and didn’t obfuscate even a little bit:
Anglicans are aware with humility that we are not “the” church but we are one member of the body of Christ, the one Holy Catholic Church. We proclaim this every week in our churches. This places upon us the responsibility to listen to and respect our ecumenical partners.
My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.
I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion. That is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence if the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from other congregational churches. I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution number 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares “the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that…are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.” With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church one faith and one Lord.
It is clear that you actions have resulted in one the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we all cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.
My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.
However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1.10) of the rest of the Communion.
That lays out unequivocally the choice that lies between the two sides in the ever-deepening rift throughout mainline Protestantism. As such, one could easily see this as a case of helping the bishops to clarify their choices, a service that few of them have availed themselves of in recent years. But I had to find this speech at StandFirm. At the Episcopal News Service, the lead story is about a medical anthropologist who spoke in support of the Millenium Development Goals (the actual gospel being propagated by a lot of Episcopal bishops these days). As for the Archbishop’s speech, you’d never know he was even there. Now that’s fair and balanced reporting.
UPDATE: My mistake–Archbishop Anis is actually the primate of the province of Jerusalem, and Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt.