Unity, Faith and Order commission develops vision, urges ‘gracious
restraint’ following L.A. election
By Matthew Davies
[Episcopal News Service] The new Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), while outlining its vision as being a “communicative and connection-making body,” has urged “gracious restraint” from the Episcopal Church in confirming the election of an openly gay and partnered woman as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
A communiqué, released at the conclusion of IASCUFO’s inaugural meeting Dec. 1-8 in Canterbury, England, acknowledged that the Dec. 5 election of the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool “remains to be confirmed or rejected by the Episcopal Church.”
The commission indicated its support of the prompt response from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who issued a statement on Dec. 6 saying that “the bishops of the communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.”
Williams’ statement also noted that “the process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.”
Under the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.4), a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to the Glasspool’s ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.
Williams’ comments have since been challenged by various commentators and organizations, including the Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and laity supporting full inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.
In a Dec. 7 statement, the consultation called upon Williams to reconsider his “immediate” comments, while questioning his public silence on a proposed Ugandan law that would introduce the death penalty for people who violate that country’s anti-homosexuality laws.
At IASCUFO’s meeting in Canterbury, Williams spent an afternoon with the commission, “during which he shared his own vision for the work of the commission and his hope that it might act creatively in addressing vital issues for the church and the world,” the group’s communiqué said.
The 20-member commission is chaired by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of the Anglican Church of Burundi and includes the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, an Episcopal priest and professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary.
Grieb served as a member of the design group that drafted the proposed Anglican covenant, a document intended to unify the communion’s provinces amid differing theological viewpoints. Grieb is one of five women to serve IASCUFO, which includes one lay person.
IASCUFO combines the work of two earlier commissions that focused on ecumenical relations and theological and doctrinal issues, as well as the Windsor Continuation Group.
During its Canterbury meeting, the group committed itself to five immediate tasks:
1. “to undertake a reflection on the instruments of communion and relationships among them”;
2. “to make a study of the definition and recognition of ‘Anglican Churches’ and develop guidelines for bishops in the communion;
3. “to provide supporting material to assist in promoting the Anglican covenant”;
4. “to draft proposals for guided processes of ‘reception’ (how developments and agreements are evaluated, and how appropriate insights are brought into the life of the churches)”; and
5. “to consider the question of ‘transitivity’ (how ecumenical agreements in one region or province may apply in others).”
The commission sees itself as a body “which models and promotes communication and connection-making in the Anglican Communion, within a confident and vibrant expression of our shared faith and life, participating by God’s grace in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ,” the Dec. 8 communiqué said.
The full text of the communiqué is available here.
IASCUFO’s next meeting will be held in November 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Participants at the Canterbury meeting were:
The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of Burundi and Chair of Commission
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Georges Titre Ande, Congo
The Ven. Professor Dapo Asaju, Nigeria
The Rev. Canon Professor Paul Avis, England
The Rt. Rev. Philip D. Baji, Tanzania
The Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut, World Council of Churches
The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory, West Indies
The Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, Episcopal Church (USA)
The Rev. Canon Clement Janda, Sudan
The Rev. Sarah Rowland Jones, Southern Africa
The Rev. Dr. Edison Muhindo Kalengyo, Uganda
The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
The Rev. Canon Dr. Charlotte Methuen, England
The Rev. Dr. Simon Oliver, Wales/England
The Rt. Rev. Professor Stephen Pickard, Australia
Dr. Andrew Pierce, Ireland
The Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Nai Chiu Poon, South East Asia
The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang, Korea
The Rt. Rev. Tito Zavala, Bishop of Chile, Southern Cone
The Rev. Joanna Udal, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs
The Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director for Unity, Faith and Order
Mr. Neil Vigers, of the Anglican Communion Office
However, statements and opinions expressed in the articles and
communications herein, are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
those of Episcopal Life or the Episcopal Church.