Dr. Cheryl White: The Windsor Report and the Primate’s Communiqué: A Path to Resolution for All of Us

Legitimacy has always mattered to Anglicans. The
Church of England came into being because rulers and
churchmen of the sixteenth century diligently sought
ways to remain historically catholic (and therefore tethered
visibly to the apostolic church) amid times of inevitable
change and reform. Such an outcome required profound
commitment to a process, both intellectual and ecclesiastical,
that laid the foundational cornerstones of future Anglicanism.
Time and time again throughout Anglican history, the growing
Communion has sought to reform itself through processes of
consultation and discipline, when necessary, to cast off
opposing extremist views and thereby maintain its famous
broad middle ground. It is just such a process that has always
historically maintained the Communion in its rather unique
position as representing a true and legitimate expression of
the ancient faith once delivered to the saints. As this writer
has noted on many previous occasions in this forum and
others, we have the unique distinction in Christendom as
being both catholic and reformed. Given the bloodshed and
human strife of a Reformation that yielded Protestantism, that
is no small accomplishment.
In these current days fraught with anguish, controversy and
conflict, our collective fatigue and frustration has manifested
itself in a variety of actions against each other and the broader
Communion. I have certainly been guilty myself of strong
emotion and rhetoric directed at practice and polity of The
Episcopal Church that I absolutely believe to be wrong. It is
fair and accurate to say that no matter what one’s “position”
might be – using inadequate labels such as liberal, conservative,
orthodox, revisionist, etc. – there have been errors on
each side. When acting against the Gospel, no matter how we
attempt to justify our actions, we are wrong. It doesn’t
matter what the “other side” did. It doesn’t matter if “they did
it first.” This is precisely what the Windsor Report cautions
against and is indeed the main reason our diocesan reconciliation
initiative currently underway is so vitally important.
The event that provoked our most recent crisis in Anglican
history, the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003,
set in motion once again an Anglican process that is
endeavoring still to forge a solution for the Communion – one
that will keep our historical integrity intact and at the same
time remain true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, seeking again
the application of Holy Scripture, Tradition and Reason. This
process has taken nearly four long years now, and many of us
have already felt the need to leave and find church homes
elsewhere. Many of us have threatened to leave out of
frustration but remain because we believe in what the Anglican
Communion offers. I personally count myself among this
latter number because I know at the deepest level of my being
that our expression of Christianity is beautifully unique and
worth whatever process will secure its legitimacy for the
future. Recently, this process has yielded what might be the
most important modern document in the life of the unity of
the Communion – the Windsor Report.
The Windsor Report calls upon all of us in the Communion to
certain expectations while the broader process comes to
completion. At our most recent Diocesan Convention, we
labored to pass resolutions that affirmed to the world that we
not only accepted, but fully complied with Windsor – as it was
delivered to us. That means that we committed ourselves, to
each other and to God, that we would be faithful to this
process. The Windsor Report calls upon us to stop actions that
are painful to others and further threaten
our unity – and that call applies to those
on both sides of the issue. The process
really does matter, for it will ultimately
yield a renewed Anglicanism that indisputably
will reflect God’s perfect will for our
Some in our pews have already left for
other traditions, unwilling or spiritually unable
to wait out the process. Those of us
who remain must remember that
Anglicanism requires the completion of this
process now set in motion and not act
rashly to further damage the efforts of the
broader Church and cause more injury to
each other. Why not just leave, some ask?
Why not forge an alliance with some alternative
See other than Canterbury? Who
needs Canterbury and why? All of these
questions require an answer, for Anglicans
do not just “leave.” We have not ever chosen
the easy and quick resolution to crisis
simply because it was more efficient.
Let’s assume legitimacy had never mattered
to us. If being able to lay claim to the
one holy catholic and apostolic church had
not mattered to Henry VIII, it wouldn’t
have taken him six years to complete the
historic break with Rome. Further, the
break would not have come in such way
that preserved the visible elements of ancient
catholicity that distinguishes our Anglican
tradition today. If Elizabeth I had
not cared for the importance of the via
media, she could have persecuted Puritans
and forced them from England entirely,
instead of involving them in a process that
eventually purged both opposing extremes
of Puritans and Roman Catholics.
The Windsor Report and the most recent
communiqué from the Primates offer
us the only viable process of resolution that
is consistent with our history, heritage and
identity. Furthermore, we as a diocese have
committed ourselves to the Windsor process
– collectively as one body as we met
in Alexandria last October.
I realize that there are some who might
accuse me of putting my institutional and
process-oriented ecclesiology before Christ
Himself. Nothing can be further from my
personal truth. I know that the ancient
faith is available to us today through the
Apostolic Succession and the great historic
venues where it was once planted – including
the historic See of Canterbury. The
human institution that is Christ’s holy
Church offers us tangible, visible and continuing
proof of His Incarnation, thereby
making it worthy of our most sincere efforts
to maintain its structural integrity.
I do not, at this juncture, see that communion
with Canterbury is something that is
optional or disposable. The process we
began together has not yet come to its conclusion.
Yet if you read many of the Internet
blogs and heed the voices of some among
us, the See of Canterbury has not acted
quickly enough, rightly enough, radically
enough, fill-in-your-own indictment here
– and therefore, they have judged, must be
no longer relevant to Christ or His Church
Catholic and Apostolic. I make this point
only to say that there are, I suspect, a number
of us who do not see communion with
Canterbury as simply a fond thing, nice to
have, but completely expendable when inconvenient
to our personal timelines.
Rather, for some of us, communion with
Canterbury is an ancient tether to the faith
that should be preserved (albeit not at any
cost). In the words of the Act of Supremacy
of 1534 that gave Henry VIII the authority
as Supreme Head of the Church of England,
this should apply to our relationship
with Canterbury so far as the law of
Christ allows.
I do not advocate Communion for
communion’s sake, or unity for unity’s sake
– but communion and unity for Christ’s
sake under the banner of His Passion that
says it all. Salvation is the reason the
Church exists – the Church is nothing if
not proof that Christ still lives, especially
in those oldest repositories of the faith
passed down from the Apostles.
I will always choose Christ over all else,
including the Communion with the See of
Canterbury. However, I am also reluctant
to place my trust in divisive acts by even
the best-intentioned Christians. Provincehopping
and border-crossing while invoking
the Gospel of Christ yet simultaneously
withdrawing obedience to the process of a
properly convened gathering of the Church
authority – seems counter-productive and
sends many mixed messages that are hurtful
to unity at this crucial time.
The justification that has been offered
for such actions reveals a double-edged
sword. For example, if we attempt to argue
that someone is a bishop of the Anglican
Church because he is properly consecrated
by any constituent province of the
global communion – then what difference
would it make if the Anglican Communion
were to boot ECUSA out tomorrow?
It would make no difference! The divisive
bishops on the liberal side of ECUSA
could go, in theory, to another province
outside the United States and simply be
consecrated there. Any re-definition of
Anglican identity without the legitimacy of
the process now in place could result in
only perpetuating a crisis that we claim to
want quickly solved. Solution means adherence
to Windsor and the Primates
Communiqué calling for cessation of divisive
and hurtful actions!
We cannot see the future nor know what
might wait at the end of this path, but we
can surely know that God is in control of
our destiny. With that in mind, we must
either fully commit ourselves to the road
before us or leave historic Anglicanism behind.
It makes no sense to claim to be
Anglican but simultaneously reject its validly
instituted process of resolving our global
crisis – and that’s a history lesson for
all of us.
—Cheryl H. White, Ph.D. is a professor of
history at Louisiana State University in
Shreveport and is chair of the Diocesan
Commission on Christian Education.

3 Responses to “Dr. Cheryl White: The Windsor Report and the Primate’s Communiqué: A Path to Resolution for All of Us”

  1. 1 Truth Unites... and Divides August 5, 2007 at 12:47 am

    “Solution means adherence
    to Windsor and the Primates
    Communiqué calling for cessation of divisive
    and hurtful actions!”

    Amen! Amen! Amen!

  2. 2 robroy August 5, 2007 at 5:02 am

    If the diocese is going to cease divisive action, it needs to look at funding going to 815.

  3. 3 descant August 5, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Parishes in our Diocese are allowed to redirect funds from 815 to the Diocese if they so choose.

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