Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
I write in sadness to tell you that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church taken as a whole did not respond adequately to the plea of the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Windsor Report. A number of bishops in the Church of England and Primates throughout the Anglican Communion have agreed with this assessment.
Our worship in Columbus often focused just on God with only occasional references to the Trinity. Our daily eucharists omitted confession of sin (on the one Sunday service we had confession was mercifully included). We elected as Presiding Bishop the person of all the seven candidates who is in deepest disagreement with the theology of the Anglican Communion, and who with her whole diocese moved ahead to allow same sex blessings in October 2003 on the eve of the Primates meeting later that same week. Many more similar actions could be mentioned, but the point is clear: the Episcopal Church as its leadership understands itself to be is at fundamental odds with the majority of the Anglican Communion as well as our common vision here in the diocese of South Carolina.
Let me remind you that the Windsor Report, put together by a large group of people from throughout the breadth and depth of the Anglican Communion, made important specific requests of us as a Province.
We were asked to express regret for what we did and the consequences which followed—and in Columbus we changed the language in which our regret was expressed away from the language of the Windsor report. We were asked to place a moratorium on same sex blessings—and we did not do so. We were also asked to place a moratorium on any person who was in a non-celibate same gender partnership being elected or consecrated as a bishop. At first the House of Deputies voted not to do so on the second to last day of Convention. Then, on the very last day of Convention, using a process which pushed both Houses backs up against the wall, and which violated our own rules, we passed a nonbinding resolution which pleaded with bishops and Standing Committees (but not electing Conventions) to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." Even in this resolution we did not use the specific language of the Windsor Report but the vague language of “manner of life” which presents “a challenge.” Immediately after this was passed in the House of Deputies, a number of bishops led by Bishop Chane of Washington, D.C., a friend with whom I have worked for the last year to seek resolution to this crisis, issued a statement of conscience making clear they had no intention of following the resolution.
The overall picture is very clear. As the Council of Anglican Primates in Africa June 22nd statement put it, the General Convention 2006 “elections and actions suggest that” we “are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué necessary for the healing of our divisions.”
Where do we go from here? Our future as a diocese in full Communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion is bright, and our gospel energy in our parishes and missions is strong. What is critical is that we seek to navigate these turbulent waters together as a diocese, and not simply as individuals or even individual parishes. The Lord will bring us through this time stronger than ever before if we all begin to take more initiative as a body.
Bishop Skilton and I ask your prayers for the Standing Committee as they meet June 28th, and for the clergy day set for July 5th. We also ask your prayers as we prepare to elect a new bishop this September. As is always the case, please be in touch with us directly should you have any questions.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Edward L. Salmon, Jr.XIII Bishop of South Carolina
William J. SkiltonBishop Suffragan of South Carolina