The Eames Commission and Bishop Jones

Reprinted from Anglican Left
September 3, 2004

I'm sure others who may have seen the reports of alleged leaks [trial balloons?] from the forthcoming Eames Commission report are as disturbed as I am.

For those who may not, The Telegraph has the most information [speculation?]:

Liberal American bishops face having their invitations to Anglican summits withdrawn by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, if they continue to defy the worldwide Church over homosexuality.

Under tough proposals likely to be recommended by the Lambeth Commission next month, the liberal leadership of the American Episcopal Church could be excluded from policy making and shunned by the vast majority of Anglicans. Bishops who publicly support the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as Anglicanism's first actively gay bishop last year or who authorise gay "marriages", both of which breach official Anglican policy, would be penalised.

They would only be readmitted to the councils of the worldwide Church if they reversed their position and repented.

The 19-strong commission, which was set up by Dr Williams to avert a schism over the issue, is to finalise its recommendations at a meeting in Windsor next week, but it is thought to have reached a broad consensus at earlier meetings.

In its final report, which is due to be published in October, the commission is expected to resist calls from hardline conservatives to expel the Episcopal Church immediately.

But if its liberal leadership has not recanted by the time the next Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops convenes in 2008, the whole church could still face ejection.

Although debate over homosexuality will not be stifled, only bishops who abide by the Church's official line will be welcome at Anglican summits, and new bishops will also be required to sign up to the policy."

I went to bed last night feeling like I had been kicked in the gut -- angry, disheartened, and questioning. Almost ready to give up on the church forever.

But this morning I remembered that tomorrow [September 4] is the commemoration in the Episcopal Church's calendar of Blessed Paul Jones, Bishop of Utah, a witness for peace and for justice for the greviously maltreated working people of his diocese. In 1917 he shocked the secular press and the church establishment by declaring that "war is unchristian". The "biblically orthodox" of his time were outraged and, quite logically, pointed to the near-universal practice of Christians over 1900 years as giving the lie to this "radical" innovator. In true Anglican fashion, a commission of the House of Bishops was appointed to investigate. It found, of course, that there was nothing unchristian about war, enormous pressure was placed on Bishop Jones, and he was forced to resign.

But today, it is the socialist bishop who is commemorated at the Eucharist, while the members of the commission are all but forgotten. Bishop Jones never "repented" of his convictions, but "For the next 23 years, until his death on September 4, 1941, he continued a ministry within the Church dedicated to peace and conscience, speaking always with a conviction and gentleness rooted in the Gospel." {Lesser Feasts and Fasts]

And if our own conviction that homophobia and discrimination are flatly unchristian means that we are not good enough to be included in that part of the establishment known as "the Anglican Communion", then we can only repeat with Bishop Jones, "Where I serve the Church is of small importance, so long as I can make my life count in the cause of Christ."

Ted Mellor
Los Angeles