Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

The Vocation of Anglican Communion

A statement by the Communion Partners of the Episcopal Church, June 28, 2018

As Communion Partner bishops in the Episcopal Church, we seek to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” with our brothers and sisters here at home and throughout the Anglican Communion (Eph. 4:3).  We believe that we all are joined together indissolubly by the waters of baptism, and that we all are called to share one bread and one cup in the Eucharist as the principal sign of our common faith and full communion in the Lord.  We rejoice in the fellowship that we share in Christ and pray for the movement of his disciples throughout the world, that we may learn to walk together ever more faithfully and persevere to the end.  Amen!

We write to offer a word of guidance and encouragement on various matters before General Convention, particularly the proposals about prayer book revision and the extension of trial use rites for same-sex marriage to all dioceses where civil law permits.  We wish to begin by offering a brief explanation of our self-understanding as Communion Partners.

Walking together as closely as possible with all of our Anglican brothers and sisters has at times been difficult, but since our inception ten years ago we have sought to do so by maintaining “a visible link to the whole Anglican Communion on the way to resolving important questions of faith and order.”[1]  In step with the preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, we understand ourselves as members of a “Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”  When we were ordained, we vowed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God” (BCP, p. 518).  As we understand the Episcopal Church to be part of this larger catholic whole, through our fellowship with Canterbury and the wider Anglican Communion, we have sought to walk as “communion partner” Episcopalians.[2]  As such, since the 2004 Windsor Report issued its request for three moratoria across the Communion, and as these were reaffirmed by the several Instruments of Communion, we have upheld and maintained them as normative in our dioceses.[3]

In 2015, the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church made a decision to extend the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples, by amending its marriage canon and authorizing new trial use marriage liturgies.  While recognizing the clear decision that General Convention made, we respectfully dissented in our “Salt Lake City Statement.”[4]  There, we affirmed our commitment to marriage as a covenant between a man and woman, under the authority of Holy Scripture as guided by catholic tradition and the Anglican Communion.  We renew that affirmation today.

As we see it, the decision of the 78th General Convention should be set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God.  That means that dioceses and congregations within the Episcopal Church that conscientiously teach and practice marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman — as we understand it, the “historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer,” and the teaching of the Anglican Communion — should be given a place to flourish within the structures of the Episcopal Church, without limit of time.

Because of this, we rejoiced in 2015 at the “Communion across Difference” statement of the House of Bishops, which recognized the “indispensable” place that Communion Partners have in our church’s common life, as a witness our church needs.[5]  We were grateful that the authorization of the 2015 trial use marriage rites provided, in this generous spirit, that we may as Communion Partner bishops keep the Windsor moratoria in our dioceses.  We have done so.

Now in 2018, we recognize that some in our dioceses have expressed deep dissatisfaction with this situation.  The Memorial submitted by the convention of the Diocese of Tennessee requested that the 79th General Convention take into account the “exclusion, competing convictions, and loss of community” experienced under the current terms of authorization for the trial use marriage rites.  We know and love many brothers and sisters in Christ in our several dioceses who share this perspective.

For this reason, we are grateful to have entered into collegial conversation with a group of Episcopal leaders who hold a progressive view on marriage and wish to find a way forward in charity and peace for all Episcopalians in one church.  We welcome and support their proposal for a “Communion across Difference” task force, so that over the next triennium and in consultation with our Anglican Communion partners, we might together seek a way forward for the mutual flourishing of all within the bounds of our historic episcopal polity.

Their proposal also provides that beginning in Advent of this year, the trial use rites for marriage authorized in 2015 will be available in all dioceses, where civil law permits.[6]   Congregations in our dioceses that have conscientiously discerned, alongside those priests who bear authority and responsibility for worship in their communities (Canon III.9.6), to extend the practice of marriage to same-sex couples (civil law permitting) would be given the right to do so by requesting delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO).

There is much to commend in this proposal.  Since it does not propose revision of the marriage rite in the Book of Common Prayer, we and those similarly-minded ones who come after us (clergy and lay alike) would be able to pattern our communities after the historic Faith and Order of the Book of Common Prayer as authorized in the Episcopal Church.  Clergy and bishops would be able to vow obedience to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church as set forth in its historic prayer book.  While for the foreseeable future there would continue to be other authorized marriage liturgies welcomed by the majority of congregations and dioceses, we view the 1979 BCP as an important aspect of what we need to have a lasting place to flourish within the structures of the Episcopal Church.

We also appreciate the proposal’s attempt to make room for us to flourish as bishops of dioceses in communion with Canterbury and the one Church of God.  As Archbishop Williams noted in 2007, historic catholic ecclesiology teaches that the diocese and not the congregation form the basic unit of the Church, as the whole people of God in one place is gathered around the bishop as representative of the Church through space and time.[7]  As bishops, we have vowed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God” in our dioceses, ensuring that the congregations under our spiritual authority teach and practice the catholic faith as we have received it in this place.

We cannot, then, permit congregations under our spiritual care to teach and practice a form of marriage that is not authorized by Holy Scripture, by Anglican teaching, and by the great tradition of the whole Church of God.  Recognizing this fact, the proposal from our friends across the aisle recognizes that mandating access to same-sex marriage for congregations in our dioceses must mean that those congregations are in a real way no longer under our spiritual care.

This is why we recognize and appreciate the merits of the proposal.  By requiring delegated episcopal pastoral oversight of such congregations, the proposal allows Communion Partner bishops to preserve the historic teaching and practice of marriage for all those gathered in one place under his or her spiritual care.  At the same time, the proposal does not compel congregations in our dioceses to follow our solemn pastoral guidance in this matter if they understand themselves called by God otherwise, alongside the majority of the Episcopal Church.

Our guidance remains that God has created us male and female to be fruitful and multiply, so that what God has joined together no man should put asunder, and that this nuptial image seen throughout Scripture is a sacramental image of Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride (see Gen. 1:28, 5:2; Mark 10:6-9; Eph. 5:31-32).  We hope even now that the beauty of this image, and the power of God’s own Word, would draw people to the fullness of the gospel’s teaching.  Yet, should the proposal before us pass, we would entrust in charity congregations that do not read Holy Scripture in this way to the care of other bishops in the Episcopal Church with whom we remain united in baptism.

While we cannot endorse every aspect of this proposal, we will be grateful should it help us all to continue contending with one another for the truth in love within one body.  It preserves the Book of Common Prayer as established by our church, and it preserves our dioceses for the exercising of the “historic episcopate, locally adapted” (Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral).  If our church chooses not to preserve these two institutions — the historic Prayer Book, and the historic episcopate with jurisdiction in dioceses — we would no longer have a place in this church.  With the protection of the prayer book and episcopate, we can carry on as loyal Episcopalians and Anglicans, in charity with our sisters and brothers in Christ.

The inclusion of a Task Force on Communion across Difference is of utmost importance.  Parity requires that if congregations in our dioceses must be granted delegated episcopal pastoral oversight at their request, this should be reciprocated throughout the church for Communion Partner congregations.  For them, it is not simply a matter of whether or not a conflictual relationship exists with their bishop, but instead whether the bishop whose spiritual care guides their common life is one that they understand as in full communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.  These and other matters need to be worked out carefully and coherently for a lasting truce of God, one that will allow all of us to re-focus our energies on mission and proclaiming the Gospel to all people, as our Presiding Bishop calls us to do.

We wholeheartedly support a conversation with all stakeholders in the Episcopal Church, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with the wider Anglican Communion in order to find such a truce of God, while preserving the current right of bishops to uphold and maintain the Windsor moratoria in their dioceses.  If the proposal before us passes at General Convention, we pledge to work within its bounds in a spirit of collegiality and friendship with all members of our church.

We hope and pray that the 79th General Convention will do all it can to promote our common growth into Christ, from whom the whole body is built up in love: Christ, who “loved us and gave himself for us” (Eph. 5:2; see 4:15-16).  We ask for the prayers of all our Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may do so as well, by the grace of God.

The Rt. Rev. Lloyd E. Allen
Bishop of Honduras
The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt
Bishop of Tennessee
The Rt. Rev. Gregory O. Brewer
Bishop of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins
Bishop of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith
Bishop of North Dakota
The Rt. Rev. George R. Sumner
Bishop of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Moisés Quezada Mota
Bishop of the Dominican Republic

[1] See the mission statement of the Communion Partners at

[2] A more fulsome theological account of and proposal for the vocation of “Communion Partner” Anglicanism, not only in North America but around the globe, can be found in the May 2017 paper “The Way of Anglican Communion” by the Rt. Rev. Dr. John Bauerschmidt, the Rev Dr. Zachary Guiliano, the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, the Rt. Rev. Dr. George Sumner, and Dr. Christopher Wells.  Our vision calls for intensified communion and synodical “walking together” as far as possible, within a wider recognized diversity within the Anglican family. Available online at

[3] See The Windsor Report §§124-155.  All four Instruments of Communion affirmed and re-articulated these moratoria numerous times, usually with reference to Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.  See the Primates’ Meetings of 2005, 2007, and 2009; Resolution 10 of ACC-13 (2005); Lambeth Conference 2008 (§145); Archbishop Rowan Williams, “Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future” (27 July 2009); Archbishop Justin Welby, “Invitation to Primates’ Meeting” (16 Sept. 2015). Cf. Report of the Windsor Continuation Group 2009, section C (ii).

[4] <>.

[5] <>.

[6] Resolution B012, “Marriage Rites for the Whole Church,” submitted by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano (Long Island), endorsed by Bishop Nicholas Knisely (Rhode Island) and Bishop Dorsey McConnell (Pittsburgh).  Full text available here: <>.

[7] Letter of Archbishop Rowan Williams to Bishop John Howe, 14 October 2007.  In this letter, Williams writes: “Any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in the Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.”



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