Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Adiaphora: The Achilles Heel of the Windsor Report

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Adiaphora: The Achilles Heel of the Windsor Report

Article excerpt

The Windsor Report maintains that any member church of the Anglican Communion which unilaterally takes any action presupposing that homosexual unions are morally permissible is in contempt of the bonds of affection and communion in the Anglican Church. The Report offers only one reason for this claim which survives initial scrutiny: that the issue of the morality of homosexuality is not adiaphora, a matter on which orthodox Christians may reasonably disagree. But by any defensible standard, the morality of homosexuality is adiaphora. Therefore, the Anglican Communion has no grounds for complaint if a member church puts forward, for reception within its own province, a proposal for such action. Furthermore, there is a monumental difficulty with the Report's demand that member churches ought at least to consult with the wider Communion before accepting such a proposal.

The Windsor Report (WR) passes moral judgments on the conduct of certain member churches of the Anglican Communion, asks for public expressions of repentance and acts of self-restraint from those churches, and envisages sanctions in the event of non-compliance, of unprecedented severity at the global level of the Communion.1 The report, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the wake of vehement objections in some quarters of the Anglican Communion to the consecration of a partnered homosexual. Canon Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and to the authorization by the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada, of a public rite of blessing for homosexual unions, regards these measures, and two others similar to them,2 as not only violating-indeed,-denying-the bonds of affection and communion in the Anglican Church (paras. 134, 141, 143), but also as "action in breach of the legitimate application of the Christian faith" (para. 143). Claiming that the Diocese of New Hampshire, the Episcopal Church in the USA, the Diocese of New Westminster, and the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada have acted "without sufficient regard for the common life of the [Anglican] Communion" (para. 146), WR calls upon these bodies to express regret for what they have done, and absent such regret, to consider withdrawing themselves from "representative functions in the Anglican Communion" (paras. 134, 141). The whole of the Communion is also called upon to refrain from the consecration of non-celibate homosexual bishops, the authorization of public blessings of homosexual unions, and the like "until sonic new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (para. 134). And if these recommendations are not heeded. WR maintains that it might well be necessary to exclude the offending member churches from relevant representative bodies and meetings, to allow them to attend such meetings but only as observers, or even, albeit "as an absolute last resort," to revoke their membership in the Communion (para. 157).3

What justification does the Windsor Report offer for these judgments and recommendations? Briefly, it is that at the very least these member churches were under a stringent obligation to "consult meaningfully" with the wider Communion in advance about whether the actions they were contemplating are acceptable, and none of these churches made any serious effort to do so; thev simply went ahead unilaterally with their innovations (para. 33). Furthermore, since that obligation remains binding on the Communion as a whole, no other member churches ought to proceed unilaterally with similar measures.

But why is that obligation incumbent on the whole of the Anglican Communion? As WR itself acknowledges, the Anglican tradition firmly endorses the doctrine of subsidiarity, the principle that matters should be decided as close to the local level as possible. For instance, It does not take an Ecumenical Council to decide what colour flowers might be displayed in church" (para. 38). Furthermore, the Anglican Communion is not a unitary authority, but a federation of autonomous provinces. …

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