Scottish Episcopal Church - Response to Windsor Report
SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Provincial Responses to the Windsor Report: some brief comments
1. Reports were received from discussions at a joint meeting of the Standing
Committee and the College of Bishops, at the Faith and Order Board, and at the
Mission and Ministry Board. Minutes of these meetings are reproduced as
appendices 1-3. In addition, important papers relating to particular issues
written by the Secretary General and by the Convenor of the Committee on
Canons are given as appendices 4 and 5.
2. In the brief comments which follow, an attempt is made to draw out particular
themes which appear to have been prominent in the discussions. There is then
an attempt to relate these to the particular questions asked by Archbishop Peter
3. Discussions were wide ranging. There was a general recognition of the
difficulty of the task facing the commission which had produced the Windsor
report, and of the careful dissociation of the recommendations of the report from
the particular events which had precipitated its production. It should be
recognised, too, that any discussion which takes place around a document of
this kind will focus largely on criticisms of the document – in a sense, it is there
to be shied at.
With these caveats in place, a number of points emerged from the discussions.
4. Some responses to the Windsor report are broadly negative. Points made
• The historical material set out in section A was felt to be insufficiently
nuanced. It was noted that, in the past, unilateral action within Provinces had
led to Communion-wide changes.
• Some appear to have found the concept of adiaphora not to be a particularly
helpful one. Perhaps the Instruments of Unity might be asked to define a
diaphora more closely.
• It was felt that the report in general failed to acknowledge the real diversity
that (i) currently exists, and has always existed, in the Anglican Communion
and that (ii) is a significant, distinctive characteristic of that Communion, and
of its witness in a pluralistic context.
• In addition to the presenting issues around the Church’s attitude to same-sex
relationships, it was noted that the exercise of Episcopal authority underpins a
good deal of concern around the report. The novelty of ‘flying bishops’,
introduced for pragmatic reasons in the Church of England following the
decision to ordain women to the priesthood in that country, was felt to have set
an unhelpful precedent in offering the model of alternative Episcopal oversight
as a means of accommodating varied opinions.
• Related to this, there was a concern that any pragmatic ‘fix’ to a particular
difficulty faced by the Communion – such as that which might be provided in
the present case by a Covenant – might solve problems in the present, but
create new difficulties in the future.
• It was noted that the issues which had given rise to the Commission neither
could nor should be divorced from broader socio-political concerns in the
modern world, particularly concerning the relationship between the developed
West and the rest of the world. Moreover, disagreements about the presenting
issues of sexuality are not solely seen on a ‘north-south’ divide: in fact, they
are experienced in microcosm within each Province.
• The proposed covenant arrangements were felt to be restrictive, and could lead
to the stifling of anything innovative in the future. The idea of ‘Anglican
Communion Liaison Officers’ was criticised as being undesirable in principle
and awkward in practice.
• There was a fear that Convenantal arrangements constituted draconian
measures for preserving unity at the expense of recognising a variety of
perspectives on a given issue as legitimately Anglican. There was a fear that
the restrictive nature of the Covenant as proposed might lead to fragmentation,
rather than a search for fresh ways of living with diversity.
• Practical concerns about the workability of a Covenant of the kind set out in
the Windsor Report were expressed, (i) because of the voluntary limiting of
Provincial autonomy implied, (ii) in terms of enabling any development of
doctrine and practice to occur, (iii) in terms of the difficulty of defining what
is, and what is not, a ‘Communion issue’, and (iv) in terms of the practicability
of achieving cross-Provincial Canonical harmonisation. (See appendices 4 and
5 for fuller discussion of these points.)
5. In contrast to these negative points, some more positive comments regarding the
suggestions of the Windsor report were made. For example:
• There was widespread affirmation of the importance and value of the
Anglican Communion, and a fear that the present situation may lead to
schisms which could only be a diminution of all concerned.
• There was a recognition that the Anglican Communion needs to move
forwards if it is to maintain its unity.
• Whilst the proposals for a Covenant in the Windsor Report were criticised,
there remained a feeling (i) that a Covenant arrangement could be helpful, and
(ii) that an alternative Covenant to that proposed in the report might be a way
• The possibility of the Anglican Communion as a whole developing a
Synodical structure was raised. This might enable Provinces to communicate
and debate controversial issues with greater immediacy and sensitivity to each
6. Certain points were noted from the experiences of the Scottish Episcopal
Church as being germane to the discussions: it was felt that these might be
offered to the Communion for its consideration. For example:
• Patience and good will are necessary if parties in disagreement are to achieve
any kind of reconciliation. If people do not want to be reconciled,
reconciliation will not be possible.
• This Province has not gone down the route of ‘flying bishops’ to
accommodate differences. Our Church models an alternative to this approach.
7. It is difficult to give clear responses to Archbishop Peter Kwong’s four
questions in the light of the discussions above. Conversations ranged widely, as
the appendices to this digest indicate. A full understanding of the SEC’s
responses should be gleaned from these appendices and from points 4-6 above.
Briefly, however, responses to these questions might be stated as follows.
1. What in the description of the Life of the Communion in sections A and B can you
recognise as consistent, or not, with your understanding of the Anglican Communion?
There was a concern that the Report offers an idealised picture of Anglican
history which minimises past differences of doctrine and practice. The concept of
adiaphora was not found particularly helpful. Whilst some found the picture of the
Communion accurate, there remained a concern that a systematic approach to its
development was now being suggested, in contrast to the ‘organic growth’ that has
characterised its past.
2. In which ways do the proposals in Section C and D flow appropriately from the
description of the Communion’s Life in Sections A and B?
Some found elements of inconsistency in the report, e.g. regarding the
authority accorded respectively to the Scriptures and to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
There were some who valued the fact that Anglicans can be united in spite of
differences – indeed, this might be held to be characteristic of Anglicanism. The
Report was felt by some to be a compromise in the interests of unity – which was felt
to be preferable to schism.
3. What do you think of the ways in which the recommendations and proposals of the
Report would impact on the life of the Communion if they were to be implemented?
Reservations were expressed about the practical workability of the proposals,
particularly regarding the assessment of particular issues as ‘Communion issues’, and
regarding the practicability of achieving canonical harmonisation between Provinces.
Some felt that a Synodical process and clarification of ways of challenging
Communion decisions were necessary.
4. How would you evaluate the arguments for an Anglican Covenant set out in
paragraph 119 of the Report? How far do the elements included in the possible draft
for such a Covenant in Appendix 2 of the Report represent an appropriate
development of the existing life of the Anglican Communion?
There was much division about the Covenant. Some felt it to be a helpful way
forward, and others did not; and of the former, some saw virtue in the model
Covenant outlined in the Report, whilst others did not. Those with reservations about
the Covenant believed it had the potential to stifle diversity and effectively to prevent
the kind of organic growth which has occurred within Provinces in the past.
The Doctrine Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church