The 2004 Windsor Report, which was released on Oct. 18 after a yearlong study on homosexuality and the unity of the Anglican Communion, seemingly marked only the beginning of what is expected to become the most controversial debate in the history of the Anglican Church. Already, dozens of leaders flooded the Communion with their “statements” and “responses” to the 100-page document, hinting that numerous “wrinkles” have yet to be ironed out on the contested issue.
Peter Akinola, the head of the largest Anglican Archdiocese in the world and one of the most avid backers of the traditional Anglican faith, said in his Oct. 19th response that the report “fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers.”
The report essentially rebuked both sides on the homosexuality debate; it urged the US Episcopalians to apologize for ordaining a homosexual bishop without approval from the wider communion, and chided the conservative churches in the “Global South” for threatening to break the unity of the Communion by rejecting the U.S. church.
“Instead of a clear call for repentance we have been offered warm words of sentimentality for those who have shown no godly sorrow for their actions and harsh words of condemnation for those who have reached out a helping hand to friends in need of pastoral and spiritual care,” Akinola noted.
According to Akinola, the language of the report was biased against the conservative leadership of the Global South.
“Why, throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the Global South, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible?” he asked.
“Where are the expressions of deep concern for the men and women whose witness is jeopardized and whose lives are at risk because of the actions of ECUSA [Episcopal Church of the United States of America]? Where are the words of “deep regret” for the impact of ECUSA's actions upon the Global South and our missionary efforts? Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behavior? The imbalance is bewildering. It is wrong to use equal language for unequal actions,” he added.
Akinola, who has in recent weeks publicly denounced the Episcopal Church USA for its actions, explained that the conservative churches “will not be intimidated” to remain in a church that has no repentance.
“We have been asked to express regret for our actions and “affirm our desire to remain in the Communion”. How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help,” he exclaimed.
Furthermore, Akinola said the ones who broke the communion were not the conservatives, but rather the liberal advocates for non-biblical standards to ordination.
“The Bible says that two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. The report rightly observes that if the “call to halt” is ignored “then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart”. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of New Westminster are already walking alone on this and if they do not repent and return to the fold, they will find that they are all alone. They will have broken the Anglican Communion,” he said.
Other top leaders of the Anglican Communion, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, remained much more neutral on the subject, stating merely that the Lambeth Commission which prepared the Report should be thanked.
The Rev. John L. Peterson, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said merely: “I thank the Lambeth Commission for the outstanding job they did in the preparation of the Windsor Report. The Anglican Communion Office and I in my role as Secretary General will be fully committed to supporting the Instruments of Unity as they take the process to the next stage.”
The Standing Committee of the Anglican Church also passed a brief “motion” on the report.
“The ACC Standing Committee, meeting in London 18 - 20 October 2004, recognises with gratitude the very hard and important work done by the Lambeth Commission on Communion. We call on all members of the Communion to study it with care and to pray for discernment in its reception,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, the standing committee of the Anglican Primates (heads), said the report “points” the communion to t good direction, but that further studies will be needed.
“To this end, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, we have established a Reception Reference Group, to be chaired by the Most Revd Peter Kwong, Primate of Hong Kong, which will be charged with receiving and co-ordinating initial responses to the Windsor Report in preparation for the Primates' Meeting,” they wrote on Oct. 20.