After a year’s wait, the global Anglican Communion has finally received the Windsor Report, which was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Reactions are coming in fast from around the world. The report, published Oct. 18, hopes to prevent a schism in the 75-million-member body in the wake of the Episcopal church’s blessing of an actively gay bishop and the approval of rites blessing gay unions by both the American church and a Vancouver-area diocese. The report upholds traditional biblical teaching on sexuality and urges the 38 autonomous provinces to become more “interdependent” and sensitive to the ecclesiastical “bonds of communion and affection.”

Key recommendations:

1. A moratorium on same-sex blessings.

2. A moratorium on “electing and consecrating as bishop any person who is living in a same-gender union.”

3. A moratorium on interventions by bishops across diocesan boundaries, without permission of the diocesan bishop.

4. That the Episcopal church express regret and recognition that its action in electing and consecrating a bishop living in a same-gender union have “broken the bonds of communion and affection.”

5. That Michael Ingham and the Diocese of New Westminster express regret that their actions in blessing same-sex unions have “broken the bonds of communion and affection.”

6. All those bishops who crossed diocesan boundaries to help distressed communities express regret for the consequences of their actions, affirm their desire to remain in communion and effect a moratorium on further interventions.

7. As a last resort, a retired bishop from the province may offer pastoral and sacramental oversight. (In principle, bishops from other provinces may do so, if more careful guidelines arefollowed. See paragraphs 158, 159.)

8. Pending such apologies, all those reprimanded withdraw from “representative functions in the Anglican Communion.”

9. A Covenant of Communion be finalized and signed by all primates.

10. Caution in admitting the current see of New Hampshire (Gene Robinson) to the counsels of the Communion.

11. “There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together … Then we shall have to learn to walk apart.” After the primates accept the report, noncompliant leaders will first not be invited to “relevant representative bodies;” then invited, but only as observers; and, as an “absolute last resort,” there will be “withdrawal from membership” (paragraph 157).

North American reactions

Two key figures rebuked in the report immediately offered their “regrets.”

Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA), said, “We regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans.”

Michael Ingham, the bishop of New Westminster, said he won’t halt same-sex blessings until his Synod meets next May and decides what to do. “To the extent that people feel hurt or injured by our decisions, I apologize, but not for the decisions themselves.”

Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, said, “It may be a while before a diocese puts itself in the spotlight by nominating or electing a gay or lesbian person.”

Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said, “There’s nothing authoritative about this (report). It binds no one, but makes important recommendations for the 38 provinces to consider.”

(The ACC was not requested to express regret for issuing a statement in June at its General Synod affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same-sex relationships. Since the ACC is awaiting a theological report on blessing same-sex unions, the Windsor Report does not consider their statement an official teaching yet.)

The Canadian House of Bishops, which met in Saskatoon Nov. 1-5, unanimously commended the report for study by the church. The bishops also approved a document entitled, “Shared Episcopal Oversight,” a revised addendum to the Mathews Report.

Essentials, an orthodox coalition within the ACC, urged compliance with the report, but said, “We disagree with the commission’s seeming equation of the caring actions of the bishops, who have intervened to provide temporary pastoral oversight for those who have remained faithful to orthodox teaching and practice, with the disruptive actions of those who have broken the unity these bishops are seeking to re-establish (paragraph 155).”

International reactions

The Oxford Gathering, an international group of orthodox Anglicans, issued a statement praising the report’s acknowledgment of “the supreme authority of Scripture (paragraph 53),” but said “the protection it seeks to provide for those upholding the apostolic faith is not adequate (paragraph 143),” leaving distressed orthodox parishes still too vulnerable under powerful revisionist bishops. Further, “The report could be interpreted as drawing equivalence between crossing jurisdictional boundaries and breaking faith.” Despite this, the international group urged compliance with the report.

African reaction

The Africans were the most blunt and action-oriented. Three hundred African bishops met in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct 26 – Nov. 1 for their first continent-wide gathering and declared they would end theological training in the West. Instead, they will set up their own institutions, true to African culture and theology.

On Nov. 1, Dr. Peter Akinola, bishop of Nigeria and chair of the African Anglican Primates, explained, “Now we have discovered that they have a new theology and a new religion, we feel it would be dangerous for the future of our church to continue to send our own future leaders to those institutions.”

They also issued a statement on the Windsor Report, which read in part, “We reject the moral equivalence drawn between those who have initiated the crisis and those of us in the global south who have responded to cries of help from beleaguered friends. If the Episcopal Church U.S.A. had not wilfully ‘torn the fabric of our communion at its deepest level,’ our actions would not have been necessary.”

They also wanted revisionists “to move beyond informal expressions of regret for the effect of their actions to a genuine change of heart and mind.”

Africans may insist on repentance more than regret when the primates met in London next February. They are also unwilling to express any regret for offering episcopal oversight to distressed orthodox parishes. They warned that if revisionists did not halt blessing same-sex unions and consecrating active homosexuals, it would indicate that they “have chosen to ‘walk alone’ and follow another religion.”

No action, no closure?

The report was conciliatory, not punitive. It could only recommend discipline. It could not ask for Gene Robinson’s resignation, since technically only ECUSA can withdraw his licence.

The report raises a number of questions:

  • Can previously autonomous provinces learn to become inter-dependent?

  • Can primates and bishops obey the report if their elected synods vote otherwise?

  • Is it sufficient to merely express “regret” for the consequences of having not considered the wider communion?

  • Who determines if an apology is adequate and acceptable?

  • Will the report simply be talked and studied to death? At the watershed Primates Meeting in February, the primates may revise and sign a proposed Covenant. But will they?

Orthodox Anglicans fear that the revisionists will take the tactic of “no action, no closure.” They will just keep talking and studying endlessly, till the orthodox are exhausted. But the Africans are not likely to tolerate mere chatter. They, of all the orthodox, are likely to urge the communion to break with those who cannot covenant in good faith.

The report is available on the internet at