Bishop John Howe: The Moment of Decision

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At the end of this month the House of Bishops will hold its annual fall meeting in New Orleans. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and several members of the Primates’ Joint Standing Committee will be with us at the unanimous request of our Bishops. It is still theoretically possible there will be some surprises, but nearly every observer of the events of the past several years is convinced that a watershed moment is at hand.

In their meeting in Dar es Salaam in February the Primates asked the American House of Bishops to clarify the decisions of last year’s General Convention, which, in turn were The Episcopal Church’s response to the recommendations of the 2004 Windsor Report and subsequent requests from the Primates themselves. More specifically, they asked our Bishops to give “unequivocal assurances” that we will not consent to the election of another noncelibate homosexual Bishop, and we will not authorize or permit any (more) “same-sex blessings.” And they set a deadline of September 30 for our response.

Nearly thirty of our Bishops – myself among them – have given the assurances requested, but a larger number than that have said they will never agree to these requests, and more than a third of the Bishops have yet to declare themselves. (Note: The Episcopal Church has never officially authorized the blessings, but some Bishops have done so in their own Dioceses.)

Everyone hopes that clarity and understanding will be improved on all sides when the Archbishop meets with us, but I know of no one who expects that at the end of the meeting the unequivocal assurances will have been given by the House as a whole.

Archbishop Williams will need to consult with the other Primates to consider and evaluate whatever responses we will have given them. The Archbishop has recently said he is “hopeful, but not optimistic” that the Anglican Communion will be able to stay together after that point.

Read it all.

Update: Another letter from Bishop Howe is here.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican PrimatesPrimates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007Episcopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC Conflicts

37 Comments
Posted September 9, 2007 at 3:54 pm

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1. Philip Bowers wrote:

It seems that Bp Howe will not try to take the diocese out of TEC.

September 9, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
2. MikeS wrote:

This is a very interesting and tough letter to conclude by saying “Love to everyone of you…”

If the Anglican Communion does come apart, as Bishop Howe notes is possible, the bishop might find himself presiding over the systematic destruction of his diocese just as he accuses Spong of doing in Newark.

September 9, 4:56 pm | [comment link]
3. Sir Highmoor wrote:

In one word: disappointing.
Another: sad.
Pray for the church!

September 9, 5:27 pm | [comment link]
4. chips wrote:

I think I saw wiggle room in that letter. I think that if I were a departing congregation I would be thinking favorable land deal/long term leases with a Conservative Bishop.  The key would be to provide for the remnant. Perhaps if two conservative Parishes were close they could combine the departures into one building and the remnant into the other - or sharing arangements during a favorable term buyout.  TEC will not want to push Bishop Howe to hard.  My guess is that similiar arangements could/will be worked out in Dallas and perhaps in the Diocese of Texas.

September 9, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
5. Bill+ wrote:

Words would fail me if I even attempted to express my
frustration and disappointment with this man.  There is really
very little question that he could successfully lead his entire
diocese out of TEC with property if he had the will.  But he
doesn’t, so we will see the Diocese of Central Florida
completely ripped apart, gutted.  He knows that.  He references
that.  But apparently he is convinced there is no other way.  He
is either talking to the wrong people or unable to listen to
those of another view.  An entire diocese can indeed exit TEC
with properties.  It just takes a little leadership, a measure
of courage, and some smart lawyers.  What is wrong with Central
Florida that they put up with this from John Howe?

I wonder if Bp. Howe might see the light if every single parish
in Central Florida which wishes to be free from TEC withheld
every single penny of its diocesan assessment?  If the diocese
is going to sell its Orthodox people down the river in this sort
of way, why not bankrupt the diocese and be done with

The Rev. Dr. R. William Dickson
Rector
St. Andrew’s Parish
Fort Worth, TX
http://st-andrew.com/

September 9, 6:15 pm | [comment link]
6. cssadmirer wrote:

Bishop Howe is a good man and clearly an orthodox Anglican.

He is also part of the TEC superstructure and has been unduly persuaded by elements thereof.  It does not HAVE to be as messy as he says, but the 815 Chancellor arouses far too much fear and concern these days.

September 9, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
7. Brad Page wrote:

Very sad indeed.  And it will be sadder still should he choose to remain a TEC bishop and actually preside over the deposing, divesting, and departure of faithful Anglican Christians from the Diocese of Central Florida.  I cannot imagine him doing this!

I was not a bishop…but in some small manner I have been there.  I understand what it is like to be of a divided mind and heart in the midst of the present ecclesiastical realities.  One can only hope that an internal alert will soon sound in the bishop’s head and heart to convince him that all has stood for is fast departing from the “mind of the [Episcopal] Church”, and that he must now act in continuity with his expressed orthodox principles or he will become an unwitting instrument of the Episcopal Church’s revision of the Faith, and expulsion of the Faithful.  Pray for this Bishop.

September 9, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
8. seitz wrote:

Can Bill Dickson tell us how what John Howe says here is different than what the other Network Bishops—Stanton, Salmon, Love, Steenson—have said, what the CA Bishops have said—Lilliebiridge, Wimberly, Bauerschmidt, Smith, McPherson, Kenkins, et al? Clearly Bp Iker, with the WO cause, is in a tough spot. But Iker and Duncan and others have not chosen to make a public issue out of their Network allies, and it seems to me they have done the same. It is not prudent to shoot ones allies before entering a very difficult battle, and I for one am proud of the leadership of Howe, Stanton, Salmon, and others. I believe what he is writing is consistent with Communion principles and I will be praying for the leaders of the Communion to stand alongside the Bps of Camp Allen—including Bp Iker and all his colleagues.

September 9, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
9. David Wilson wrote:

If this is how John Howe feels, he could have helped the majority in his diocese by retiring (with 30 year full pension) and calling for the election of a co-adjutor who could have then acted as Bill Dickson so aptly put it.  Instead he does nothing but assure the complete destruction of an orthodox diocese. Sad, Sad, Sad!

September 9, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
10. Bill+ wrote:

Yes, Seitz-ACI, the difference is obvious.  Bp. Howe has now openly admitted that his parishes will soon be inhabited principally if not exclusively by the adherents of the new religion of TEC.  The other bishops might be curiously muted when it comes to declaring their strategy which might lead to a satisfactory result, but Bp. Howe admits openly that there is none and that his end game is giving over a once Orthodox diocese to the revisionists.  I agree that the CA crowd will end up in the same place soon, but at least they haven’t bragged out loud on the certainty of stunning defeat in this manner.

As for the other Network bishops, I haven’t taken their current silence to be a loud one.  I suspect we will hear from them shortly.

I expect nothing from the CA group.

If you want to see what leadership can do, keep your eye on +Jack Leo Iker, seriously.

Bill+

September 9, 7:26 pm | [comment link]
11. seitz wrote:

Well, Bill, the nice thing is that you will not have to wait much longer. If +Howe’s stand is not supported by the ABC and the Primates, who have given the Communion and TEC the Dar communique, then it will be ‘every man to his tent.’ Many may wish this, and perhaps you do. But Camp Allen bishops are asking for the will of the Communion to be exercised. If they are wrong in this, as you indicate, or their hope is in vain, then the Communion is in full freefall anyway. What does bold leadership then mean? You can perhaps supply your own version, but I guess it means, protecting a diocese and/or forging reasonable links in federal arrangements of some kind. At that point, everyone will need to be deciding how they can stay in a new kind of anglicanism. Or not.

Until then, CA Bishops—including Iker, Duncan, et al—will be working for Communion adjudication of Dar.

September 9, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
12. Bob from Boone wrote:

Bp. Howe is being faithful to his vows to the Church. I have great respect for him, and hope that he will remain to be a rational conservative voice in the Church.

September 9, 8:31 pm | [comment link]
13. Bill+ wrote:

“Bp. Howe is being faithful to his vows to the Church. I have great respect for him, and hope that he will remain to be a rational conservative voice in the Church.”

But his vows were to God.  Maybe this is where he got off track, imagining that his vows were to the church.

Bill+

September 9, 8:54 pm | [comment link]
14. Vintner wrote:

Who is Lilliebiridge? smile

September 9, 9:04 pm | [comment link]
15. The_Elves wrote:

Gary Lillibridge
Bishop of West Texas

Got questions about T19? E-mail us! .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

September 9, 9:38 pm | [comment link]
16. William#2 wrote:

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  Edmund Burke

September 9, 10:19 pm | [comment link]
17. Bob from Boone wrote:

Bill+, the vows I refer to are those he took at his ordination first to the diaconate, then to the priesthood and then to the episcopacy, and has renewed at various times. To refresh your memory, go to p. 513 of the BCP. I see nothing in this set of promises that has led Bp. Howe astray.

September 9, 11:20 pm | [comment link]
18. Bill+ wrote:

Ordained deacon: 6/67, Priest: 6/68
Actually, it would have been the 28 book.  See

http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1928/Ordinal.htm

September 9, 11:54 pm | [comment link]
19. JerryKramer wrote:

The HOB for the most part is an utter disaster. For they most unbelievably shallow “thinkers.” I pray that the new allignment, whatever it might be, will seriously reconsider how bishops are chosen.

September 10, 12:18 am | [comment link]
20. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

chips,
I don’t know all of the reason yet why the Lord would have me be a priest in TECusa.  What I thought might be a part of the reason, and a concern obvious to all, I’m finding is just not on a lot of other people’s radar —which is obvious in this thread already—and that is the question of the aftermath of the attempts of dioceses to leave en masse.  You seem to recognize this, too, and along the same detail lines as I have considered regarding picking up the pieces, combining congregations, swapping out facilities, etc.

Despite what Bill+ is proclaiming as a fait accompli for an “entire”  diocese to depart from TECusa as long as you have a little leadership, courage, and smart lawyers, the REALITY is that there is no monochrome diocese.  If Fort Worth manages to depart from TECusa, there will be a remnant that will choose not to go.  The ironic part is that since DFW is - like DSJ - an overwhelmingly orthodox community of the faithful, the remnant part of DFW will undoubtedly be orthodox by majority. 

This is going to be very messy.  There simply will be no clean severing.  Given the lessons for this next Sunday, and in contrast to the unfortunate “either you are with us, or you ain’t” don’t-look-back kind of leadership (which does NOT describe +Jack Iker in my opinion), I don’t see God rewarding the justification of “collateral damage.”  I don’t think that you and I, Chips, are going to be able to handle that problem alone (I’m not suggesting that you thought that!).  We will need other faithful, orthodox bishops, priests, deacons and lay people to engage in seeking and gathering.  I believe this kind of leadership to be as validly led and called by the Holy Spirit at this time in the life of this Church as that which gathers the flocks of congregations and dioceses alike and leads them out.  Similarly, this apostolic and pastoral leadership needs to have its eyes open right now in order to be prepared….count the cost.

As the faithful come and go, there must be understanding, compassion, support and lots of prayer by all involved.  So, thinking the question of application out loud,  what is DFW doing right now to help make sure that the faithful orthodox who for whatever reason choose not to depart are still the ones managing the skeleton organization left behind, ensuring something of a nurturing, biblical community (if not in greater tension)?

RGEaton

September 10, 3:24 am | [comment link]
21. Daniel Lozier wrote:

Jerry (#19), you already see a difference in how bishops are being chosen….just look at the recent consecrations in Kenya and Uganda.  They were not elected by laity but chosen by other bishops.

September 10, 3:31 am | [comment link]
22. Makersmarc wrote:

Bill seems to think inane blather and and intemperate bluster constitute strong leadership.  Maybe it’s just that Bishop Howe has not traded his brain for a headline or lost his moral compass.

September 10, 7:54 am | [comment link]
23. William#2 wrote:

Yes makersmarc, continue to hope that Bill+‘s advise, which is the same as mine so add me to the “inane blather bluster” crowd, is not heeded by the orthodox in TEC.  Continue to hope that the orthodox will allow TEC to pick off and sue individual parishes at their leisure and using that strategy to intimidate others from leaving.  Continue to encourage Bishops like Howe, who leaven letters of love with threats of love.  By all means, continue.
Its really your only hope.

September 10, 9:00 am | [comment link]
24. Brad Page wrote:

Makersmarc (#22):  I am not sure the “inane blather” and “bluster” comments are fair.  In any event,  I hope you are right about Bishop Howe.  If his brain remains untraded for a headline and if his moral compass remains intact then he must LEAD with a good bit of moral and intellectual independence,  and not merely preside as the local agent of the institutional leadership (815, PB, et al) of the revised Episcopal Church.  That is the sort of leadership many are watching for, and having difficulty seeing at this particular juncture.

September 10, 9:05 am | [comment link]
25. chips wrote:

Bob from Boone writes about oaths.  The first oath is (or should be)to the God and the faith once delivered - if one no longer believes that TEC is following the faith once delivered then a priest or Bishop should not be obliged to and no longer be expected to be loyal to TEC.  Futher a Priest or Bishop has a duty to his flock and should not in good faith abandon them to the mercy or lack thereof of TEC if he believes TEC has abandoned the faith once delivered.

September 10, 9:54 am | [comment link]
26. Pb wrote:

I voted against the Dennis reoslution in Denver and have follwed develpements since as a lawyer and judge. I am afraid that the bishop is correct. When I realized that the legal contest will be between two congregations and the diocese gets to decide who has the franchise, my opinion changed. This is a simple solution for courts who hate this kind of litigation.

September 10, 10:52 am | [comment link]
27. Bob from Boone wrote:

O boy, “the faith once delivered” again! This phrase means whatever those who use it want it to mean, and presently it mainly means “homoexuality is an abomination.” At least that is the impression I have gotten from reading this blog for the past four years. As an instructor in NT, I can tell you that there is hardly a common theology among these diverse writings, however much a common theme is present. And if anyone means by that “faith” the Nicene Creed, well, that beloved Symbolon does not include a theological anthropology of human nature or the moral life. But I digress.

My primary oath is to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and it is incorporated into the baptismal promises I renewed at my confirmation in 1951 (‘28 BCP). I assume that Bp. Howe took the same oath, as has every other bishop. His declaration at ordination (of all orders) was to his faith in the Scriptures as the Word of God (not the words of God, and not to selected passages from them), and to the Constitution and Canons of the Church. It is clear that he intends to be true to that oath as long as he remains in the HOB.

If a bishop cannot be true to that declaration, then he needs to resign his office. My respect for +Howe is matched by my difficulty to have any respect for bishops like +Duncan and +Iker, who behave as if they have repudiated their promises, and have acted in ways publically that violate their promises, yet remain in their offices. I do not accept your reasoning for such men to remain as they do. In my view they show a great lack of integrity.

Finally, I wish people would stop this business of tarring TEC with a broad brush on which is contained every resolution General Convention has passed or every book any bishop has written that they think is not “orthodox.” TEC has not abandoned the Nicene Creed. There are a variety of theological perspectives and views in TEC from +Spong’s to +Howe’s. TEC is not a monolith, and it does not advance rational discussion to constantly present it in the form of a straw man.

September 10, 12:06 pm | [comment link]
28. Planonian wrote:

#10 wrote, If you want to see what leadership can do, keep your eye on +Jack Leo Iker, seriously.

Oh yes, do. Watch our loose cannon to the west try to take “his” diocese out of TEC (something which is impossible, both in Episcopal Church canon law as well as the laws of the State of Texas). Watch the See be declared vacant. Watch a new bishop be appointed and the diocesan structure formed anew.

Yes, it should be a fine show indeed wink  Looking forward to it, myself…

September 10, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
29. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “Watch the See be declared vacant. Watch a new bishop be appointed and the diocesan structure formed anew.”

Well, Duh . . . the Via Media minutes from 2005 already revealed that! 

And watch nobody orthodox care!!!!  ; > )

September 10, 1:08 pm | [comment link]
30. TonyinCNY wrote:

No, Boone Bob, you are incorrect again #27).  The Anglican Communion has interpreted Scripture on the issues related to the current crisis.  pecusa has chosen to ignore the AC and go its own way.  The RCC, the Orthodox have also supported the AC in the traditional understanding of human sexuality.  Your extreme protestantism really has no place in a church that seeks to be apostolic and catholic.

Banned by the Head Totalitarian at Stand Firm in Faith

September 10, 1:22 pm | [comment link]
31. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

having read and enjoyed “Bob from Boones” comments, I would say he may be an extreme something but he is not an extreme Protestant; that would be me.
Tony, I see very little evidence that the Anglican Communion , however you define it, ” seeks to bw apostolic and catholic”.
And Bob; if there is no such thing as “the faith once delivered” ( and I think there is), is that not a statement that Jesus failed? That when he said ” it is finished” it was not finished but was just entering a new phase that we must complete?

September 10, 3:04 pm | [comment link]
32. Ed the Roman wrote:

If there isn’t a faith once delivered, why get up on Sundays except to go surfing while the teenagers are still in bed?

September 10, 4:23 pm | [comment link]
33. Bob from Boone wrote:

Thanks for the compliment, Jimmy. “Extreme protestant”? I can’t imagine how Tony got to that conclusion; if I’m going to identify with any “party” in the Church it’s the Anglo-Catholics (I who say a “Hail, Mary” in my prayers and love the sung mass at a near-by A-C parish). I try not to be “extreme” anything. (Notice how that word has become extremely overworked in marketing?)

But Jimmy, Jesus told his disciples that he was sending the Paraclete to teach them all things (John 14:25f). Surely you believe that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is at work in the Church, opening our hearts and minds to new expressions and understandings of what it means to be faithful Christians. John Henry Newman did a good thing for the Catholic Church and the Church catholic when he emphasized that theology develops over historical time. Some of our brethern seem not to have caught on to that. If nothing new appears in our understanding of the Faith, then, we all might as well take Ed’s advice and sleep in on Sundays.

September 10, 11:12 pm | [comment link]
34. Bob from Boone wrote:

And, Tony, I am “incorrect again”? I love it when people on this blog tell me I’m just plain wrong, as if there were nothing more to be said about it. Let me remind you that Lambeth passes resolutions which are not binding; it doesn’t pass canon laws, though some try to make them into such. If you want to hear something Protestant from me, I quote Luther: “Councils may err.” The bishops at Lambeth have changed their minds on imporant issues in the past; perhaps decades from now they’ll come to a new view of the present subject of conflict. Who knows?

The founder of the college I made my vocation of teaching in, John G. Fee of Berea College (1855), hated slavery so much that he cut out every reference to it in his copy of the Bible (he may have left in Philemon). The copy, now in the College Archives, has numerous pages with holes in them, a lot of them from Leviticus (heh, heh). Now that was extreme, but his message was directed to those who used all of those passages to justify the enslavement of Africans in the South: don’t use Bible passages from another culture to justify what is clearly an abomination to God and to Christ, the enslavement and degredation of some people by others.  It is a sad story of American Christianity that many of the denominations divfided over this issue, but eventually, it became the common view that one should not use the Bible to justify this “peculiar institution.” There are other examples I could cite, as I’m sure you could also.

And, as many have repeated time and again, the Bible says nothing about homosexuality (i.e., orientation) or about committed loving same-sex relationships (which have to do with much more than genitalia). The five references (count them) in Scripture refer to participation in an alien cult (Leviticus) or to sexual exploitation (Paul). Of course, such behaviors should be rejected.

September 10, 11:39 pm | [comment link]
35. Dallasite wrote:

I think Bishop Howe is doing what he is supposed to do.  I think Bishop Iker is not, with all due respect to Fr. Dickson.  I think that Bishop Iker’s ego is going to carry the Diocese of Fort Worth over a cliff.

September 11, 12:25 am | [comment link]
36. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

Bob, I would credit the Holy Spirit with being the agent of my salvation; that is, without the action of the Holy Spirit I would never , being dead in sin, have heard the Pure Word of God. I don’t expect the Holy Spirit to change the Gospel; sin is not redefined, Gods plan for salvation that culminated on the cross is not changed; it has been accomplished.
I never have been able to follow the spirited debate about orientation vs. behavior. As I look at my own life, and read Mt 5; I am lost either way; if I follow my sinful desires or if I fel sinful desires it is the same thing.

September 11, 7:43 am | [comment link]
37. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “The five references (count them) in Scripture refer to participation in an alien cult (Leviticus) or to sexual exploitation (Paul). Of course, such behaviors should be rejected.”

No, the references in the New Testament refer to same-gender sexual activity.  The action of sex between two people of the same sex.  Period.  And they are unequivocably opposed to such actions.

A hard one to finagle out of for those bent on engaging in such actions, hence the obfuscatory yammering about “sexual exploitation”.  Homosexual relationships are, by their nature, “sexual exploitation” simply because such sexual relationships are clearly rejected by scripture.  But other than that, the whole “sexual exploitation” riff is transparently forced by folks who know what scripture says.

September 11, 12:18 pm | [comment link]


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