The Mad Priest posted a comment on my blog that has started quite a bit of soul searching by the progressive Episcopalian community. In response to my post of the Church of England General Synod vote on the Anglican Covenant, Mad Priest had this to say:
A disciplined TEC will gain more support and the schismatics will lose support because Americans will see any such move as an attack on America and will side with those being attacked. Other than the loss of status abroad and a few freebie trips that TEC's higher officials enjoy at present there will be little noticeable change in the American Church.
As I keep saying. The primary concern of TEC should not be itself, which is strong enough to weather this storm, but their weaker brethren abroad whose forseeable future is very bleak as they will have to make the decision of leaving the church they love, without any other home to go to, or living a lie.
The truth is, although I am 100% behind TEC's recent policies, their unilateralist decisions are not a sacrifice for Americans but a sacrifice for their supporters throughout the world who had no say in the decisions. That is why I believe TEC has a primary duty to the spiritual welfare of those fellow travelers outside of the States.
He elaborated on this comment on his own blog here.
In response, several bloggers have taken note. Nicholas Knisely had this to say:
If I'm reading this right, it would appear that one of the reasons the Episcopal Church should be willing to stay in the Communion rather than just walking away on its own is that by doing what needs to be done to remain, we would be taking on the role of the loyal opposition.
And Father Jake has really taken these comments to heart as well:
Saying to hell with the rest of the Communion and just breaking off to do our own thing is not an option. We have a responsibility to stay at the table, even if it is in some diminished capacity. Boycotting Lambeth is not really an option, as we would be abandoning our brothers and sisters around the globe.
It's not just about us. It really never was. But now that we've started this thing, we have a duty to see it through to the end, even if it means having to take a few lumps along the way.
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. That mission does not end at the US border. We do not exist for our own benefit alone. We exist for the sake of the world.
So, in light of this responsibility, what should the Episcopal Church do? I offer the following thoughts:
First, another response by the House of Bishops that speaks of polity and the independence of the Episcopal Church will not be helpful. We have made our points about polity and independence. It is time to offer a way ahead to reconciliation within the Communion.
Second, we need to end our obsession with Archbishop Akinola and the most vocal Global South Primates. They are not the audience for our response. I doubt even defrocking of all gay priests would be enough for them. Instead, our audience includes Anglicans across the world who want to preserve the Communion, members of our own Church for whom the issues of the day are of no import, and yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the majority of the Primates. This audience will not demand capitulation, but it will expect a respectful (and yes, compromising) response.
Third, we need to stop talking about the issues of same sex unions as if they were political issues that can be decided by majority votes. These are theological issues, that deserve theological attention. Quite frankly, the TEC has moved in a direction without such a formal theological process--at least not one that gets much attention today. The Canadian Church's St. Michael's Report was quite useful. The House of Bishops should start a serious and open theological discussion and study among Episcopalians on all sides of this issue. If we are to move in the direction of recognizing same sex relationships (which I think we should), we need to do some serious theological work--now. And we should invite Anglicans in other provinces to participate.
Fourth, I think the House of Bishops can offer at least something to the Communion in addition to a willingness to engage in a serious and open theological examination of the issues. The House of Bishops can clarify what we all know what was intended by General Convention in 2006--that at least until the next General Convention, a majority of the House of Bishops will not vote to approve a bishop that would cause angst in other provinces. And, I think that the House of Bishops could agree to wait for the next General Convention, and the results of the theological discussions, before proceeding with official rites for same sex blessings.
If we care only for the Episcopal Church, we need not do any of this. If we are about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the rest of the Anglican Communion, we need to take heed of what the Mad Priest has to say.