The end is near! The September 30, 2007 deadline for the House of Bishops to respond to the Primates Communique from Dar es Salaam fast approaches. As usual, Father Greg Jones has a good analysis:
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has already spoken clearly on at least two of these issues. They are not going to recommend to the full General Convention of our Church that we participate in the pastoral council scheme. The rationale being that such a move on the part of the Episcopal Church would have the effect of declaring our province is subordinate to a higher body. If it were established that the current leadership of the Episcopal Church were subordinate to a higher body -- the current lawsuits between the Episcopal Church and groups like CANA and others could go against the Episcopal Church. The idea being that the secular courts typically side with the highest body in hierarchical churches in matters of property.
The House of Bishops, and the national church office, have made it quite clear they are not backing out of any property disputes.
So the only question which seems to remain is whether or not the Bishops will make an unequivocal common covenant that they will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention; and, confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent.
It seems pretty likely that they will not be able to make an 'unequivocal common covenant' -- at least not a unanimous one. It seems pretty likely that they will be able to confirm that B033 means what it says it means. I suspect the House of Bishops is not looking to be antagonistic to the Primates, and that they will be led by the Presiding Bishop. I think the Windsor Bishops will do a good bit to encourage their brothers and sisters in the House to be as affirming of the Windsor process as they can. I pray the Archbishop of Canterbury has a good meeting in New Orleans with our House of Bishops, and they find a way forward.
I am not optimistic -- but I have absolutely no guess as to what's going to happen next.
I am certain that the AMiA and CANA will continue full speed ahead, under the explicit authority of their Archbishops in Africa. They will not let up a bit, and by September 30th, they will be more than ready to unveil whatever new foregone conclusion they have made.
I do wish the House of Bishops would accept that they do have considerable authority -- not to legislate or to dictate or to decide the total direction and policy of the Episcopal Church -- but to make affirmations and commitments that ought to at the least signal to the Communion that we are taking a season and trying to find our way forward with the Communion. Certainly, the bishops have it within their authority to not authorize liturgies, to make pastoral directives, and to withold consents in episcopal elections.
The primatial vicar proposal is still a good one, and well within our polity and canons -- and it was the P.B.'s idea in the first place. If the separatists don't like it --- whose fault is that?
Read it all here.
As I have said before, I think that the audience for our response is not Archbishop Akinola or the other Global South Primates. Instead, our audience is the great Anglican middle--who disagree with the direction that the Episcopal church has taken on these matters, but nonetheless do not view these issues as core doctrine (think the Archbishop of York). I am hopeful that if the House of Bishops affirms what B033 meant what it says about gay Bishops, offers some scheme of alternative oversight such as the primatial vicar proposal, and affirms that at least a majority will not authorize same sex blessings until the next General convention, that our response will be favorably received by the audience that really counts.
I think that a larger schism within the Anglican Communion is inevitable--what is not inevitable is whether the Episcopal Church is no longer in the Communion, or whether a few of the Global South provinces are in Communion.
Pray. Pray that unity--even with great diversity--prevails. Pray that I am wrong about schism.