More from the Anglican Primates is up at the T19 backup blog. There’s a Pastoral Council, and a Pastoral Scheme (I love it when they talk Brit) that sound like they are designed to stop the bullying of conservative Episcopalians, and vet plans for alternative episcopal oversight. It also approves of the Presiding Bishop’s plan for a “primatial vicar,” which sounds like control a step removed to me, but I’ll let those more familiar with episcopal polity speak to that. The most interesting part, to me, is this:
On Clarifying the Response to Windsor
The Primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the Primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made. While they appreciate the actions of the 75th General Convention which offer some affirmation of the Windsor Report and its recommendations, they deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses.
In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and
2. 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 (cf TWR, §134); unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cf TWR, §134).
The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.
If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.
So now conservatives have yet another deadline to look forward to: September 30 is now the date by which the ECUSA bishops must promise not to authorise same-sex blessings and to refuse to approve any new sexually active gay bishops. I don’t see much wiggle room there, though the effort to find some has already begun. From the blog of the Diocese of Washington, DC:
The definition of “authorizing,” as in we must renounce the authorization of “any Rites for Blessing of same-sex unions,” by Sept. 30 will be hotly debated. As I have said before, I think we are being given some room here, as there is a difference between authorizing and allowing. I take comfort in those capital letters. We are being asked not to approve texts. Very, very few dioceses have approved texts. Our diocese doesn’t. So I think we can comply with this.
I wonder how it will sit with the primates if, six months from now, they ask about the fact that gay unions are being blessed in Washington, and the response is that the Presiding Bishop is shocked, shocked to hear that there are gay unions being blessed in the back room of St. Rick’s. After all, the diocese never actually authorized any rites, or approved texts now, did they?
The folks in the pointy hats also weighed in on the property issue:
The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.
Practically speaking, I have no idea what this means. Probably nothing, since it is only in the language of “urging,” and I doubt they could do any more than that anyway. I’m especially puzzled, though, by that last sentence. I know what the first part means–we don’t want anyone challenging ECUSA’s trust clause. But what “congregations” are they talking about in the second part? The real congregations or the phantoms made up of a half dozen loyalists that dioceses are using to claim that there’s still a viable “Episcopal” church that wants to meet in the building and kick the other 100 (or 200, or 500, or 2000) out? Like I said, it likely doesn’t really matter; I’m sure they addressed this primarily out of a concern that things not get any nastier than they already have.
Will any of this make any diference? I suppose it depends mostly on whether the folks at ECUSA headquarters are willing to play nice and shut their lawyers up for a while, and whether the bishops are willing to not hide behind clever linguistic gymnastics and actually do what they are being asked to do. Whether that will happen or not, only God knows. But it should be an interesting six months.
UPDATE: I forgot to include the very interesting remarks from the Presiding Bishop as she was preparing to retun to the United States:
“There is awareness that these issues are of concern in many Provinces of the Communion, and that the Episcopal Church’s charism is to continue to encourage the discussion,” said Jefferts Schori, who will offer additional comment after further reflection and her nearly 20-hour journey back to New York.
So the “charism” of ECUSA is to talk the issue to death in the hope that everyone else will give in. At least until September 30.