Remember what we thought might happen at the Primates Meeting? A week ago speculation and hype were running rampant.
At the end of the day, there was enough good news and bad news to go around for all concerned. Let's compare.
The Good News:
- Katharine Jefferts Schori was not tossed out, but stayed through the whole meeting.
- The Primates did not walk out of the room when she walked in.
- Nearly everyone received Communion at least once out of the two opportunities.
- There was no massive Mother's Union march against the Episcopal Church and/or gays.
- While there was a parallel headquarters for conservative Primates and their advisors and hangers-on and they spent a lot of time planning and strategizing, most of what they asked for came to naught.
- There was no pronouncement that the Episcopal Church was tossed out of the Anglican Communion.
- There was not new province or a parallel province created to take our place.
- The draft covenant, like the Real Windsor Report, focused on process and not on sex.
- Our Presiding Bishop was elected to the Primates Standing Committee representing the Americas.
- The Episcopal Church was recognized as meeting the recommendations of the Windsor Report in two out of three areas. Furthermore, the Episcopal Church (that includes General Convention) as having taken the process suggested in the Windsor Report very seriously.
- The essential outline of Bishop Jefferts Shori's Primatial Vicar was accepted and strengthened as the basic form of how dissenting parishes and dioceses will be cared for within the Episcopal Church.
- Related to this, and perhaps most important of all, a process for unwinding the relationships of parishes and dioceses to primates in provinces outside the US has been established. Yes, it involves oversight that includes those outside the US, but the Grand Strategy of created "facts on the ground" that would necessitate a parallel or replacement jusisdiction has been forcefully been repudiated. But this actually strengthens the integrity of the Episcopal Church as the Anglican Province in the USA. The best that can be said for these arrangements is that they are provisional and temporary. All the primates who have invaded our shores are accountable to a process, and if these parishes and dioceses that have gone this route don't sign on then they will have chosen to not only leave the Episcopal Church but the Anglican Communion as well. In short, it seems that we may have a way of sorting this out without necessarily going to court. Also: If the separating churches that wish to keep their property do not sign on to this process and relinguish their relationship to the foreign Primates, they remove from themselves the legal strategy that the Episcopal Church left them in terms of doctrine and discipline, which is at the heart of their argument to win the properties in court.
The Bad News:
- The Communique establishes a hierarchy of injury: that consecrating a gay bishop and blessing same sex unions is a greater offense than promoting schism through the crossing of provincial boundaries.
- The House of Bishops must agree never to consent to the consecration of another partnered gay or lesbian bishop. I don't know if this is constitutional for one thing, and it does not take into account that in two diocesan elections since Columbus two dioceses assumed to be most likely to elect the second partnered gay priest to be a bishop did not by wide margins. I wish that the Primates recognized that these "liberal" dioceses have, through the electoral process, adhered more closely to the spirit and terms of Windsor than the dioceses that have sought foreign episcopal oversight rather. Isn't it strange that these dioceses adhered to Windsor by consensus, while the dioceses that have invited in cross-boundary violations by other Primates have done this by Episcopal invitation or in closed committee?
- There must not be any official Rites for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions. The problem is that there have not been any official Rites of Blessings in the Episcopal Church. Never have. The ante has been raised because presumably, those dioceses that have allowed for Blessings must cease. I have two problems with this: first, we have again dumped the burden of the solution squarely on the shoulders of GLBT Christians; second, because this demand is focused solely on the Episcopal Church, other provinces that have in fact done more than this country has in regard to gay rights (like, say, England) are free to do as they please.
- The Episcopal House of Bishops has a timetable to agree to certain things, but the Primates of the Provinces that have invaded our shores, let alone the groups that promoted this such as the Network, AMiA, and others, have no timetable to unwind their relationships in the Episcopal Church. Even if the House of Bishops does all of what is asked of it, and even if a plan for AlPO is established and approved, the foreign provinces have no incentive to cease their relationships with Episcopal parishes and dioceses.
Conservatives are angry that The Episcopal Church was pronounced to be, on the whole, "Windsor Compliant" and that there would be no evictions or parallel provinces. Liberals are angry that Communion seems to be arrived at the expense of ordinary gay couples and future partnered gay bishops.
There are some things we can expect in the near future. We can expect that just as conservatives hung on to selected parts of Windsor and Lambeth 1.10 and beat the rest of us to death with them, so certain passages will be lifted from the Communique and Schedule and elevated to the level of holy writ to the exclusion of other parts. We can also expect that that the movement of the Church towards full inclusion will not stop and that it will continue to both push against and form our theology and faith. The ultimate solutions will not be structural or diplomatic but theological and pastoral.