After the Primates Meeting earlier this month, most of us have focused on the two "requests" that the House of Bishops have until September 30, 2007 to address, namely that the House of Bishops
- make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their diocese or through General Convention; and
- confirm that the passing of resolution B033...means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent;
First, let it be said that, as others have said, in this document "The Windsor Report" and "Lambeth Resolution 1.10" are not meant to be looked at in their entirety. These terms have become a short-hand for critiques of the American Church over issues of sexuality. So whenever these two references appear, I think that unless proven otherwise the document assumes the shorthand Network and AAC view of them and not the view of, say, the Archbishop of Wales.
Similarly, the language of interdependence and mutual submission assumes that the Anglican Communion exists as a kind of super-denomination to which we should unilaterally submit.
Third, the Key Recommendations, like the Draft Covenant, go out of their way to drive around the constitutional structures of the members of the Communion particularly the Identified Patient, The Episcopal Church.
About the Pastoral Council: While it is good that the Presiding Bishop gets to appoint two of the members, it seems to me that she of right have a seat in her role as Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It is not a question of being out-voted 3:2; it is a question of giving over the authority and autonomy of this Church, not to mention the legitimate role of the General Convention to a group that will have a huge impact on our common life but which will be in no way beholden to it.
new: Bishop Katharine's original primatial vicar proposal assumed that the role of the Primatial Vicar would be to care for those dioceses that could receive her ministry, and would still assume her role as both Presiding Bishop of the House of Bishops and Primate for this Church. This new proposal is meant to give oversight over every diocese of the Episcopal Church, even those that have not asked for AlPO, those that have instituted a DEPO arrangement, and those who are fine with the leadership of the primate and have no need of any other delegated arrangements. So instead of caring for those who cannot accept the ministry of women nor the full inclusion of gays, the design of the group is to ensure that Episcopal Church stops doing anything the most conservative members of the Communion are not ready for.
It occurs to me: does anyone really think that this work will be actually done by the Five Primates appointed to the group? The job of this group is huge: negotiating structures for pastoral care; authorizing protocols; oversight; relationships with other (invading?) Primates; facilitation and healing; advising, monitoring, and considering. Wow. This will take a huge bureaucracy to carry out. It would not surprise me if we would be expected to pay the cost of of being policed by others.
I cannot imagine that either CANA nor the Network congregations will see themselves as beholden to this Pastoral Council. CANA afterall is not part of the Episcopal Church, so why should they pay attention? The Network and AMiA have also already found this scheme insufficient. The basic issue is that the only group being required to give up authority is the Episcopal Church. These other groups, having gone to the trouble of setting up their own institutional life will not want to give it up.
new: About those two promises that I mentioned above. These promises assume that this new structure of a Pastoral Council and this new model Anglican Communion are inevitable. No matter how it is interpreted (loosely equals: gay bishops okay as long as they single and closeted; blessings okay if they are not public. A tighter interpretation equals no gay in any office and no blessings anywhere) the invitation is to return to a time when we solved these "problems" by not talking about them. We will act as if we teach one thing, we will quietly do something else out of "pastoral expediency" and we will pretend that the culture at large neither notices nor thinks less of it because of it. This Church has gotten into trouble (along with Canada...but they have asked to watch while we are being taken to the woodshed) for hearing God call us down a different path.
This document assumes that the Windsor Bishop who signed the Camp Allen statement are of neccesity in agreement with the goals of the Network. Certainly the latest Pastoral Letter from Bishop Duncan assumes that, as do certain English Bishops, but I think that logic is flawed. As I said downstream, the Camp Allen Principles are used to justify the Recommendations which is actually based on the thinking and assumptions of the Draft Covenant which did not exist when the Camp Allen bishops met. For example, the Camp Allen principles specifically reject the intervention of foreign bishops as problematic (1/11/07 #5) yet the Pastoral Council assumes that only foreign bishops can find a solution to our problems. (Except that #2 of that same document seems to endorse the idea that individuals, parishes and dioceses ought only to have bishops that they agree and feel comfortable with--even if they have to shop around to find one!) #3 of Camp Allen 1/11/07 supports DEPO and the signers offer themselves to make it work. Clearly, the preference is for a domestic solution to a domestic problem. This fact is inconvenient to those who have perpetrated this mess.
The call to suspend property disputes has been spun more than cotton candy. It says nothing about the fact that the breakaway churches, often aided and abetted by foreign primates, initiated the actions themselves. This call ignores the fact that the civil laws of this country and the several states does not go away simply because one side or another thinks God is on their side.
The Key Recommendations set the stage for a Covenant that would turn Anglicanism on it's ear. Acquiescing to these will not stop those who would exclude us from the Communion, but if past history is any guide will only embolden them to require more from us.
I believe it is time for the Church to stand up for who we are and what we do best, and for the good of the Communion and ourselves, stay true to our calling to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The conflict is not about sex, ordinations of gays or women: it is about the nature and charism of this Church. I think Nick Knisely is right. We are called to a different place. God is up to something much bigger than this protracted struggle.