September is the "month of meetings" for Anglicans. This week it was a select group of bishops convened in New York at the behest of the Archbishop of Canterbury to see if they can get on the same page with respect to Alternate Primatial Oversight (APO, or "ALPO" if you wish to mock the notion). Next week it's a group of "Windsor-friendly" (i.e. conservative on the sex issues) bishops convened by the Bishop of Texas at his conference center near Navasota (Camp Allen), to see if they can speak with a united voice to the wider Anglican Communion, with the hope that they will be included in that communion, no matter what happens formally and institutionally to the Episcopal Church. After that, attention shifts offshore to a conclave of Global South primates, who are holding some pretty high cards in this ecclesiastical poker game. They seem to be running the table at the moment.
The New York meeting, by all accounts, failed. This would seem to raise the stakes for the Camp Allen meeting, and give the Global South primates even more aces to play.
I'm not smart enough to play the speculation game, but here's what I think is going on at a macro level: Anglican Christianity is in a state of unprecedented flux. We (I may as well own the fact that I am one) are in a constitutional crisis. And it's nothing new. We've been slowly but inexorably moving toward this moment virtually since Bloody Mary assumed room temperature and Elizabeth I acceded to the throne. The Elizabethan Settlement was inherently unstable, sort of like the early versions of Windows. Now we're into a system crash, XP doesn't seem to have the answer, and Vista hasn't been released yet.
The reason it feels like everything is crashing down on us suddenly is because the evolution of communication technology reached critical mass. The internet changed everything. The distribution of information has been democratized. That's a good thing. But it has also made us much more impatient, which is not so good. The classic virtue of Prudence, I fear, is in short supply. Another result of technology, of course, is globalization. We are now more aware of our differences, and more invested in a certain degree of uniformity. There has always been tremendous theological and spiritual diversity among Anglicans. We're just more aware of it now because it's more visible. So it bothers us more, which only ratchets up the general level of anxiety.
Liberals in the Episcopal Church, who have held the reins of power for several decades now, are loudly protesting the efforts of groups like the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), accusing them of subverting good order. They are marshalling resources with which to litigate over property as a steady stream of parishes depart TEC for other Anglican environs. "Long live the Constitution & Canons" is their battle cry.
They are simultaneously correct and clueless. (If I knew how to say that in Latin, I surely would!) Yes, good order is being subverted. Duh! To stretch an overworked metaphor, Shall we take a vote by orders before we rearrange the deck chairs? A new thing is emerging, and order gets subverted when major change--yea, a seismic shift--is in process. Anglicanism is reinventing itself. (If I weren't so well-schooled in Anglican humble understatement, I might be tempted to say that God is reinventing Anglicanism.) The Elizabethan Settlement has frayed past the point of being restitched. We need--and will, I believe, get, and sooner than we might think--a new constitutional basis. Not all who call themselves Anglicans today will like what emerges. It will be different than the informal bonds of affection that, along with Wippel's, have held us together in the past. It won't feel like our grandparents' Anglicanism. There will be more uniformity of faith and practice. Provincial autonomy will not trump interdependence. Structures of authority will be clearer.
In the meantime, we wait, sometimes patiently and sometimes with great anxiety. It's like watching a sculptor chip away at a block of marble. We trust that there's a work of art in there somewhere, but we can't see it yet, and that makes us really, really nervous because we desperately want to know what it's going to look like.