Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Anyone who has participated on an internet message board has learned that cyberspace is a harshly unforgiving environment. Whatever we write is just out there, and probably stored on an incalculable number of hard drives, ready to be retrieved by ever more clever search engines. Such indelibility leads to a certain circumspection about what one says in the first place. I try to bear that in mind.

The Anglican corner of cyberspace is once again buzzing today, with the announced departure of several parishes from the Diocese of Virginia, representing nearly one-fifth of its total average Sunday attendance. That's a chunk. And it is not an abstraction for me. I served on a General Convention committee with Bishop Peter Lee and had fairly extensive exchanges with (now Bishop) Martyn Minns, who monitored the work of Committee 26 very closely. I have great respect and affection for both men, and it pains me to see them at odds with one another now.

With these "facts on the ground," and with San Joaquin's action earlier this month of releasing the safety and cocking the gun, though not yet pulling the trigger, still hanging out there, attention turns now to the meeting of all 38 Anglican Primates in Dar es Salaam in about two months' time. Speculation is rampant about whether they will allow Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori to even be seated, and whether the Global South Primates (23 of the 38) will prevail in their insistence that Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh be seated, effectively in her stead. Such speculation then extends to whether the Primates, or the 2008 Lambeth Conference, or anybody, will "kick the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion."

For whatever it may be worth, I place the odds of a Schori-Duncan switch at about 50/50. (How's that for going out on a limb?!) I'm not predicting this, but it will not surprise me if some deal is brokered that puts both of them in the room on some basis. Just what basis I can't say. But it will be messy and ambiguous. We are, after all, still Anglicans.

And precisely because we are all still Anglicans, I have a firmer sense about whether the Episcopal Church will get "kicked out" of the Anglican Communion. It will not happen--not just like that, at any rate. Not by the Primates, not by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and still less by the Anglican Consultative Council, which I believe is operating on borrowed time, and will soon cease to exist or morph into something quite different under the coming Anglican Covenant. Rather, the conditions will be created under which TEC will pull the plug on itself. Lambeth will approve a draft Covenant and send it to the Provinces. The question on the floor in Anaheim in 2009 will be, "Do we opt in?" It will be an up or down vote, and amending the Covenant will not be one of the options. There will probably be another Special Commission and Special Committee, with lots of witnesses and hearings. But when the vote by orders is tallied, the question will fail. The Anglican train will simply keep moving on to the next station, leaving the Episcopal Church behind.

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