Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Two Quick Notes

God is still sovereign, and the cause of the gospel will still prosper, but it is hugely disappointing that, by all appearances, Mark Lawrence did not receive the necessary number of Standing Committee consents to his election as Bishop of South Carolina. He is short by one--55 have consented, and 56 have either withheld consent or not responded. If these unofficial results are certified by the Presiding Bishop's office, it is literally a crying shame. We will all find out how the Law of Unintended Consequences works. Ironically, Father Lawrence is an avid student of church history. It has been my privilege to serve with him for several years as an Examining Chaplain in San Joaquin, and history was his portfolio in that endeavor. Now he's making it. When the story of this era in American Anglicanism is able to be written with some dispassionate distance, it will be clear what the significance of this close call is. I think it will be momentous. For the time being, we just have to watch it all unfold.

The House of Bishops is shortly to convene at Camp Allen, about 60 miles northwest of Houston. The Dar es Salaam communique will doubtless dominate their agenda. Several voices--voices of those who are not bishops, that is--have exhorted them in advance as to how they ought to respond. With respect to the two specific requests (no more partnered gay bishops, no more permission for same-sex blessings), they will do what they will do. The Presiding Bishop has made clear her expectation that this meeting is for talking and September's meeting is for deciding, just in advance of the September 30th deadline. But with respect to the Pastoral Council and the Primatial Vicar scheme (in the non-pejorative English sense of "scheme"), I would suggest that the HOB's response is only marginally important. The Primates have not asked for any response on this. They have simply indicated their intention to create the Pastoral Council. This requires the cooperation of the Presiding Bishop, but the only reasonable interpretation of her signature on the communique is that she intends to so cooperate by 1) nominating two members of the Pastoral Council and 2) delegating a substantial measure of her responsibilities to the Primatial Vicar whom the council appoints, with regard to those dioceses that opt to participate in the scheme. Only a certain number of the HOB's membership are involved in this--namely (and ironically), the "Camp Allen/Windsor" bishops, about 20 in all. This group will nominate a Primatial Vicar to the Pastoral Council, which will make the appointment, with the PB's approval. No formal response--let alone permission or approval--of the House of Bishops is required for this scheme to take shape.

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