For those on the “reasserter” side of the Episcopal Great Divide, last week’s meeting of the Executive Council can scarcely evoke any response that doesn’t contain at least a note of cynicism. I’ve already indulged in some of that myself. Upon further reflection, however, I’m wondering whether there may be the trace of a silver lining on this otherwise gray and menacing cloud.
In its formal response to the
Though it now seems eons ago, there was considerable discussion in Anglican cyberspace this past February, while the Primates were still sequestered, about just how to interpret the sub-group report. When it was first released, those in the “progressive” mainstream of the Episcopal Church hailed it as a victory for their side, while beleaguered conservatives, desperately hoping that this Primates’ Meeting would turn out to be their long-awaited vindication, were immediately grief-stricken and began to think seriously about jumping off tall buildings.
In the midst of all the hand-wringing, I offered a more benign (from a conservative POV) interpretation of the document; in brief, conservatives should rejoice that: 1) Lambeth I.10 is affirmed as the de facto “law of the land” for Anglicans, 2) B033 is interpreted as an effective moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay bishops, and 3) the General Convention response on the question of same-sex blessings is deemed wholly inadequate.
As we know, of course, the eventual communiqué was considerably less gentle on us than the sub-group report. Nonetheless, I find it interesting—perhaps even encouraging—that the Executive Council now takes refuge under the wings of this report. What does this imply? Certainly not that they are endorsing the normative authority of Lambeth I.10—that much is made clear elsewhere in the document. And certainly not any intention to walk away from a trajectory of actions that will lead inexorably to the full legitimization of blessing same-sex relationships.
But it does, at least, logically suggest that the Executive Council has now articulated itself as agreeing that there is, in fact, a moratorium in effect on the consecration of partnered gay bishops, that such candidates as may be elected will not receive the necessary consents of the bishops with jurisdiction. Simply by referring to the sub-group report in a positive light, the Council can plausibly be understood as saying, “Yes, we meant what we said in B-033.” Why? Because the sub-group’s positive assessment, which Council now points to as a positive sign, is predicated precisely on such an interpretation.
Even more importantly, the citation of the sub-group report adds an ounce or two of substance to the Council statement’s expressed desire that the Episcopal Church be “in the fullest possible relationship with our Anglican sisters and brothers.” It demonstrates at least a small measure of a realization of interdependence, of listening with “utmost seriousness” to what the other provinces are telling us. It is a baby step back from the sort of absolute General Convention-supremacist position that is so very American and so very injurious to the life of the Communion.
I’m not breaking open any champagne, but neither am I in despair.
A mirage? Maybe. But who knows?