Friday, August 29, 2008

A Note on the Cubs

I first started following the Chicago Cubs in 1962, the summer leading up to my eleventh birthday. They lost a lot of games that year--many more than they won--and you could walk into Wrigley Field at game time on any day and pick up general admission grandstand seats for $1.50. On weekdays, so many seats remained empty that hookey-playing kids could bang the seat next to them as they all chanted in unison, "We want a hit! We want a hit!" They finished eighth in a newly-expanded ten team National League.

The following year, 1963, they were much improved, and everybody was excited. The Cubs went 82-80--an actual winning record--and finished fifth, in what was known then as "the first division." In a pre-playoff era, with only two teams going to post-season play, that was considered a respectable accomplishment. And it was a better year than the Cubs have had during the substantial majority of the 47 seasons that I have been a fan.

There was a brief flirtation with greatness in 1969, of course. When I left for college at the beginning of September they held an eight game lead in what by then was the Eastern Division of the National League. But then they imploded, and the Mets (the Mets!) went to the World Series. Cubs fans of a certain age have never quite gotten over the experience. (We will rejoice indeed when Shea Stadium is razed after this year.)

The next happy time was 1984, when the Cubs won 96 games and took the division. Yet, after winning the first two games in a best-of-five playoff with San Diego, they couldn't win the third. In 1989, as division winners once again, they didn't even get that close. The 1998 season ended with excitement, but they got swept in the first round of playoffs. Then there was 2003, still too fresh a wound for me to write about. Last year they won their division again, but proved no match to the Diamondbacks in the playoffs.

So now we're in the centenniel year of the Cubs' last victorious World Series appearance. I've avoided writing very much because most Cubs fans are highly superstitious about them and we take the notion of "jinx" very seriously. So I'll just say this: As I write, the Cubs are 85-50. There are 27 games left in the season. Do the math. They could lose every game left in the season--more than a whole month's worth--and still finish eight games over .500. Eight games! Worst case scenario.

This year, of course, that would not win them a division championship, or even a wild card slot on the playoffs (though in some years and in some divisions, such a record would result in Ocotber baseball). I fully want and expect them to have the division championship locked up before they arrive in Milwaukee for the final series of the season. Then it will be a matter of luck--who gets the breaks in playoff competition. But it still seems worth noting that, even in the impossible event that they "lose out" the rest of the season, they would still finish with a better record than has been their wont for the last half century.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Word in Time

My "other blog"--a group effort in which I am privileged to be one of several contributors--has published an important open letter to the Anglican Communion.

We suggest this is such a crucial issue that Dr. Williams convene a meeting, preferably in person, by September 30th, to work through an agreement on the assurances of the moratoria as well as the “safe haven” for those in the American and Canadian churches who feel the need for protection. We respectfully submit that this meeting be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and include the bishops of Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, the primate of Uganda, the primate of the Southern Cone, the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the chair of the Windsor Continuation Group, and perhaps two bishops agreed to by all other parties. This meeting should be held at a neutral site without attorneys present. Such a meeting would acknowledge the urgency of the matters under consideration and give an opportunity to the parties to work through the implementation of the moratoria requested.

That may be the "meatiest" paragraph, but there rest is well worth reading. See the whole thing here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Closing the Barn Door…

... after the horses have long since escaped.

The fun thing about the Anglicanland soap opera is that it's an action-packed adventure, not a tightly-drawn drama that could play on public television. There is a certain rhythm to the plot development, but just when you think things are quieting down in one place, the action picks up someplace else.

My former diocese of San Joaquin is gearing up for another turn on center stage. Word from the California Supreme Court is that oral arguments will be heard some six weeks from now in the cases of the parishes that left the dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego two or three years ago. San Joaquin is not a party to this litigation, but the outcome will certainly influence the lawsuits that have been lodged against Bishop Schofield and, through him, the "Anglican" Diocese of San Joaquin. At the 2006 diocesan convention, when the first vote was taken on the constitutional amendment that, a year later, effectively separated the diocese from the Episcopal Church, clergy and lay leaders from these parishes were on the sidelines, making clear their desire to come under Bishop Schofield's oversight in a sort of "greater" Diocese of San Joaquin. Whether they still have that desire I don't know. But there are certainly close links between San Joaquin and the defendants in the cases that will be heard by the California Supreme Court in October.

Meanwhile, Bishop Jerry Lamb, the appointed ordinary of the 815 puppet "Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," the plaintiff in the legal case against Bishop Schofield, has stated just today his latest plans for those clergy who failed to respond to his early July "choose this day whom ye will serve" missive (which includes "most" of those who received it, by his own reckoning). He's giving them one more chance, and extending the deadline to September 5, two weeks from now. What then? "We will immediately begin canonical actions on September 6, 2008 charging Abandonment of the Communion and Failure to Follow a Pastoral Direction of the bishop for those who do not respond. When the September 5 deadline passes, inhibitions will be imposed." This is a change in tune from a recent interview the bishop gave with Steve Waring of The Living Church, in which he adopted a more tentative tone.

But why now? And is Bishop Lamb possibly hoisting himself on his own petard here? Word has it that he is planning a "diocesan convention," to be held in Hanford in October—conveniently the same weekend that the Southern Conites are planning theirs in Fresno (45 miles away). We're back to the "you can't have it both ways" situation that I outlined here. If Bishop Lamb wants to maintain the fiction that his "diocese" is indeed the rightful manifestation of the entity that existed as the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin prior to December 8 of last year, then every member of the clergy whom he does not depose is presently "in good standing," and entitled to seat, voice, and vote at any convention of the diocese. The total of those so eligible is in the neighborhood of 110. According to the constitution of the diocese (as it read prior to December 8), a quorum of clergy for the transaction of business would be 37, give or take. He doesn't have that many, but he could be within striking distance if he can cull the total in order to reduce the number needed for a quorum. So there's some incentive to "downsize."

Of course, there is also a quorum requirement in the lay order. In San Joaquin, this requires the registered presence of at least one elected delegate from one-third of the congregations that are in union with the diocese. Since the story that they're sticking to is that dioceses can't leave TEC, and therefore ADSJ hasn't, then that means none of the parishes have either. (See the cyber-version of the Episcopal Church Annual—aka the Red Book. The page for the Diocese of San Joaquin lists nearly all the congregations that were part of the pre-12/8/07 entity, including a direct link to the website of my former parish, which, when one clicks on it, reveals a congregation that is very much gone from the Episcopal Church! The irony is mind-boggling.) So there would need to be at least one delegate from some 15 congregations in order to have a valid convention. This is a harder nut to crack, since a bishop cannot just "depose" a congregation. It takes an act of convention. But if there's no quorum, there's no convention. To top it all off, there is some question whether all the congregations Bishop Lamb claims are part of his diocese have even been informed officially of the upcoming convention, such notice being required by diocesan canons. And this is to say nothing of the congregations (four, as I count them) that were "planted" by the EDSJ after the split; this only raises the threshold for a canonical quorum. Want some Dramamine?

There is an alternative, of course. They could shrug and say, "OK, they're gone. What we have left is what we have left" (speaking of both clergy and congregations). Let's forget the past and move on and make something new for TEC in the Central Valley. That appears to be what they did at the purported special diocesan convention last March, where there was clearly no quorum in either order, yet they proceeded to elect an interim bishop, ignore the duly-elected Standing Committee, one of whose members was present (a priest who never resigned his elected office and who had signaled two months earlier his intention not to follow Bishop Schofield to Argentina), elect a new Diocesan Council and new General Convention Deputies, all at the behest of a Presiding Bishop who was acting in violation of canon law by even calling the convention.

But having made that bed (and having enjoyed the perks of doing so), they now eschew lying in it. Could the reason be any more obvious? Just follow the lawsuits. It is vital to Bishop Lamb's case against Bishop Schofield that the fiction be maintained that he and the entity he leads are the legitimate successors and rightful owners of the physical and financial assets of the Diocese of San Joaquin and the congregations associated with it. This is what they hope to win in court. If they acknowledge the "facts on the ground" as they are, they have no hope of winning their case. But trying to prop up the chimera is costly as well, because they have to somehow account for the human and material assets they claim are theirs as they transact the ordinary business of being a diocese, such ordinary business including the satisfaction of requirements for quorums.

Bishop Lamb, Mr Rock is holding on line one and Mr Hard Place is in your waiting room.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Trace of the Alpha Issue

I don't expect to ever get a clear shot at it. But the hunt is instructive, so I'll keep on rooting around for clues. The most recent sighting may be found in the (1979 BCP) collect for Proper 15 (this past Sunday and the weekdays that follow):

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Here's the operative generalization: Christians (including Anglicans) who self-identify as "orthodox" and who may be known by their opponents by a number of descriptors including "conservative" and "fundamentalist" will tend to emphasize the phrases "sacrifice for sin" and "receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work." Christians (including Anglicans) who self-identify as "progressive" and who may be known by their opponents as "liberal" or "revisionist" will tend to emphasize the phrases "example of godly life" and "follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life."

Of course, no generalization is universally applicable. I am fully aware that there are plenty of "progressives" who are abundantly grateful for the fruits of our Lord's redeeming work, and it goes without saying that there is no shortage of "orthodox" who are consumed by imitating the example of his most holy life. But I'm wondering how effectively the opposing sides in the sexuality wars can be sorted according to the vocabulary they would use to talk about who Jesus is and what Jesus means. Liberals will more often be concerned with the teaching and ministry of Jesus, and interpret his death and resurrection in that context. Conservatives will more often be concerned with the death and resurrection and Jesus and interpret his teaching and ministry in that context.

I noticed the same dynamic some years ago when Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was released. Those for whom Jesus is primarily a "sacrifice for sin" who is engaged in "redeeming work" almost universally found the film profoundly moving, a positive witness for the gospel. Those for whom Jesus is primarily "an example of godly life" and understand his importance primarily as a teacher and example nearly all found it revolting and worthy of scorn.

The conventional move for an irenic guy such as myself at this point is to say something like, "It's not either/or, it's both/and." That always sounds wise and moderate. But in the matter of Christology, it simply won't do. Without the "redeeming work" of Jesus—that is, without everything implied in the expression Paschal Mystery—his "most holy life" is of no effective significance to anybody except … Jesus. The Paschal Mystery has to be the lens through which the teaching and ministry of Jesus is "read." It doesn't work the other way around.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pastoral Care On-the-Fly

I first met Bill (not his real name) last November. He called me out of the blue early one afternoon from a funeral home. His wife had just died—rather suddenly—the previous night, and he wanted me to come by for "last rites." He said he was once an active Episcopalian in another part of the diocese, but has never had a connection with my parish. I had plenty on my plate that day, but, setting aside the fact that it was a little late for "Last Rites," this is not the kind of request a priest can decline without an overriding reason. So I went.

A few weeks later, Bill came by the church one day, just needing to talk. So I sat with him in the nave, offering a sympathetic listening ear and an occasional word of affirmation or redirection. He and his wife had been married for 59 years, so he had some understandably unresolved grief, as well as cognate "issues"—Why did God take her? Is He trying to punish me for something? Is there something I could have done to prevent her death? Is there something He wants me to do now with my life?

In a gentle way, I urged him to reconnect with the community of the church. He needed the sacraments, I told him. He needed the Word of God in his ears. He needed the relationships of mutual caring and accountability that are part of ecclesial life. His explanation for not having involved himself with St Anne's over the last 20 years that he's lived in this town was the Episcopal Church's moral amnesia—"What I was always taught was a sin they now say is right!" I couldn't argue with him on the facts, but I could—and did—tell him that those facts don't constitute a reason to ex-communicate himself.

This conversation repeated itself several times over the winter and spring, like the morning sequence of events in the movie Groundhog Day. I don't claim the right to tell the man how to grieve, but I've learned enough about bereavement to recognize when somebody is stuck in their process. He was on a hamster wheel—lots of activity, but going nowhere.

So late this afternoon he stops by yet again for another session on the wheel (lately under the cover of wanting to discuss to whom he might give his wife's clothing and shoes). Only today is a feast day, so we have a Mass scheduled at 5:30. When he arrives, one of our staff members directs him upstairs to the chapel. He walks in during Evening Prayer, kind of oblivious to what's going on, but we make allowances and welcome him in and find him the page, etc. etc. But, as always, Bill is a bit of a motormouth, so while I'm throwing on vestments in the hallway, he's bending the ear of two staff members, the only others in tonight's congregation. Eventually I clear my throat loudly. We may not ever get started otherwise.

During my (very informal) homily I ask him a question, whereupon he informs me that he really can't hear a word I'm saying because his hearing aid is turned down. Then, during the Peace, he breaks back into his stump speech (see above beginning, "Why did God…?"). It's obviously been a loooooong time since the dude's been in church. I go ahead and set up the altar while he talks and the three of us listen. In my head, I'm fishing around for a strategy to redirect his attention long enough for us to finish the liturgy.

Then a line from my stock funeral-sermon-when-I-don't-know-the-deceased-very-well-but-we're-celebrating-the-Eucharist-anyway dawns on me. "Bill, I've got an idea! How would you like to have supper with your wife?"


"How would you like to have supper with your wife? We can do it right here, right now."

I have his attention. He nods in affirmation.

"She is here with us. Or, more precisely, we are joining her, for these few minutes, where she is. We're going to eat from the same table that she's eating from."

Without pausing long enough to let him form and express another thought, I plow ahead. "The Lord be with you." And we proceed to lift up our hearts. When we get to the part of the Eucharistic Prayer (B, if you know the American BCP) where the celebrant has the option of "populating" it with the names of actual people—usually the BVM and the patron saint of the parish and whatever saint is being commemorated on the day—without missing a beat, I turn to Bill and ask him, "What's your wife's name?"


"What's your wife's name."

"Eloise." (Again, name changed to protect identity.)

So I add, after "the ever-blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God; Anne, her mother … Eloise … and all the saints…". At the mention of his wife's name in such august company, Bill's face lights up like a Nevada town on the Utah border at night. As I place the Blessed Sacrament on his tongue, I point to the paten and tell him, "Eloise already had hers."

Will what we did for Bill tonight get him off the hamster wheel? I don't know. I'm not overly-invested in that outcome. Was it a liminal--"thin"--moment for me and the two others who ministered to him? Certainly so. It was at the same time the one of the most unsettlingly bizarre and one of the the most luminously mystical celebrations of the Eucharist I have ever attended.

In Search of the Transcendent Feminine

As an Anglican who was raised and formed in a free-church evangelical milieu and who regularly casts an eye Romeward thinking, "What if …?", today's feast ("St Mary the Virgin" in Episcopalian parlance, "the Assumption" for Latin Rite Catholics, "the Dormition of the Theotokos" for the Orthodox) is a significant marker in the ecclesial ferment in which I live and move and have my being.

During my recently-concluded vacation, I read (and very much enjoyed) Ken Follett's World Without End, a novel set in fourteenth century England and in which the Black Plague is one of the main characters. The narrative suggests that the terror associated with the Plague helped spur an increase in devotion to the Blessed Virgin. As a sympathetic feminine presence, many perceived her as more accessible than God, who was too busy being God (including sending the Plague to punish miserable sinners) to be a likely source of succor. Sometimes we just need a Mom.

Of course, a couple of hundred years later, the Reformers responded strongly to what they perceived as excessive devotion to Our Lady, believing it to compromise the unique mediatorial office of her Divine Son. Ever since, she has been a lightning rod in the various controversies between the Catholic and Reformed traditions in western Christianity. My sense is that both sides have indulged in hyper-reactivity to one another. Protestants are generally downright Mary-phobic, forgetting her own words in scripture, "All generations will call me blessed." And while I don't impute this to official Roman Catholic teaching, the Marian piety of many Catholics does seem a little "over the top," giving rise to jokes like the one about Jesus walking into St Patrick's Cathedral and trying to get the attention of a woman kneeling in prayer. Her response? "Don't bother me. Can't you see I'm talking to your mother?"

We are not, thankfully, suffering today anything like the Black Death of the fourteenth century (estimated to have wiped out perhaps half the population of Europe). But we apparently still need a Mom. As long ago as when I took the General Ordination Exams (1989), I knew to be careful not to use masculine pronouns for God, and to be parsimonious in my use of "Father" and "Lord," lest I arouse the ire of those who would be evaluating my work. More recent seminarians inform me that committing such offenses in academic writing these days yields an automatic 'F.' Experimental liturgies, Anglican and otherwise, are not at all shy about giving 'Mother' at least equal time with 'Father' in referring to God, and the routine use of the feminine pronoun in speaking of the Holy Spirit is increasingly widespread.

I'm not going to do any heresy-jousting in this post, beyond saying that there are all kinds of theological reasons why these things really creep me out. Curiously, the impetus for such licentiousness in theological language is much lower among our Roman Catholic friends. Yeah … I know … not entirely absent. But much lower. Of course, one can attribute that to a very hierarchical polity with a small group of single old men at the top of the pyramid. But I think that's a simplistic explanation. I think the main reason Roman Catholics and Orthodox don't feel the need (as much) to feminize God is that they already have a Mom, and they know who she is, and they're comfortable bending her sympathetic ear.

As an Anglo-Catholic (and loyal son of Nashotah House), I like to think I'm on friendly terms with the Mother of God. I pray the Angelus and the Regina Coeli. I pray the Rosary (the real Rosary, with the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and now Luminous Mysteries—not an "Anglican" surrogate). Many other Anglicans do as well. This is well and good. But I would suggest, with apologies to Emeril, that we need to "kick it up a notch." For many Anglicans who have any Marian piety (and I'm looking in a mirror here), it is yet too conceptual, too cerebral. We need to make it more a matter of the heart. It's a good thing to honor and revere the Theotokos. It's a still better thing to love her. She is, after all, our Mom.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Setting the Record Straight (before it’s crooked)

My vacation ends tonight, so I may as well wade back into the "conversation."

A week ago yesterday, on August 5th, a deadline passed—a deadline that, so far as I can tell, escaped the notice of the Anglican blogsphere.

On July 10th, the Right Revd Jerry Lamb, putative bishop of the putative "Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin", wrote this letter to the clergy of the diocese as it was constituted prior to December 8, 2007. It gave August 5th as the deadline for receiving responses from said clergy as to their intentions with respect to their future relationship to the Episcopal Church. Apparently it was not a precision operation. I know of at least two female deacons who were addressed as "Dear Father N." I also know of two presbyters who never received the letter.

In any case, I am given to understand that the Standing Committee of the (rogue and illicit) Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is set to meet this Friday. One might reasonably presume that their agenda includes taking notice of responses received and not received by last week's deadline. One might further presume that a goodly number of letters will be in the mail shortly informing their recipients that they have been deposed from the ordained ministry as the Episcopal Church understands ordained ministry.

What I gather from my sources in the San Joaquin Valley is that the July 10th letter—a bit of a slipshod effort by any account—is the only attempt that Bishop Lamb has made to contact the majority of the clergy in what he considers to be the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin—that is, the one spun off as a Missionary District from the Diocese of California in 1911 and received into union with General Convention as a diocese in 1960. Ah, yes, these would be the same clergy who failed to appear at what Bishop Lamb and others believe was a convention of the diocese held last March in Lodi, thus creating a prima facie case that a quorum of canonically-resident clergy in good standing of the diocese was not present, and thus rendering the acts of said convention—including the election of Bishop Lamb and the Standing Committee that meets this Friday—of no account according the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which Bishop Lamb, as he so helpfully points out in his letter, is bound to uphold.

But we've been over all this before. It's old news. Forgive my self-indulgent ways.

Like I said … the July 10th letter is it. No emails. No phone calls. No drop-in visits (that is, except to change the locks at St Andrew's, Taft). So, when the depositions are announced, along with assurances that "every effort" (or some such) was made to contact these clergy and reconcile them to the Episcopal Church (a handful of which, I suspect, may actually have been receptive to that concept), we'll know what "every effort" (or some such) actually amounts to: A single mass-mailed form letter whose sender didn't know the recipients as anything other than abstract names on a list.

Why am I exercised about this? That's probably a complex list a reasons that would require years of Jungian analysis to ferret out. But here's one good one that just pops right up: I'm an Episcopalian, and the welfare of my church deserves a much higher quality of pastoral care, administrative oversight, and canonical fidelity than is being exercised in the central third of California.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lambeth Post-Mortem

In his 1999 book Plato, Not Prozac!, Lou Marinoff contends that a substantial proportion of human mental and emotional suffering stems not from the actual events of our lives, but from our expectations about the actual events of our lives. The ants at the picnic didn't ruin our afternoon; our expectation that the picnic grounds would be free of ants ruined our afternoon.

The Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops has now concluded after three weeks, and if the blogsphere is any indication, there is a palpable degree of human mental and emotional suffering floating in its wake. It's certainly not suffering on the order of that experienced by those who are punched by a tsunami or a hurricane, but it's nonetheless important to those who are feeling it at the moment. Perhaps Marinoff's book should have been required reading for anyone with a horse in this race.

A couple of weeks ago, I took inventory of my own expectations, hopes, and wishes for this Lambeth Conference. This seems an appropriate time to audit that list and reflect on its relationship to subsequent developments:

What do I expect? I expect, at the very least, that the Archbishop's Indaba groups will indeed have the desired and intended effect of strengthening the bonds of affection and respect among bishops of the Communion. This would be a good thing. Not a sufficiently good thing, one might argue, given the imperiled state of Anglicanland, but, nontheless, in itself a good thing. It will do no harm, and may plant the sort of seeds that can yield unexpectedly fruitful harvests at time and under circumstances that we cannot presently imagine.

I think it's safe to say that my expectations were pretty much met. By all accounts, from all perspectives, lots of new personal relationships were created and lots of existing ones were strengthened. Most of this relationship building took place in the context of shared availability—even vulnerability, at times—to the text of sacred scripture. Surely the Holy Spirit would not be absent from those encounters and exchanges. The seed scattered by the Word of God will never, we are told, return to Him empty. For that we should all be, I think, profoundly grateful.

In this vein, it is also worth recalling the candid but non-rancorous remarks of the Primate of Sudan (speaking for himself and his episcopal colleagues), and how the American bishops whose dioceses have had close ties with that beleaguered African nation and church did not have a fit. Not a public fit, at any rate. The Sudanese bit one of the hands that feed them, and the hand didn't slap back. That may not fix anything that needs fixing, but it is in itself a good thing.

As to my hopes, this is what I wrote two weeks ago:

What do I hope for? … I believe that there is reason for hope that the bishops will give the Anglican Covenant development process a steroid shot, and that the process will continue with renewed energy. … I have hope that the bishops assembled at Lambeth 2008 will turn up the flame under the Covenant process.

This is a tougher call to make. It wasn't exactly a steroid shot—more like a caffeinated cola—and if the flame was turned up, it wasn't by much. But I'm going to claim victory nonetheless, because I think we will look back on this Lambeth Conference and see it as a tipping point. Progress toward an Anglican Covenant was not dramatic, but I think there is solid reason to believe that it is now inexorable—there will be a covenant. The report of the Windsor Continuation Group says as much, the final Reflections document says as much (calling it a "strong consensus") and the repeated remarks of the Archbishop of Canterbury say as much. Even some American bishops are beginning to "get it." They still don't like it, but they are beginning to get it.

At a more profound level, as a result of the Covenant and the process leading up to and following its implementation (which will no doubt take a good number of years), the constitutional foundations of Anglicanism will change, and they will change in what is, from my perspective, a positive direction, which is to say, a more Catholic direction. At this afternoon's press conference, Archbishop Rowan was asked directly about his habit of speaking of the Anglican Communion as "a church" rather than something like "a family of churches." He unequivocally "owned" his choice of words, suggesting that the only way the Communion is going to hold together in any meaningful way is if it finds a way to be more coherent and less fragmented. This, again, is cause for thanksgiving.

What about my wishes?

What do I wish for? … What I wish for is that the bishops read and take to heart the open letter from the Reverend Dr Ephraim Radner. This is would be the best news possible for Anglicans, for other Christians , and even for Episcopalians, though it is medicine that many among us will find bitter to the taste. We would find, in time, however, that it is sweet to the stomach. Of course, this is not something I am either expecting or hoping for. It would require a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit.

The conference gets mixed marks here. (Or is it the Holy Spirit who should get the mixed marks? Hmmm.)

The Covenant process was affirmed and moved forward. Check.

Both the WCG reports and the Archbishop's personal remarks directly mentioned, and in a highly favorable manner, the Communion Partners initiative, which could be construed as a response to Dr Radner's call for ways of recognizing and working with disaffected elements in North America who are nonetheless communion-minded. Semi-check. I would like to have seen more.

The initiative toward a Pastoral Forum to serve as a sort of "escrow" for those communities that have already placed themselves under offshore oversight has the potential, at least, to address Dr Radner's concern that the GAFCON coalition be engaged seriously and sympathetically. Quite frankly, the jury will have to remain out on this one, because the verdict will depend on how quickly and in what form the panel's recommendations are given substance and life. It was encouraging to hear Rowan affirm yet again today that it needs to happen quite soon. So now it needs to actually happen. Quite soon. Possible check in October. If nothing's in place by November, or if it's not something sufficiently robust and confidence-inspiring that would, say, enable to Bishop Venables to hand the keys of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin over to the Escrow Officer, then the whole idea is a bust. Time is of the essence.

The conference did reaffirm the moratoria requested by the Windsor Report, and that's a good thing, so put a small check mark in that column. But the Radner memo also called for TEC's bishops to be told clearly (I'm paraphrasing here), "Live this way for the foreseeable future. If you can't, don't bother sending your Presiding Bishop to the next Primates' Meeting, or your elected representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council next spring. You're on lockdown until you can decide whether you want to be part of this family or not." (OK, I guess "time out" would be more charitable than "lockdown." But it felt good to say it.) This message definitely did not get conveyed, and I'm disappointed in that. I didn't get what I wished for. But, hey, I never expected it anyway!

(I am indebted to my friend Christopher Wells for his dissection of Lambeth with regard to the Radner memo in a private message.)

A final word about the process that guided the conference: It was intentionally not legislative. There were no resolutions and no votes. Dr Williams has received heavy criticism for this. While I—linear-thinking western white male that I am—would have wished to see the Lambeth bishops hold an actual vote and by that means resoundingly endorse the present draft of the Covenant (along with all of the WCG recommendations, and I.10 from '98 for good measure), I am not unable to discern a measure of wisdom in the non-parliamentary tack that Rowan has taken, frustrating though it may be. Because of that decision on his part, it may be that the effect of this now-concluding conference will not be like the decisive explosion of a bomb (one of those behemoth "bunker busters", no doubt), but more like the slowly gathering momentum of a volcanic eruption—i.e. the one on the island of Hawaii that hasn't forcefully blown anybody away, but just keeps on pouring lava until it alters the landscape more substantially and more enduringly than a great many bunker-buster bombs could have done. The process will be slow. TEC and its allies and clients will do all in their power to retard and obfuscate. It will be our vocation—my vocation, at any rate, I suspect—to suffer and pray our way through some times that are darker than we can imagine. As I consider my own calling, that suffering and praying will take place amid leading worship and celebrating the sacraments and evangelizing and catechizing and delivering pastoral care to people who are trying to raise families and deal with diminishing health and figure out how to conduct themselves responsibly and faithfully in a challenging post-Christian society. For that dose of reality, refreshingly ordinary, I am also grateful.