It is the end of the first day of the Primates Meeting is here – actually it is very early in the morning there, about two o'clock. The many reporters at the meeting are doing their job. In particular The Living Church – George Conger et al – has been doing a superb job. Their latest report is very helpful indeed. Read it HERE. In fact, if I may be so bold to suggest it, send them a donation to help cover the costs of the trip. I did.
Where do things stand?
Well, for starters, the report of the demise of the Anglican Communion is highly exaggerated. The Communion may still implode, of course, but at the moment the Anglican muddle to the middle is in full swing. It is more than that. It seems to me that the Archbishop and his advisers have done a remarkable thing in keeping the report of the Sub-Committee under wraps until the meeting today. That report takes the immediate wind out of the sails of the Realignment crowd. A second and third read makes me wince just a bit, for the distant thunder of new storms can be found in the careful wording of things, but at the report makes the up front case for saying that the Episcopal Church has done what could be done in response to the Windsor Report. Early reports from the realignment folk indicate a level of disease that confirms the disaster it represents for their cause.
The Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of York have been given seat at the meeting, the Presiding Bishop with absolute assurance of her place by right. So much for the interpretation that unwillingness to sit at the table meant the Lord Archbishop's table.
The effort to drastically revise the beginning agenda of the Meeting was either a rumor or was sidetracked. Things are proceeding as proposed.
It must have been quite remarkable for the three American bishops – coming to make their reports with this Sub Committee report already in hand. That there are deeply felt divisions is true, and I know these three can speak to those feelings. But behind the realignment argument is the condemnation of the Episcopal Church and its ecclesial processes. That argument is greatly overshadowed by the measured phrases of the Sub Committee report.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a specific positive statement about the Episcopal Church. As reported in the Living Church:
"In his opening remarks, described as "moving" by one listener, Archbishop Williams welcomed the primates and spoke to the importance of their work and collegiality. He also spoke to his great affection for The Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury recounted his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001 when he and other Episcopalians at Trinity Church Wall Street in lower Manhattan were trapped for a number of hours by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers. This experience had given Archbishop Williams a deep affection for the United States and The Episcopal Church and had led to a bonding with the people with whom he shared the day's experiences."
The "table" issue – the unwillingness of some of the Primates to sit at table with the Presiding Bishop is now about the table of the Lord. The Living Church reports, "The Global South primates will not celebrate the Eucharist with the Presiding Bishop, one primate told a reporter for The Living Church. They continue to stand behind their September declaration that they would "not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a Primate at the table with us." The "table" he noted, is the language used for an altar as found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer." I have noted in other entries on this blog that I believe this is a profound misread of nature of the community of fools and sinners that constitutes the table of those welcomed by Our Lord. Then again, perhaps I have been to different meals than some others.
The three American bishops have given their reports and two have left for home. The third, Bishop Duncan, is reportedly sticking around until the end of the Meeting. The picture of the three with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori seems affable enough, but we can look to the Moderator being part of an "alternative" Eucharist at some point. It will be fascinating to see what happens on Sunday when there is the trip to the Cathedral on Zanzibar for services there. Assuming that to be a celebration of the Eucharist and the Presiding Bishop being in attendance, where will the Global South folk be? Where will the Moderator be?
Not a word has been heard from Archbishop Akinola, or for that matter from Bishop Minns. That won't last. Supposedly the Primates are not talking outside the meetings, but as the quote above indicates that is a loosely held norm. If the last meeting is any indication, there will be leakage on more difficult issues.
Tomorrow promises new reports, this time from the Covenant Design Group. We can hope for more good work, but let's see.
Just hours before the publication of the Sub Committee's report that gave reasonably good marks to the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report, Canon Kendall Harmon wrote what he would have said to the Primates. It was a scathing condemnation of the work of the Episcopal Church. His read and the read of the Sub-Committee are at such odds that one wonders if they are talking about the same activities. They are. Harmon believes the Sub-Committee just doesn't get it. Charges about their incompetence will come. The first salvo of that charge is by Canon Harmon, HERE. The American Anglican Council is roiled up HERE. And Susan Russell counters with some pithy observations about logic chopping gone awry.
All in all, a day of small steps, but fairly good ones. At least for today there was no one left to condemn.