At General Convention there was an air of cordial despair among some of the deputies and bishops from the Communion Partners block - those dioceses and bishops who were intent on continuing as part of the Anglican Communion (marked by continuing the moratoria) and maintaining what the considered to be Anglican faith and values within the Episcopal Church. No one spoke openly of next steps, beyond what was stated in the Communion Partners statement, the "Anaheim Statement."
Things change quickly, however, in Episcopal / Anglican Land. No matter the interpretation of C025 And D056 given by the Presiding Officers, or for that matter the printed words on the legislative page, the turn is to talk of what happens WHEN The Episcopal Church is bounced from the club of the inner circle of the Anglican Communion. Bishops Tom Wright, Michael Nazir-Ali and various Communion Partners' Bishops have made it clear they believe the turning point has happened: that the moratoria are off and that there will indeed by some gay bishop in relationship who will gather sufficient consents and there will indeed be an official public order for the blessing of relationships other than marriage between a man and a woman. As far as I know not a single one of these worthies has mentioned anything at all about cross boundary violations. They are all more or less convinced that The Episcopal Church has no intention of finally signing off on the Anglican Covenant.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's rehash of various opinions he has held in the past, combined with an immediate casting into the present of matters still in the future of The Episcopal Church, has been no help at all. There was a sense of resignation around the edges of Convention, one that has turned to despair in the weeks that have followed.
Not much new has come from any of these commentaries. The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in America gave a lame interview with Christianity Today and published a strange and unhappy letter to everyone who wanted to read it. Bishops Wright and Nazir-Ali were simply embarrasing. The Archbishop found new ways to put his foot in it. All in all a fairly miserable time.
But off on the wings there is talk of moving on. The last day of Convention a colleague suggested that the moorings are slipping that tie several dioceses to The Episcopal Church. He suggested that South Carolina and Albany in particular might be ready to make new moves away from The Episcopal Church. He also suggested that Bishop Beckwith of Springfield might pull a Bishop Ackerman and retire leaving the diocese to make its own decisions regarding matters Episcopal.
Over on Kendall Harmon's blog (and by the way I missed him at General Convention), he has this to report today concerning a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina: "The meeting started at 10:30. We are still meeting. The atmosphere is focused, intense, deeply trusting of one another and the bishop, and with a sense that the stakes are very very high." Something is up there. I am sure he will keep us posted.
The dioceses that were going to make the big jump without a parachute have done so. The ones considering new directions now are going to act somewhat differently. They will probably take the road of "non-compliance" to The Episcopal Church by reaffirming in no uncertain terms that they wish to continue as Anglican Covenant Communion members, refusing to acknowledge The Episcopal Church governance as binding and refusing to pay into its operations. They will likely take the position outlined in the paper the bishops supposedly wrote on the authority of The Episcopal Church Provincial leadership and the autonomy of dioceses, and push for individual buy in by dioceses to the Anglican Covenant.
The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be looking for greater clarity on whether or not their doing so has meaningful consequences as regards inclusion in the Anglican Communion. He said,
"25. It is my strong hope that all the provinces will respond favourably to the invitation to Covenant. But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question."
My bet is that the Anglican Consultative Council will be asked by the Primates or the Joint Committee of Primates and the ACC, minus the input of TEC representatives, to recast the list of members of the Anglican Communion roster to be a list of dioceses, not Provinces. So instead of listing 38 Provinces it would list some 800 dioceses. Then diocese by diocese there could be buy-in.
If that were to happen, then the moratoria in TEC could be continued by simply having fifty-one percent of dioceses buy into the Covenant, something they could do on their own if they wished. As it stands now there are some twenty dioceses that are likely candidates for this - dioceses who signed the Anaheim statement. The future of TEC's engagement with a progressive agenda would then rely upon a very different expression of ecclesiastical political life. General Convention would be subverted by dioceses voting in isolation of any Provincial structure.
Of course, what would also happen is that there would be no need to be concerned for the future of the Anglican Communion in any federal or confederal configuration. It would become a direct hierarchical setup with allegiance all the way up the line. Great. Sign me out.