Richard Major has filed a report for The Tablet on Archbishop George Carey’s visit to Truro Episcopal Church (beret tip: Simon Sarmiento). It’s a basic but flawed narrative of what has transpired in the broader Anglican Communion since the consecration of Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop.
The problems begin in the lead:
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, last week flew to the United States to confirm 300 Episcopalians who have refused to recognise their own bishop. The parishioners at Truro Church in Fairfax, a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C, believe that Peter Lee, the Bishop of Virginia, has lost his authority because of his support for the consecration of Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, by the Episcopal Church of the USA (Ecusa). The consecration in November last year has effectively split the Anglican Communion.
So they’ve refused to recognize Bishop Lee’s authority and they met in a wealthy suburb of Washington? They must be obscurantists.
The deepening division within Anglicanism over homosexuality took a critical turn last summer when a Canadian diocese authorised the blessing of same-sex unions. Soon afterwards, Robinson was confirmed as bishop by Ecusa’s general convention despite the pleas of the Anglican Primates, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to refrain from doing so.
Mainstream Anglicans, in America and elsewhere, regarded these acts as a formal repudiation by Ecusa and the Canadians of received Christian teaching on sexuality, and the agreed position of the Communion.
So they’re not obscurantists, but mainstream Anglicans. As Terry is fond of reminding us, even if conservatives are outnumbered in most U.S. dioceses, they do stand with the majority of the Anglican Communion.
[The Anglican Communion's 38 primates] also insisted on intervention in the affairs of such provinces, calling on them to make provision for ‘episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities . . . in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury’. Dr Williams then set up a Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh, to resolve how such oversight might work.
In the meantime, he has appealed for a period of restraint. This has largely been honoured, although some American Episcopal parishes have tried to secede to African provinces, risking legal action by their bishops.
Here is the worst problem in Major’s report. Notice that only conservatives stand accused of disregarding Robin Eames’ plea for a period of restraint, though Eames has explained that he meant the plea for the entire spectrum of Anglicans.
There’s no mention of the Diocese of Vermont, like Canada’s Diocese of New Westminster, distributing rites for blessing gay couples — one of the very actions that led to the Lambeth Commission’s creation.
There’s no mention of Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno blessing a gay priest and his partner, or Bishop John Chane of Washington, D.C., doing the same. (Yes, General Convention has declared that such actions are “within the bounds of [the Episcopal Church's] common life.” But if General Convention’s votes were the last word on the matter for the whole of the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Commission need not exist.)
There’s no mention of bishops railing against the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network as if these bodies are openly attacking the Body of Christ.
Fr David Moyer, leader of Forward in Faith in North America, told The Tablet that at the minimum Eames must ‘sternly rebuke Ecusa for its go-it-alone attitude’ and offer ‘immediate provision of security for the life and witness’ of conservative clergy. But he said Ecusa had become ‘irreformable’: liberals are in ‘tight control’ of the ship, he said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Integrity, for 30 years the lobby group for Episcopalian homosexuals, refused to believe that Ecusa could be ‘voted off the Anglican island, as in Survivor‘. Its president, the Revd Susan Russell, said that ‘prophetic ministry always comes at a cost’. ‘The Church is stronger, the Gospel better served’ because of its change of mind about homosexual acts, she told The Tablet, adding that it was ‘incomprehensible’ that the presence of practising homosexuals in the episcopate might make people feel obliged to secede.
Russell’s use of imcomprehensible is reminiscent of Vizzini, Wallace Shawn’s character in The Princess Bride, and his fondness for the word inconceivable.
And let’s not forget Inigo Montoya’s perplexed response: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”