25 April 2006

The Convention Cometh.

Almost daily I am asked, "What's going to happen at the General Convention, and then what?" Below is a bit of very well informed speculation from the Anglican Communion Institute, which I post in toto for convenience.

‘Sooner or Later’ – California Consents and General Convention 2006
A Thought Experiment on the Future of ECUSA*

What follows is not an effort at maximally accurate speculation, but is intended as a thought experiment on where ECUSA appears to be, in the light of its various reports and actions over the past months. General Convention 2006 is now but 50 days away.

1. The Diocese of California (CA) elects a ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop; consents process at General Convention reveals 45% in favor of approval in the HOB; consent denied in HOB;
2. CA consecrates said ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop anyway*;
3. Presiding Bishop says HOB warned about this, but does not believe anything can be done; new PB tries to hold all together; general canonical confusion ensues;
4. ‘Global South Primates’ are outraged, demand action from the Archbishop of Canterbury; announce intention to boycott next Primates Meetings and Lambeth Conference; (major provinces of the GS join in this endeavor, though not all of them);
5. Canterbury is reluctantly compelled to deny invitations to ECUSA tout court from Primates Meetings and Lambeth Conference; (a vote taken in newly configured ACC narrowly confirms this as well, in 2007 meeting);
6. Some among the ‘Consenters’ to CA press for their own ‘justice ECUSA’ independently of the Communion’s Instruments of Unity; demands are made on the basis of civil rights and ‘justice’ etc; others in the Communion informally offer sympathy or support (e.g., Scotland, Wales), or formally join with this ‘justice ECUSA’; the new PB is chagrined and powerless;
7. ‘Moderate’ ECUSA Bishops (+O’Neill, +Smith, etc) are concerned to back the ‘justice’ theology and also try to bring about a general peace; they rally around a conciliator PB and a ‘big tent’ ECUSA; this proves too vague and fails to resolve anything;
8. + Duncan (on behalf of his ‘Common Cause’ effort) demands a kind of special recognition from Canterbury , but the issue drags on and this is not forthcoming in clear terms;
9. a ‘Windsor Compliance’ Bishops group appeals to Canterbury for invitation to Lambeth Conference on the grounds that compliance to Windsor has been clarified by explicit vote against consent in CA;
10. Canterbury , facing pressure from forces on opposite sides, decides to invite those who withheld consent to CA and declares ECUSA a shambles;
11. Global South Primates decide to attend Lambeth Conference, contented that consenters are excluded;
12. Some moderates and consenters appeal to Canterbury and are granted 'observer' status; others happily boycott Lambeth Conference;
13. The character of Lambeth is altered in clear ways due to this scenario and lack of funds; but it is held nonetheless;
14. new PB did not vote for consent and so attends, seeking a bridge building role to left wing 'justice ECUSA in Exile';
15. + Duncan threatens to stay away but attends, joined by non-consenter ECUSA Bishops;
16. pro-Gay forces in all dioceses, regardless of vote of the Diocesan, join in solidarity with ‘justice ECUSA in Exile,’ with leadership from +VGR, the new CA Diocesan, and a third Gay/Lesbian bishop (from NJ or Newark or elsewhere), with Integrity, Louis Crew, etc;
17. Diocesans in what remains of ECUSA (Anglican Communion) either discipline pro-Gay forces (re: ordination, blessing services, etc) or judge such behavior now peripheral and manageable;
18. Moderate Diocesan Bishops try in vain to straddle the fence and end up under pressure from laity, worn out from clerical chicanery and poor leadership; the coffers begin seriously to run dry;
19. Some of these join the new ‘justice ECUSA in Exile’ (see 16); others see it easier to temporize and embrace the muddle, seeking a ‘deeper place’;
20. Similar scenarios play out in other regions of the Communion, but with less vigor, banked in part by the general decline of Anglican Christianity.

In the end, the erstwhile ‘ECUSA’ is comprised of (1) ‘justice ECUSA in Exile’ (no longer part of the Anglican Communion); (2) ‘moderates of ECUSA’ (wanting everyone to get along, unhappy to have to make hard decisions; wanting to study and talk more); (3) ‘Anglican Communion ECUSA’ (non-consenting to ‘Gay/Lesbian Bishops’ and same-sex blessings; compliant to Lambeth 1.10); (4) ‘Anti-Canterbury and Anti-Liberal Anglicans’ (Various Bishops and various Common Cause Partners).

Questions: (1) will the present anti-Network concern of ‘moderates’ get shifted away to new concerns, in the light of new external Communion realities and pressures? (2) what will happen with ECUSA property struggles, given these same realities in the larger Communion? (3) where will those wanting the old ECUSA back (moderates) find their logic and their general place in the fractured reality? (4) can an ‘Anglican Communion ECUSA’ develop serious leadership and organizational acumen?

* NB: California is only an especially timely example in the scenario described above. Revisionist/progressivist/reappraiser forces will most likely, in time, consecrate a ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop and formally bless same-sex relationships. So, consents for CA could be given in June. Or, a CA consecration could be delayed. But what is sketched above describes basic working realities in the ECUSA regardless. It is hard to imagine CA not electing a ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop and it is equally hard to know what this means in terms of the unfolding drama of ECUSA. But the working realities seem relatively clear all the same.



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