I’ve been asked what I think about the Anglican Consultative Council’s decision to suspend the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada until the next Lambeth Meeting (gathering of bishops) in 2008. There’s not much for me to say, because things played out pretty much as I’d have anticipated. I was surprised, in fact, that the vote to suspend was as close as it turned out to be.
The Episcopal Church compiled a respectable case for its having reflected long and diligently about topics pertaining to sexuality. I’d have wished it a little more thorough, with some different points of emphasis, but my colleagues did a strong job of making a case for the Episcopal Church’s stand. At the same time, a large part of that good case involved demonstrating that the Episcopal Church has been arguing (internally) about sexuality for forty years, while the consistent point of the Windsor Report and the Primates (and now the ACC) has been that the Episcopal Church has made decisions that affect other provinces without the consultation and shared deliberation that might render such decisions intelligible to those others. Sure, we’ve been talking to ourselves for forty years, but we haven’t been taking sufficient part in inter-provincial theological reasoning. Our strong report doesn’t really affect that claim, and indeed the more forceful a case we make that we’ve really worked on this a long time and resolved many of the glitches, the less excusable our relative reticence in global discussion.
Did we try? I don’t know — but as we constantly ask other provinces to listen to us, to the voices of the lesbian and gay sisters and brothers whose lives and ministries we uphold, we owe it to all concerned also to listen to our unconvinced sisters and brothers around the world who firmly maintain that we haven’t listened well enough to them.
It looks to me as though the Consultative Council reluctantly made a decision that the Episcopal Church can’t get along by being brash or headstrong — even if it may be right. I do not estimate that Lambeth 2008 will be markedly more favorably disposed toward tolerating the North American churches’ decisions regarding sexuality. We have three years to find out, however, and to figure out what it’ll mean if the Lambeth bishops finalize what the Windsor Report, the Primates, and the Consultative Council have begun.