(I originally posted this to the Integrity Lightspeed email list. However, I think I want others to read it too.)
I have been reflecting on the current situation in regard to lesbian and gay clergy and bishops and the Anglican Communion. Mostly for my own clarity of mind I wanted to talk about recent events in the light of the wider picture.
The confirmation of Canon Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles
will have a massive effect on the Episcopal Church as regards the confirmations process for episcopal elections.
First, it's happened without any corporate arm-twisting or extensive public angst on the part of the bishops and Standing Committees. They just got on with their jobs. The circus that attended upon Gene Robinson's confirmation at General Convention in 2003 was not present, and the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church just got on with it according to normal procedures. (NB: I think that 2003 was played absolutely correctly by the Diocese of New Hampshire under the circumstances of the time.)
Second, I believe that the replacement of apostate bishops and Standing Committees from San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Fort Worth reduced the number of negative votes considerably, along with reducing negative comment by bishops around the task before them.
Third, I believe that anomalies like the South Carolina confirmation of a few years ago are likely to become few. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me! Iker's confirmation was "fool me once", now Lawrence's confirmation is "fool me twice". The confirmation process needs to be a tool to ensure that the Church is united in its episcopal leadership. It's much more traumatic to have to depose bishops and reconstitute dioceses than it is to refuse consent.
The effects of Canon Glasspool's confirmation internationally will be just as dramatic.The wishy-washy response from the Archbishop of Canterbury
is, of course, entirely within his personality and previous history. He realises now that, just as the Pope of Rome hath no authority within the dominions of the Monarch of the United Kingdom, the Archbishop hath no authority in former colonies of England. He will, of course, end up applying "sanctions" to the Episcopal Church, more in sorrow than in anger. These may include such items as keeping TEC out of the Primates meetings, the Standing Committee meetings, the Anglican Consultative Council meetings, and eventually the 2018 Lambeth Conference.
However, TEC should respond with sorrowful acceptance of all this. The good news is that a lot of people will now have clear dates in their diaries through not having to attend these bodies. The decision whether to continue TEC funding of international bodies in which it will have no voice is yet to come. I would counsel that funding that is directly connected with mission in the world should continue, while funding that is connected with propping up the institutions of the Anglican Communion ought to be, at the very least, re-evaluated. This would restore a proper balance and allow those funds to be applied at home to the mission of TEC in its provinces in the US and overseas.
The response from other countries will be interesting. I suspect that Canada, Scotland, or Australia may be the next provinces to elect lesbian or gay bishops, and the effect will be much less by that time. The poorer provinces may feel unsettled by all this but if the older provinces all have a stake in this the Anglican Communion will become a rump of the Church of England and the poorer provinces of Africa, Asia, and the Southern Cone.
And thus we come to the Windsor Report. It's dead, just like Jacob Marley. Its ghost will haunt the deliberations of Anglicanism for a while yet, but now that TEC has pretty much indicated by its actions that it will not go along with it (I would be surprised if it even came up for a vote at GC 2012) there is no point in proceeding. I suspect that General Synod here in England will be consumed with talking about woman bishops for a while yet, and there have been powerful voices in that body that have said that it is impossible for GS to be tied to such an agreement in any case. In addition, the old Synod will be dissolved in July with elections being held in September/October this year. So Rowan Williams is boxed in--even his own province is finding it difficult to endorse Windsor.
So, finally, what will emerge? I think that conservative provinces will have a difficult time staying in formal communion with TEC and other more "liberal" provinces. It is possible that they will secede and form their own communion. I think that should this happen informal bonds of communication and communion will begin to form. Companion diocese arrangements (such as that between the Diocese of Southwark and dioceses in Zimbabwe) will continue even while formal bonds within the Anglican Communion are torn asunder.
Rowan Williams is now a broken Archbishop. His international standing has now been compromised. His moral authority in England has been eroding away for years as the C of E stands on the more conservative side of many social issues such as the place of lesbian, gay, transgender people in society and euthanasia for those who are terminally ill and likely to be in intractable pain during their decline. The general public is gradually pulling away from the C of E on these issues and increasingly, I think, sees the C of E and especially its Primate as oddities and throwbacks to an earlier, less complicated society. The bishops and archbishops in the House of Lords have seen their places under increasing threat in the past few years. I suspect that the wider question of House of Lords reform will continue for a while yet.
Rowan's lack of easily-understood communication skills has made him a laughing stock in society. For all his faults, George Carey was easily understandable--a kind of a bluff old Colonel-Blimp type of archbishop whose writings (such as they are) and public statements are easily disgested and readily understood--even if one doesn't necessarily agree with them. Rowan speaks like a Professor of Metaphysics at some University of Cloud Nine--it is nearly impossible to understand what he says unless you too have a doctorate of theology.
I expect that when the question of woman bishops is finally settled in 3 or 4 years' time, an exhausted Rowan will then retire. This will give the new Archbishop an opportunity to settle in before the next Lambeth Conference. It will also give an energetic new Archbishop the task of keeping what's left of the C of E together while women begin to be consecrated to the episcopate.
And I repeat my prediction: the current Bishop of Croydon, Nick Baines, is well positioned to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury. A son of the Midlands (he served his title in the Diocese of Lancaster under our recently-retired bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who then brought him down here first as an Archdeacon and then Bishop of Croydon to replace +Wilfred Wood, the first black bishop in the C of E), he is the communications person for the House of Bishops. He blogs
, he tweets
, he is very thoughtful (even if I don't always agree with what he says). And, what is more, I understand that his diary has been cleared from June or July. This often precedes a move by a Bishop to another post. It would be unusual for a suffragan Bishop to be translated during an interregnum in the suffragan's diocesan bishopric, but not unprecedented. In addition. Southwark is well-served by retired assisting bishops such as Lord Richard Harries, once of Oxford, and David Atkinson, once suffragan Bishop of Thetford and previously Archdeacon of Lewisham here in this diocese. We have one, Mark Wood, who is quite elderly but, as +Tom Butler once observed, "Put him in a taxicab and direct him to a parish and he'll be able to do what needs to be done." Baines would be well placed for Rochester, as he's a broad-minded Evangelical. However, I suspect that he's for the North at the moment and we will have to wait and see. As ++Rowan is Catholic in outlook (if not in temperament, except that he mistakes himself for Pope), the rule of Buggins' Turn means that the next ABC is likely to be an Evangelical. Cue Bishop Nick, with 4 or 5 years of running a diocese under his belt. I'd be willing to bet some money on it.
At the end of all this long, long process, which began in the 1970's (I believe) with an advertisement by Louie Crew, looking for like-minded Episcopalians who sought justice and equality for lesbians and gay men in the Church, we will have at least some Provinces of the Anglican Communion that fully practice that justice which they preach. I hope that I'll be living in one of them.