Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Post-Tanzania Outlook: Weasel Words Will Win

I’ve slept on the Primates Communique and Schedule and, boy, is my neck sore. And I still think it will prove insufficient.

Now I am encouraged by the September 30th deadline for the Episcopal Church to respond adequately. Such a quick deadline shows a determination to resolve this (at least somewhat) in time for Lambeth ’08. And the deadline, combined with ++Rowan’s statements at the press conference, indicate that TEC’s response will affect invitations to Lambeth.

And a good number of people whose opinions I respect like the communiqué. I was particularly encouraged to hear ++Orombi’s no nonsense take on where we are.

And the communiqué asked TEC to stop the lawsuits. I had written that this persecution of faithful congregations would get the Primates' attention. I’m glad to see them directly address it.

But I see two serious weaknesses, one within the communiqué and one without.

Within, I insist that the Pastoral Council is a recipe to stack the process of TEC’s response. I’ve yet seen little concern about this out there in the Anglican blogdom. But I’m stomping my foot and saying I’m not the one missing something concerning this. The Pastoral Council and its composition is vital. It is given a great deal of authority and responsibility for both Windsor compliance and pastoral provision. From the communiqué:

A Pastoral Council

• The primates will establish a Pastoral Council to act on behalf of the primates in consultation with The Episcopal Church. This Council shall consist of up to five members: two nominated by the primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council.

• The Council will work in co-operation with The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of the bishops participating in the scheme proposed below to

_ negotiate the necessary structures for pastoral care which would meet the requests of the Windsor Report (TWR, §147–155) and the primates’ requests in the Lambeth Statement of October 2003 [1];

_ authorise protocols for the functioning of such a scheme, including the criteria for participation of bishops, dioceses and congregations in the scheme;

_ assure the effectiveness of the structures for pastoral care;

_ liaise with those other primates of the Anglican Communion who currently have care of parishes to seek a secure way forward for those parishes within the scheme;

_ facilitate and encourage healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church, between The Episcopal Church and congregations alienated from it, and between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion (TWR, §156);

_ advise the Presiding Bishop and the Instruments of Communion;

_ monitor the response of The Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report;

_ consider whether any of the courses of action contemplated by the Windsor Report §157 should be applied to the life of The Episcopal Church or its bishops, and, if appropriate, to recommend such action to The Episcopal Church and its institutions and to the Instruments of Communion;

_ take whatever reasonable action is needed to give effect to this scheme and report to the primates.

And with two of the five Pastoral Council members being chosen by the Presiding Bishop (and NONE by the Network), it’s hamstrung from the beginning. All it takes is one weak appointment from the Primates or the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it will practically be a rubber stamp for TEC. If the Primates and ++Rowan make three strong appointments, it has a chance to work. But three out of three is not a good bet.

The weakness without is whether there will be the will to exclude some or most of TEC from Lambeth and other aspects of the Communion when they fall short of what is being asked of them. I just don’t see the will being there. Look at the difficulty the Primates had in Tanzania already.

I didn’t have a prediction for the Primates Meeting, but I do have a prediction for its aftermath. The TEC House of Bishops will respond with weasel words that try to look like compliance, but aren’t. A majority of the Pastoral Council will pat them on the head and say that’s a “very serious” response and report that TEC is in compliance with Windsor/Tanzania. ++Rowan and a majority of the Primates go along with the charade. And everybody except Gene Robinson gets invited to Lambeth.

Is there a possibility that a majority of the House of Bishops refuses to go even that far to comply with the requests of Windsor/Tanzania? Yes. The Episcopal Left would rather TEC just say no and ditch the communion, and they will pressure the bishops to do so. From a very different perspective, I, too, would greatly prefer an honest statement of non-compliance from the HOB.

But I expect weasel words will win.

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