Timetable For "Respectful Separation"?
Many orthodox Anglicans in North America were heartened a couple of weeks ago by the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent remarks in his letter to the primates of the Anglican Communion referring to a possible "need for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between constituent and associated elements." For many traditionalists in the US, this was what we had been waiting for--the hint of a future endorsement from Canterbury of an "amicable divorce" between the Anglican Communion Network and the rest of TEC.
But take a look at the language about the proposed Anglican Covenant in the Archbishop's recent address on the Anglican Communion to the General Synod of the C of E (boldfaced emphasis added by me):
Mention of this leads me to say a word about my own published reflections in the wake of General Convention. In spite of some interesting reporting and some slightly intemperate reaction, this contained no directives (I do not have authority to dictate policy to the provinces of the Communion) and no foreclosing of the character and content of such a covenant. Were any such arrangement to be proposed, it would of course have to be owned by the constitutional bodies governing Provinces.
The proposed Anglican covenant would be an important part of determining who is within the "first tier" Anglican fold and is, therefore, entitled to full membership in the Communion. Presuming that the Network endorses the covenant and the rest of TEC does not, this would be prima facia evidence in working out the terms of the possible "divorce" in North America. Action one way or the other on the proposed covenant may in fact be a prerequisite to "respectful separation" within provinces. But the tone of his recent address to Synod indicates that the Archbishop is still thinking in terms of TEC's normal governing structures (i.e., General Convention) handling the issue of whether to endorse the proposed Anglican covenant or not. This means, to my reading that ABC is thinking in terms of traditionalists staying put within TEC until GenCon09--or perhaps even GenCon12 if there are "constitutional" changes involved, as seems possible. Thus the end of the uneasy Anglican status quo in North America may not come until GenCon12!
But will there be any orthodox Anglicans left within the bounds of TEC by 2012? I rather doubt many will remain six years from now. The Archbishop must realize that events have overtaken the "business as usual" procedures of constitutional church government. The Anglican world is in crisis and strong leadership is called for. If we are to avoid the mass exodus of the orthodox from the Communion, particularly in North America, definitive action must come more quickly than two General Conventions down the road!