My Response to the HOB Statement
The one thing that was clear from the final statement of the HOBs is that nothing is going to change. Every concern of the primates was brushed aside as having already been dealt with sufficiently in accordance with TEC's polity. For example, the Pastoral Council/Primatial Vicar scheme outlined in the Dar es Salaam Communique was tossed aside without discussion, and a hopelessly inadequate DEPO scheme under PB Schori's direction (announced late last week without details) was endorsed in its place, even though the dioceses that had appealed for APO were never consulted and rejected the new plan as insufficient the moment it was announced.
Of course, two things were included in the HOB statement that might on their face seem to address the primates' concerns. First, the House again pledged to exercise "restraint" in approving future bishop-elects whose "manner of life" posed a "challenge" to the world-wide Communion. But a pledge of "restraint" is not a prohibition, and "restraint" is purely voluntary and subject to termination any time at the whim of the party "restraining " himself or herself. Secondly, the House collectively pledged not to endorse any official, public rites for same-sex blessings, while clearly leaving a vast amount of room for the continued practice of "private, unofficial" SSBs as a form of "pastoral care" (which "private" same-sex blessings may, of course, be performed in a church in front of 500 people by a priest or bishop in full vestments using language that may sound uncannily like a formal liturgy, just so long as no official text of a rite has been approved in advance by the bishop!). There will clearly be no turning back by TEC.
My response to all of this is deep sadness. New Orleans was undoubtedly the last chance for TEC to reverse course. I didn't expect the HOB truly to repent and turn away from their path of the last several years, but frankly I had thought they would produce something that went a bit further toward meeting the actual requirements of the primates. Instead they spent their time finding loopholes that allowed them to slip through the wording of the Communique of DES. This was "Anglican fudge" of the finest quality, which was apparently endorsed at the highest levels by officials of the world-wide Communion. No doubt, many leaders of Anglicanism in the industrialized world (especially ABC Williams) will seize on this statement as just enough to hold the Communion together and ensure TEC's place at Lambeth. But I am sure that the Global South primates will not view this response as adequate. Only time will tell if the Communion itself survives.
Even though ABC Williams astonished us all last weekend by insisting that the DES Communique was not an "ultimatum" but rather a starting point for "conversation", and that Sept. 30th was not a "deadline," pretty much everyone I know--reasserter and revisionist--has understood this meeting as "the end of the line" as far as the "Global South" primates go. And many faithful Anglicans still within TEC have also seen this week's meeting as the "make or break" event for their staying within or leaving TEC. If traditionalist leaders do not treat this HOB statement as TEC's last word on the subject I fear the faithful will begin to desert us in droves. After GenCon03 we told them "wait until London," then "wait until Plano," then "wait until Dromantine," then "wait until GenCon06," then Dar es Salaam, and finally--with an actual deadline apparently in hand--"wait until New Orleans." We have all waited far too long for something to be done. Real, robust action to preserve orthodox Anglicanism must be taken now. I am heartened by the meeting of the Common Cause bishops in Pittsburgh going on at present. There may still be a future for orthodox Anglicanism in North America if these godly men have anything to say about it. May God bless their work.
As a statement by our Standing Committee released yesterday made clear, the leadership of the diocese of Fort Worth has determined that a strong sentiment exists here to move forward with realignment now. No other path now seems viable to me either. I believe it will simply be too difficult for our diocese to remain a faithful witness to Jesus Christ within our heritage as Anglican Catholic Christians if we continue to be a constituent unit of "the General Convention church" following the Great Fudge of New Orleans. The HOB meeting has made it clear that nothing will change for the better. They have set their faces like flint in the direction of radical inclusion and will not be turned aside. That means the dire situation for the orthodox still within TEC will only get worse. As uncertain as our diocesan future may be, I do not see a faithful way forward for Fort Worth that keeps us within 815's fold in light of this week's failure in New Orleans. Our future must clearly be charted by our November diocesan convention. Let us pray hard for wisdom and discernment.
May God bless the leadership of my diocese and the faithful leaders of the Common Cause Partnership, and all the faithful people and clergy of the world-wide Anglican Communion, as difficult decisions are made in the months ahead.