UPDATED: The Meet Is On

The much-awaited and feared Anglican summit on the worldwide denomination’s GLBT-issues debate is under way. Thirty-seven of the 38 church’s primates are expected to decide what it can do to keep the diametrically opposed liberal and conservative sides from splitting the centuries-old Anglican Communion. From Australia’s The Age:

As they gather for prayers at the medieval palace that has been the London home of archbishops of Canterbury for nearly 1000 years, they know they will conceivably be taking part in the last such gathering that the church may hold.

If any reminder is needed, the procession will go through the carved 17th century rood screen originally erected by Archbishop William Laud, the last man to take on the Puritans and lose his head, executed in 1645.

No such fate awaits Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, who less than a year into his archiepiscopacy knows that the crisis into which the Anglican Communion has manoeuvred itself – over how it deals with homosexuals in its midst – has the potential to split it down the middle.

I wish them luck in maintaining their unity, but I doubt the anti-gay side will give in, and I pray that liberals will hold true to what they know is loving and honorable. I suspect, however, that the Archibishop of Canterbury, supposed liberal Dr. Rowan Williams, will cave.

The US wing of the Anglican Communion is the Episcopal Church. The ECUSA set off the denominational row by elevating an openly gay man to the position of Bishop of New Hampshire two months ago. Its Episcopalian News Service reports from a recent meeting of the arch-conservative American Anglican Council that many anti-gay denomination members want control of the American branch given to them — if they get their way.

Gradually, as [Pittsburgh Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr.] described it, a “Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes” would emerge in North America, aligned with African and Asian Anglicans-a remnant ecclesiola in ecclesia, a church within a church. The AAC would facilitate the process, providing structures for the new “replacement province,” which will embrace a variety of breakaway Episcopal churches, ranging from the Reformed Episcopal Church to the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).

The only sticking point, Duncan admitted, might be the ordination of women — which is acceptable in some parts of the global South and not in others. Duncan chalked that up to the failure to sustain “a process of reception” about the issue. “We need to develop understandings of how our two integrities can proceed alongside one another, until our Good Lord eventually makes this matter plain to our children and grandchildren,” said Duncan.

The right-wingers also want the leadership of the US Episcopal General Conference rebuked for approving the gay bishop. Last August, however, Bishop Duncan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he would not remove the Pittsburgh Diocese from the ECUSA. He, however, is one of the American clergy who went to Anglican leaders for assistance following the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire.

While Duncan said neither he nor clergy who stand with him want to lead people out of the Episcopal Church, he noted “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” As a last resort, he said, he would make provision for clergy or congregations who want to follow the church’s new policies. “If they want to go,” he said, “I’ll let them go.”

We shall see — and perhaps soon — if the crisis will lead to such an occurrence.

As you may know, I am quite pessimistic. But someone in a much better position to opine on the matter believes the outcome will be a positive one for all involved.

The Scotsman reports that the Primate the Church of Ireland, the Most Rev Robin Eames, making a statement after seven hours of discussions in London, said he believed that the summit meeting is moving toward a consensus.

“In Northern Ireland terms I am known quite simply as the divine optimist, I do not know whether that classifies me as a betting man but I would say I am optimistic that the Anglican communion will emerge from this stronger than it has ever been.

“What I would also like to predict is that there will be much greater honesty than perhaps we have had until now.”

He added that he would “hazard a guess” that the summit was moving towards a “consensus situation” – but what form the consensus would take would not become obvious until tomorrow.

/Tomorrow. It’s only a day away.

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