My subtitle: Anglicans are uncommonly civil
Episcopalians are the American branch of the worldwide Anglican communion. They abandoned the name Anglican following the American War of Independence and kept the name Episcopal with the successful conclusion of that conflict. But they've never stopped being Anglican even when it got a bit difficult when the Americans lacked a bishop -- bishops can only be made by other bishops. But that obstacle was eventually worked around and the rift with the UK church healed.
More recently, the Episcopalians got themselves in hot water with the Anglican communion by consecrating an openly gay bishop. Canadian Anglicans also crossed a line regarding blessing of gay marriages.
I'm pretty sure that would not have caused a stir except that third world members had strong objections. If it was up to the English curch and the Archbishop of Canterbury I have a feeling that the attitude toward the American and Canadians churches would be to-each-his-own. There'd be no membership revolt in the UK because there aren't many members left in the church, just income-generating real estate to create the appearance of lively church.
The communion has let the Americans (and Canadians) know that they're not happy with their actions, and that it was inconsiderate of them not to consider the effect of their actions on the worldwide communion.
Which brings me to my subtitle, uncommonly civil. Here's what an advisory board of five primates (bishops) came up with:
Probably I'm only reflecting my ignorance, but is there any other organization which would handle a dispute this way? And where else except in the Anglican communion would this be the response:
The 5-page communiqué requested that the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada "voluntarily withdraw" their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council, the Communion's main legislative body, until the next Lambeth Conference in 2008. It reaffirmed the importance of provincial autonomy and interdependence, and committed the primates to the pastoral support and care of homosexuals. It also committed the primates to a promise "neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions," calling on Williams to appoint a panel that could supervise the "adequacy of pastoral provisions" for those in theological dispute with their bishop or province.
Carnley described the weeklong meeting as "a very agreeable process .... because it was clear that we were all of a common mind." He emphasized that the North American churches are not being asked to withdraw from the Anglican Communion. "We see the need for a listening process and we think that the withdrawal of members from the ACC will create a space ... to allow the listening process to happen," he said. "Just as importantly we have called on the primates to cease cross-boundary intervention. The intervention of bishops from outside that church is unhelpful and we have committed ourselves unanimously."
[Orginally posted on The Emirates Economist, 26 Feb 2005.]
In an interview with ENS following the meeting, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said that "the week had been difficult but we have emerged in a very good place."
"The report seeks to make space in a number of areas for different perspectives to be held with integrity," he added. "My sense is that the communiqué ... asks for us to slow down a bit, lets us make room for one another, let us reason together, lets us explore more deeply some of the underlying issues that are represented by some of the actions that have recently occurred."
One thing that has become very clear through listening to the voices of other primates, Griswold added, is "how very different the contexts are in which we seek to articulate the Gospel and be faithful to the ministry of Christ."