Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's still not a divorce... yet.

In news from the Christian Left, resolution appears to have been reached in regards to a rift between the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) and the world-wide Anglican Communion over the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy (as reported by the Guardian Unlimited.) At the end of a six-day meeting of Episcopal bishops in New Orleans, the ECUSA confirmed that it will "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."

The final statement also dealt with the
issue of blessing of same-sex unions. The ECUSA pledged "not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions" (with the caveat that such an agreement would be superseded by a "broader consensus in the communion, or until General Convention takes further action.") The next ECUSA General Convention is scheduled for 2009.

It appears evident that the church sees these moratoria as temporary, and they may be put to a trial if the Chicago diocese selects Rev. Tracey Lind from among the eight candidates who have have been nominated for consideration. Rev. Lind is a lesbian in a committed relationship, and her candidacy made national headlines, especially given the Anglican Communions previous demand that the ECUSA refrain from consecrating openly gay bishops.

Whatever happens between now and the 2009 General Convention, the arc of this story has already been decided. Like much of the Christian Left, the Episcopal Church sees itself on a trajectory of justice vis-a-vis blessing of gay unions and ordaining gay clergy. They may try their best to avoid a full-fledged split with the Anglican Communion, but they will hardly sacrifice the goals and belief systems they have established for themselves presently.

By my lights, the issue should not be whether the ECUSA will ordain gay clergy or bless same-sex unions, but rather whether it can maintain its place within the greater Anglican church. At this point, it is nonsensical to assume the Episcopal Church will value its religious teachings and traditions - not to speak of the fellowship this its brothers and sisters around the world - more than its own desire to do what it wants to do. For such is the nature of the Left, of which the Christian Left is an integral (if not steadily decreasing) part.

Expect that the ECUSA will separate from the Anglican Communion, if not over the issue of gay rights, it will be something else. Eventually, the Episcopal Church will split fully, and then fracture itself into further irrelevance. The early signs are not promising for the future. Even as the church attempts to limp along until 2009, many conservative congregations are leaving the church to seek discipleship elsewhere. A few, like the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Steenson, are forsaking the church entirely. In his case, the Episcopal bishop is soon going to become a Catholic.

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