My primary reaction to the HOB document is that the majority of the bishops do not understand the gravity of the situation in the communion and the fragility of the communion at this moment. The premise of this document is that a promise not to give consent for another bishop in a same-sex relationship before the next Lambeth and a promise not to change the formularies and authorize “public rites” for same sex blessings will buy a place at the Anglican table and enable the American church to participate in communion synods as advocate for the gay agenda by pushing the listening process. The fundamental dishonesty of the situation with regard to same sex blessings where the permission is given not to ask for permission has not been lost on the press. It is hard to understand why the HOB thinks the rest of the communion should not feel that this is simple insincerity. The provision of a separate paragraph for pushing to have Gene Robinson included in the Lambeth meeting is a stunning bit of denial. Clearly if Gene Robinson is present at Lambeth in any kind of official capacity the attendance of Global South bishops will be dramatically reduced. If Rowan Williams allows his name to be invoked with impunity as the sponsor of that effort it will be another and perhaps final blow to his credibility.
Especially disappointing is the refusal to consult with the dissenting bishops to arrive at a scheme for alternative oversight that would be acceptable to them. Rather than offering another take or leave it plan an invitation to the dissenting dioceses to put forward a plan of their own would have communicated some Christian charity. The majority in the HOB seems to perfect the art of being poor winners.
The resolution does empower the presiding bishop to consult with the primates on a plan but there is no good faith gesture in the report that gives ground for hope of a real negotiation. I am very sorry that Bishop Howe’s plan was not given greater consideration.
The HOB has clarified that it commits itself not to give consents to another election like Gene Robinson. It continues to claim that encouraging local option for same sex blessings shouldn’t be communion breaking as long as “public rites” are not authorized. This seems to me to be a claim that we should be able to violate our own rules as long as we do it quietly. I can’t imagine the primates buying it.
In sum the document brings the communion closer to schism. If Rowan Williams does not now disassociate himself from the American church leadership and its intransigence he will become irrelevant as a force for keeping the communion together and the break between the Global South and the rest of the communion will be accelerated.