“Hail Mary” Pass?
The Episcopal House of Bishops ended its six day meeting in New Orleans yesterday with the almost unanimous approval of a Statement responding to the requests of the Anglican Primates.
Michael Paulson writes for the Globe:
The Episcopal bishops of the United States, attempting
to head off a schism over gay rights and biblical interpretation,
yesterday promised to “exercise restraint” by not approving more gay
bishops and not authorizing a formal ritual for blessing same-sex
The statement is expected to have little practical impact in the
United States. Priests in many dioceses around the country, including
Massachusetts, are already blessing same-sex unions without a
nationally authorized rite, and that practice will not stop. And even
before yesterday’s statement, several bishops had said the Episcopal
Church was unlikely to approve another gay bishop anytime soon because
of the uproar that greeted the 2003 approval of an openly gay priest,
V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.
The pledge, part of an eight-point statement issued in the final
minutes of a six-day meeting in New Orleans, reduces the likelihood
that the Episcopal Church will be ousted from the 77 million-member
global Anglican Communion, according to many US church officials. Only
one of the approximately 160 bishops in attendance could be heard
voting against the measure, although several of the most conservative
bishops had left the meeting Friday.
“I think it lessens the possibility of schism,” said Bishop M.
Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts. “I think this is going to meet the needs
of the archbishop of Canterbury, and it shows how much we want to be
part of the Anglican Communion.”
The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts
Schori, referred to the statement as a clarification of positions
already articulated by the US bishops, but said she hopes that “our
sacrificial actions and united actions” will help stave off schism.
However, Neela Banerjee of the Times writes:
Bishops of the Episcopal Church
on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican
Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality,
increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the
Episcopal Church itself.
After nearly a week of talks at their semiannual meeting in New
Orleans, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution that defied a
directive by the Anglican Communion’s regional leaders, or primates, to
change several church policies regarding the place of gay men and
lesbians in their church. But the bishops also expressed a desire to
remain part of the communion, and they appeared to be trying to stake
out a middle ground that would allow them to do so.
Still, up to five American dioceses led by theologically
conservative bishops may try to break with the Episcopal Church and
place themselves under the oversight of a foreign primate in the coming
months, said the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, a conservative Episcopal
“We’ll have the chaos here increase as more individuals, parishes
and dioceses begin moving,” Mr. Harmon said. “What will happen is that
we will see more of the disunity here spread to the rest of the
In a voice vote, all but one bishop supported a resolution, called
“A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by Our Anglican Communion
Partners.” Several conservative bishops who are considering leaving the
Episcopal Church were not in attendance.
The resolution affirmed the status quo of the Episcopal Church, both theological conservatives and liberals said.
The full text of the Statement is here.
I confess that my eyes grow dim when I encounter bureaucratic legalese, but to my Catholic “sensibilities” it looks like a “Hail Mary” pass, wafted aloft in the hope that Rowan’s outstretched arms can haul it in.