Jonathan Petre Church of England Newspaper September 6
Which way will Rowan jump? With just a fortnight to go before the crucial meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops in New Orleans, that question is becoming ever more pressing. But the answer remains frustratingly elusive. Few believe that the American bishops are willing or able to deliver the moratoriums asked for in the Dar Es Salaam communiqué.
But what will Dr Williams do about it? The tactics displayed by Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office in recent months have done little to dissipate the clouds of confusion. The messages coming out have been mixed, to say the least. On the one hand, sources close to the Archbishop are insisting that he is committed to following through the Dar Es Salaam communiqué when he flies out for talks with the American bishops during the first two days of their meeting. But how strictly will he insist on its terms?
Even if the American bishops overcome their initial huffiness at being asked to respond at all, and that is not certain, it is difficult to see how they could come up with a response that is both adequate and credible. The liberal tide seems to be running just too strongly. Too many of the American bishops have pledged their allegiance to the pro-gay camp. A lesbian is on the shortlist to be elected as the next bishop of Chicago; Gene Robinson has given the goahead
for clergy in the New Hampshire diocese to conduct same-sex blessings; at least two dioceses are developing official blessing rites. Moreover, the American bishops have already resoundingly rejected the primates’ scheme for pastoral oversight for American conservatives. The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is understood to be preparing yet another version that may well prove acceptable to her liberal colleagues, but is highly unlikely to pass muster with the conservatives.
It also appears that there is little room for manoeuvre. Dr Williams himself, in a press conference following the eleventhhour agreement of the communiqué at the primates’ meeting in Tanzania, said it would be ‘difficult’ if the Americans failed to follow its exact wording. So, if the Americans do fail to respond adequately in New Orleans, it would seem that Rowan will have little choice but to carry out the implicit threat in the communiqué and withdraw their invitations to Lambeth. Or does it?
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