Things will come to a point at the September 19-25 meeting of the Americans, when the Episcopal Church’s bishops gather in New Orleans. Williams has been invited to give an address and answer questions. It could be the most important performance of his career as the archbishop of Canterbury.
As has been reported by the press, the Episcopal bishops last spring were given three requests and a deadline by the global Anglican primates. They were asked to stop consecrating actively gay bishops (meaning no more Gene Robinsons), to stop formal blessings of same-sex unions, and to provide space for those who dissent from the regnant liberal theology of the Episcopal Church. The deadline was September 30, so the upcoming meeting will in effect signal definitively whether or not the American church will decide to remain in step with the Anglican Communion or instead detach itself and go its own way.
Williams’ stance at the meeting will inevitably signal whose side he is on. The majority of the Episcopal Church’s bishops do not want to comply with the primates’ requests, as they signaled vociferously last spring. The question is: If they refuse, what if anything will happen to them? Will the American bishops get to come to Lambeth and participate in the other global conferences of Anglicanism no matter what they do, or will refusal mean that they’ll have to sit at home?
It’s an important question, because sitting at home would mean that the American church would no longer have any say in the decision-making bodies of Anglicanism. In effect, it would mean that the Episcopal Church would no longer be a fully constituent part of the Anglican Communion—which, especially when viewed in light of Anglicanism’s history, would be a striking change. Many American bishops who otherwise would support Gene Robinson would at the least be given pause by such a momentous choice.
Of course, it is just this choice that the Americans want to avoid, as, most likely, does Rowan Williams. In many ways Williams is close theological kin to the American church, and it will be extraordinarily difficult for him to prosecute this sort of separation.
But as wrenching as it may be for him, it is probably the only way to keep the majority of Anglicanism together.Read the whole thing here.