Is This the Parting Point Between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion?

Drew asked me an interesting question regarding this in response to a previous post:

Do you think that at any point in the foreseeable future, the ABC or the rest of the Anglican Communion will sever its ties with the ECUSA in favor of one of its rivals?

The short answer is this: I think it’s finally moved into the realm of the plausible, where it wasn’t before.

What I see here is two people–Rowan Williams and Katharine Jefferts-Schori–who are both in “no win” and “no lose” situations at the same time.

Let’s start with Rowan Cantuar++.  I’ve always found it hard to believe that the author of “The Body’s Grace” and the chief prelate of the state church of a country as committed to the elevation of the LGBT community as the UK is would actually cut The Episcopal Church loose.  However, the Africans–and by them I’m thinking of the big provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and others–have forced the issue.  What they have told Williams in word and deed (esp. with GAFCON) is that, if the Church of England goes with TEC, there will be a new “Anglican Communion” and CoE won’t be a part of it, let alone at its centre.  And the Africans have the numbers in their favour.  Williams’ response is to go along with this in as plodding manner as he can get away with (and he’s a master at this,) hoping that TEC will back down on its continued ordination of openly LGBT bishops, but yet prepared for the worst if it doesn’t.

Jefferts-Schori, for her part, cannot do this.  She and her church, for a variety of reasons, are in an irreversible movement towards not only the complete admission of LGBT people into the life of the church, but also their control of same.  In her idea, she has no alternative (and the recent House of Bishops confrontation with Canon Kearon underscores this) but to move in this direction.  The downside is that one of their legal defences is that TEC is the “official” constituent of the AC in the US, but I don’t think that’s a big of an issue in court as it is outside except for a few cases.  Her hope is that the CoE won’t cut its ties with TEC; that’s why she’s shoring up the relationships she has in the mother church (and that shoring up is what led to “Mitregate.”)

One thing that everyone seems to forget is that membership in the AC is a multi-legged stool, but it’s not clear (to me at least) whether the stool needs all of its legs to stand or just one.  It’s possible that Williams could get TEC booted from the ACC and the Primates Meeting and keep TEC in full communion with the CoE, at which point TEC could still claim that it’s part of the AC (that’s a stretch, but then again…)  And then there’s the issue of CoE recognising the ACNA…

What we have here is two organisations playing a game of ecclesiastical chicken.   The best result is that both will swerve, in which case no one wins.  The worst result is that neither does, in which no one wins.  That’s why I’ve always said that North American Anglicans need to be about their mission and let the Communion politics take care of themselves.

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