Fog, candor and the story that goes on forever

gandalf frodo moria aicnWell, this is blunt. This is one of the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon's early posts at his TitusOneNine blog, reacting to the statement released yesterday by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops.

Cue the finale of the "Lord of the Rings" soundtrack and sing along with "Into the West."

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

And then, in a real look over the edge, he offers:

"Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went abroad; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last one night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise."

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

So why is this Anglican traditionalist so upset, if so many of the mainstream press reports about the meeting -- especially the early Associated Press coverage -- have things right? I mean, the headline in the conservative Washington Times bluntly states: "Episcopal bishops back off support for gays."

But this is the rare case where conservative Episcopalians are all waking up this morning, hitting the Internet and then most of them are (please sit down) having to speak words that they never expected to say under these circumstances: "The New York Times gets it."

Yes indeed, the Times has the best report that I have seen today on the business-as-usual statement that the U.S. bishops served up at the end of their tense gathering in New Orleans. The headline on the Neela Banerjee story was blunter than blunt: "Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church's Orders." And here is the top of the story:

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. ...

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.

There is all kind of commentary out there in the usual places, too many to list on this busy morning. But you can always start with Stand Firm on the right and Episcopal Cafe or Episcopal Life on the left.

Maybe.

800px MithlondwideAt the moment, there is some interesting silence or near silence on the left.

What we may be watching is a moment of confusion among the progressives, between those who are in favor of being candid and those who are in favor of strategic silence and yet another via media Anglican compromise. After all, the compromises always push -- slowly -- in the direction of change and away from tradition.

With that in mind, I would suggest that those seeking reaction on the left turn to the Inclusive Church weblog, where the Rev. Scott Gunn's reaction to the bishops' statement was, amazingly enough, not all that different from that of Harmon. In fact, there are links in this blunt Gunn post that hint at a candid, honest dialogue about what might happen next.

This is one of those moments where there is candor on the honest left, candor on the right and a large fog bank in the middle, where the lawyers and Episcopal Church establishment are taking their time and, perhaps, trying to run out the clock. Perhaps they are hoping that the Global South bishops will make the first big move, which might allow the ecclesiastical strategists in England to make the final ruling.

This story is, sadly, going to run on and on and on. Once again, repeat after me: The Africans pray, the Americans pay and the British write the resolutions.

Gunn had this to say, in a weblog posting that I quoted in my Scripps Howard News Service column today. Click here if you want to see that piece.

By the way, it helps to know that "SSB's" stands for "same-sex blessings" in the following material:

SSB's are happening all over the place, with official sanction of diocesan authorities in a few places. Now I happen to believe that SSB's are completely in line with Christian practice and belief. And I long for the day when we can celebrate these blessed moments publicly as a church. But we're trying to have it both ways here. We're doing them, but we're saying that they're not sanctioned.

As a province, I think we [the Episcopal Church] should do one of two things. We should either come out and say what we're doing and why (with strong biblical and theological support), or we should stop doing it. If we take the first option, let's face the consequences, if any. It is neither honest nor helpful to do something and then say we're not doing it. It smacks of the worst kind of American imperialism to tell the primates that we've honored their requests, when we really haven't.

Please use the comments pages to post the URLs of the best news reports and commentary pieces that you have seen today. And, as a personal note, let me know if you find anyone who is starting to sing "Into the East."

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