Anglican-beat reporters, please repeat after me once again: The Africans pray, the Americans pay and the British write the resolutions. And the second truth of Anglican corporate life is like unto this: The British will do their bloody best to write those resolutions in such a way that Americans get to keep writing checks.
Thus, to the surprise of no one, MSM reports about this week's Anglican primates meetings are all over the map. No one can agree on who actually said what and if the words they said actually mean what they appear to mean. Ah, those British resolution writers are the best.
Let's work at this backwards for a moment. Right now, the most important story on the news wires comes from up in Canada:
Canadian and U.S. Anglican officials denied media reports suggesting they have temporarily withdrawn from an international council at the request of leaders who condemn their position on homosexuality.
They have not yet made any decisions in response to the request, Archdeacon Paul Feheley, Principal Secretary to the Primate, told CTV.ca in a phone interview from Northern Ireland where the meetings between the leaders took place this week.
"We're members of the Anglican Communion, we will continue to be members of the Anglican Communion," he said, noting that the talks were much like a family dispute during which family members "step back for breathing space, to sort things out."
[The] Rev. Jan Nunley of the U.S. Episcopal Church Center also denied media reports in an email to CTV.ca inquiring about the church's response.
"No, no decision has been made on the request for voluntary temporary withdrawal from the Anglican Consultative Council," Nunley wrote.
These denials are in response to early Associated Press stories that opened like this sample from The Miami Herald:
LONDON (AP) -- Anglican primates agreed late Thursday that the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would withdraw from a key body of the global Anglican Communion after failing to overcome internal church disagreements about the election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada.
A statement from leaders of Anglican national churches who met this week in Northern Ireland also called on the two churches to explain their thinking on gay issues at another Anglican meeting in June. . . . The two churches would temporarily step away from the Anglican Consultative Council, a key body for contact among the national churches and one of the four "instruments of unity.''
Some reports stated even more clearly that the Canadians and Americans had been forced out.
Whence comes this confusion? The answer is found, of course, in the work of those British resolution writers and the wiggle room found in the actual communique that is the foundation of all of these stories in the MSM and the blogosphere. Here is the crucial passage. This should be read with a strong Oxford or Upper West Side Manhattan accent for the proper effect.
14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion.
And the key word? Righto, that would be voluntarily. Thus, this is yet another document asking the North American progressives to repent -- if they choose to do so. Stronger action may or may not take place in the future. St this point, the North Americans are still smarting from a slap on the collective wrist, but nothing more than that. If there were stronger actions suggested, they remained behind the tightly closed doors of the conclave and, thus, they will have no effect until they are reported in the pages of sacred scripture.
So what did the progressive leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church say, in response to this public rebuke? As often happens with the bookish pronouncements of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, it is hard to tell precisely. Perhaps his words were written by scribes trained by the learned British. Here is the key passage that reporters are trying to parse at the moment:
Some will not be pleased with the request from the primates . . . that the Episcopal Church, along with the Anglican Church of Canada, "voluntarily withdraw" our members from the Anglican Consultative Council "for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference." This request, together with the opportunity for a hearing with the Anglican Consultative Council (paragraph 16), gives space for speaking and listening. During this time the Episcopal Church will be responding to the questions addressed to us in the Windsor Report, as the primates have requested. We will have the opportunity to speak out of the truth of our experience. I welcome this opportunity knowing that the Episcopal Church has sought to act with integrity in response to the Spirit, and that we have worked, and continue to work, to honor the different perspectives very much present within our church.
What does this mean? Clearly, lots of learning, sharing and Spirit-filled negotiating will go on in the months and years to come. But did he say the Episcopal Church would heed the majority of the world's Anglicans and stand down?
Inquiring reporters want to know. They may wait a long, long, long time for a clearly written resolution on that question. That's the point.
UPDATED: After doing some digging (I work on three different computers), I found the email with the URL for the Associated Press story by Robert Barr that caused so much buzz in the early hours of this global story. Here is how it opened:
The U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada withdrew Thursday from a key body of the global Anglican Communion under pressure from conservative church leaders distressed by the election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions in the two countries.
Though the suspension of the two churches was said to be temporary, it marked the first formal split in the communion over the explosive issues of sexuality and biblical authority.
Here is another example of a clear Barr lead on this issue, only this time it has a clear attribution to its source:
The rift over homosexuality that threatens to split the 77 million-member Anglican Communion cannot be resolved without someone admitting they're wrong, the church's spiritual leader warned Friday -- a day after leaders asked the U.S. and Canadian churches to withdraw temporarily from a key council.
The election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada have opened a potentially unbridgeable division between Anglican liberals -- many of them in North America -- and conservatives, who are strongest in Africa and Asia.