In a move that will probably go down like the proverbial lead balloon in certain quarters, and in what is certainly an interesting counterpoint to the slow moves to even get a woman Bishop in this country, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA has narrowly elected Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first ever female primate of an Anglican Church. For those of you who don’t know much about the Church hierarchy, this roughly equivalent to us having a woman as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Putting aside that many parts of the worldwide Church don’t even have women priests, let a lone female bishops, she also voted for the election of Gene Robinson three years ago, and is supportive of blessing same-sex unions. A split in the Church is probably now a foregone conclusion.
I haven’t commented for a while on the whole Anglican issue, precisely because I’m finding the whole thing increasingly tedious. However, it was with some interest that I heard the news on Thursday that the Global South Anglican primates had written a letter criticising the Archbishop of Cantebury. The full text of the letter is available on the Global South web site, however it is worth reading this letter too from the Archbishop of Nigeria in response to certain of the signatories trying to disassociate themselves from the document.
The reason I found it interesting, is that just the day before, I’d been reading Father Jake commenting on the question and answer session held at the self same Global South conference that produced the letter.
To be honest, I get the impression after reading the two sides, it seems that Rowan Williams attempt to steer some sort of middle way is not really working. On the one hand you have the Global South picking up on anything that sounds too liberal as an example of how he hasn’t really changed, and yet people on the liberal side of the argument picking up on other points that they consider are leaning too much towards the Global South opinion.
To my mind there is an assumption that it is almost inevitable that the Anglican Communion will split, and we’ll have more of the Global South sending missionaries to the Western Churches, and providing episcopal oversight, for example the bizarre situation with Sandy Millar of Alpha fame being made a Bishop of the Diocese of Uganda, but remaining living in London, or the mission of the Nigerian Anglican Church in the USA. However as I commented more than a year ago I’d be surprised if a full scale split is imminent, as each side is working on the assumption that the other will either be booted out, or leave of their own accord, not on the basis that they will have to leave themselves. Although there are the loud voices in the debate, the majority of the people in the debate still regard themselves as Anglican – and those on the other side of the argument as being the heretics.
Of course I could be totally wrong, and even now a press release is being written. However, in the short to medium term, I think we’re probably heading for some sort of fudge that will please nobody, maybe with bits of the Anglican Communion being in communion with some parts, but not with others. The next big crunch will come when the invitations go out for Lambeth 2008, but even then I half expect that some sort of fiddle to avoid the issue of whether to invite the Bishop of New Hampshire will be found.
However, I do think that without a split, we’re really doomed to more and more of this endless Church politics being played out in the international media, but is ultimately of little interest to the majority of people, especially in the UK.
Update: Looks like Ruth Gledhill of the Times also thinks that this is just another step in the increase in tension, and that the next big crunch will be 2008 too. She also links off to a somewhat more lighthearted take from the Cartoon Church.