In some ways I feel like the prodigal (read: extravagant) child being welcomed back home. When I was little my father used to sing: "Riggidy-jig, All the way home," as we drove into our driveway after a long trip. It has been a long journey these last 4 years.
Last evening the House of Bishops (HOB) has made it quite clear that I am welcome in the Church again. In a very measured way the House of Bishops in a meeting in TX responded to the Primates' Communique from Tanzania. In her commentary, Elizabeth Kaeton likened the statement to the work of a healthy, non-anxious pastor in a dysfunctional congregation. I would be more likely to say that this is the most reasoned statement by the House of Bishops since GC2003 showing that they understand that 'homosexuality' is merely the red herring in the current flap between some in the Anglican Communion. The issue is about power, who has it, who can wield it and how it is going to be perceived.
It is clear that the African Churches have more Anglicans than does the US. It is clear that the North American Churches wield the financial clout. But the mistake of the Primates and the virulent minority of The Episcopal Church (TEC) was not paying attention to the unwavering stock that the American Church has in its democratic polity which includes the lay and the ordained as well as bishops. We may be "episcopal" in that we have bishops, but we have never allowed those bishops free reign. They are accountable to the dioceses that elect them, and that accountability goes throughout the Church. It is heartening to hear from the HOB that they understand their place in the scheme of American Anglicanism.
It was also helpful to hear them say unequivocally that LGBT persons are part of the Church and welcome at all levels of participation and call. In effect, they just cancelled out B033 (the 2006 convention resolution that said there would be a moratorium on the election of bishops whose manner of life was a problem for the rest of the Communion).
From the report of +Gene Robinson, there was a clear and palpable sense of resolve by the HOB to be about their work without rancor and without too much debate. He felt supported which is an important point for me. Now I wonder what this means for those dioceses that called themselves "Windsor Compliant." Will they hold out against welcoming gays or will they accept the Constitution and Canons (C&C)? Hopefully we will see the end of Primatial Vicar and Alternative Oversight and respectfully accept the resignations of those clergy who opt to form another denomination, recognizing that they have, like Ft. Worth, not been Episcopalian for almost 30 years.
I do not see this as a victory for liberals or gays, however. I do see it as a victory for Constitutional government in the Church which I have seen being eroded by lax and 'make nice' attitudes. Hopefully this will provide the shot in the arm of clergy and laity to become adept at the law of the C & C's. If we do not, we will lose our voice in the Church and American democratic Anglicanism will fade into history. But the statement of the HOB has made it clear that fading is not what they have in mind.
What will the Primates do? Who knows? Maybe they will say that ++KJS won't be welcome at their meetings, but they have let her in once... I do not believe that the Primates have the power to put us out of the Anglican Communion. Is that not the work of the Anglican Consultative Council on which TEC folk sit?
Once again we are dealing with authority--the authority of monolithic patriarical voices or the mass of people who have joined together to make the Church into a place where the witness of love is paramount.
Is this over? No, the journey continues. But the way has been made a bit clearer with the HOB statement and resolutions. A way has been made in the wilderness and I can see a way home. Hallelujah!