Ephraim Radner is a member of the Covenant Design Group, a 'canonically resident' clergyman in TEC, though 'professionally resident' as a teacher of theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada. He has written an open letter to the CDG, part of the purpose of which is to remind the CDG that before their eyes the Communion is disintegrating around the issue of homosexuality, at least to the extent in which bishops of TEC continue to undertake actions at variance with recommendations of the Windsor Report which, whatever their moral, Scriptural, or theological import and veracity, are designed to keep the Communion together. Ipso facto, the Covenant also has that job to do. You can read the open letter here.
Concomitantly one of the discussion threads on the Fulcrum Forum is entitled 'New Anglican province in North America?' Part of that discussion concerns why homosexuality appears to be both a 'Communion-breaking' issue, as well as a 'biblical/not-biblical' evaluative measure. One commenter, Roger Hurding, makes an observation in respect of the latter, which itself includes a citation from a leading Anglican theologian in the Church of England, Richard Burridge, which is worth noting:
"My central argument with regard to homosexuality is that, as well as those who discard biblical perspectives on the matter, there is a substantial minority of those with a high view of Scripture who question the absolutism of traditional interpretations on the subject, arguing that there is an exegetical debate to be had.
Richard Burridge makes the point well in his recent book, Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics:
"It is puzzling why being against homosexuality, about which Jesus and the gospels have nothing to say and Paul has only...passing references alongside many other sins equally common to heterosexuals, should have become the acid test of what it means to be truly 'biblical' in a number of quarters over recent years."
Within the AC we have learnt to agree to differ on the OoW without breaking fellowship. Might there be (should there not be) a comparable understanding within the communion with respect to homosexuality, where both positions, biblically-argued, are held by mutual respect?"
Between the Radner piece and the Fulcrum thread I am reminded of the following simplicities in regard to the future of the Anglican Communion, which I shall put as questions:
(i) The Anglican Communion has (albeit not completely successfully in every local context) been a Communion whose unity has transcended difference over the ordination of women: can it maintain that unity transcendant over difference in respect of ordination/blessing of same sex partnered persons/partnerships?
Comment: It's hard to think of anyone who answers this question with a straightforward 'Yes'; easy to think of those who answer with a straightforward 'No' or an uncertain 'Maybe' or 'I really hope so'.
(ii)Is homosexuality an issue 'worthy' of dividing the Communion in formal schism?
Comment: some are answering this question 'Yes' but for differing reasons ('Yes, our commitment to gay and lesbian Anglicans is worth it'; and 'Yes, our commitment to the authority of Scripture demands it'); others are saying either 'No' or 'I do not know'. Sometimes I think we forget that church division can occur over comparatively small yet significant differences: on the question of baptising infants or not, churches are divided from each other. On the face of it this is 'merely a question of practice with respect to chronology' - seemingly a small issue - but in reality (e.g. the reality of attempting negotiate a union of adult baptising and infant baptising churches) there is a complex of issues concerning salvation, church membership, covenant(s), sacraments, and interpretation of Scripture and the practice of the ancient church. Homosexuality is raising for the Anglican Communion significant questions around the interpretation of Scripture, the meaning of marriage, the relationship of church and culture, salvation, ethics, etc. Any one of these might not be worth schism, the accumulation of these might be.
(iii) Where is the biblical case for acceptance/endorsement of blessings of same sex partnerships and for ordination of persons in same sex partnerships being articulated in an accessible form?
Comment: personally I am not sure of the answer to this question, but it requires an answer if evangelical Anglicans are to recognise the possibility that homosexuality need not be a litmus test of 'biblical' Christianity.
(iv) In the particular matter of TEC, if homosexuality were excluded from consideration, is there a case for considering TEC to have lost its way in respect of the true character of Anglicanism (at best) or to be deliberately embracing another (heterodox, even heretical) way (at worst)?
Comment: in my view quite a lot of talk re Communion schism over the issue of homosexuality boils down to the place of TEC in the Communion (in, out, on the second tier). I sense that if TEC were 'out' or 'on the second tier' then the issue of homosexuality would remain for the Communion to engage with it, but its engagement would be gentler and kinder. But its hard to see the Communion agreeing to the ousting or demoting of TEC on the basis of a single ethical issue. It might do it on the basis of its declension from orthodox Anglican theology. But has it so declined? I know the answer is obvious to some (especially those involved in forming the New American Province) but it seem non-obvious to others. Who is to judge?
For what it is worth, I think question (ii) above (Is homosexuality an issue 'worthy' of dividing the Communion in formal schism?) is itself a crucial point of dividing of the Communion. In 2009 - a General Convention meeting year - I can see attitudes hardening on the part of those who would answer the question 'Yes' (as noted above, a group itself motivated in at least two different ways), and I can see a continuing lack of commitment to dividing on the part of others - especially lay Anglicans.