Still with eyes overseas, the ACI has written an open letter to the bishops of The Episcopal Church which, summarising, says the Presiding Bishop and others in respect of the Diocese(s) of South Carolina have acted uncanonically. As best I can tell, nothing will change in response to the letter. I am glad they have written it since it lays out in the public domain many things which should not be hidden. But apart from that I predict the effort going into the letter is a complete waste of time.
In England there will be a fresh attempt to bring legislation to the GS re women bishops' this time with some renewed resolve that there will be women bishops as a result. This will require fresh legislation (otherwise what was voted on last week cannot be reintroduced to the next Synod until after 2015) and a clear commitment to a robust means of respecting those who do not wish to live under the authority of a woman bishop which satisfies that part of the church, thus securing the required majorities in all three houses.
I think this response from Bruce Kaye, a neighbouring Anglican across the ditch, bears reading. One might also reflect as Kiwis on why our nation's public broadcasting service has nothing similar to the Religion and Ethics site which ABC runs.
In a quite different mode is Colin Coward's Changing Attitude's reflection on the lost measure. I disagree with nearly everything he writes, including his characterization of the conservatives in the C of E, and his division between the God they (and we, elsewhere in the world) meet in the Bible and the God who Colin, Julian of Norwich and quite a few non-Christians think God is. But he does offer an interesting observation about English bishops and the argument that none truly represent the conservatives!
I draw attention to his disagreeable commentary because I think he makes a point inter alia which all Christians need to constantly consider as we think about and seek to act missionally. He charges opponents of women bishops as living inside a very tall fence which is difficult to look over (e.g.):
"I think the crisis that hit the Church last week arises from the inability of the conservative group of lay members of Synod to see over the fence. Their very concrete world is circumscribed and even if they have a description of the world beyond the fence, nothing will convince them that it describes authentic reality."
At one level this is nonsense which fails to reckon with the wisdom, insight and intelligence of the theologies which lie at the heart of (e.g.) Reform and Forward in Faith (to say nothing of being insufficiently self-critical of his own theology and its possible shortcomings). At another level, however, it puts its finger on something important: are all Christians in a shrinking church in a rapidly changing society (simultaneously secularizing and receiving immigrants from many faiths) living in a kind of stockade?
Within the stockade we have our squabbles and quibbles, and some of us, unwittingly or not, live in such a manner that makes the walls of the stockade taller. But mission is reaching beyond the stockade, and its long-term goal is not to race outside, snatch a few souls and bring them back into the stockade. Successful mission, in the history of the church, has always been about lowering the stockade walls and chattering the gospel with those outside of it in a public conversation about God.
I think the anguish in the CofE is that, quite inadvertantly, because no one on any side of the argument intended it to happen, the walls of the stockade have been raised. The desperate need in the particular circumstance of the English church is to lower those walls. To lower them by showing it is a church which is engaged in the public conversation about the dignity and integrity of womanhood through permitting what the majority of its members want, women bishops. To lower them by showing it is a church which finds a way to respect the integrity of its own beliefs, that is, its historical theology founded on Scripture and developed in tradition which has led a minority to passionately believe that women bishops are inconsistent with those beliefs - only such a church can engage in a society with many minority groups.
Contrary to Colin Coward, I do not think maintaining such beliefs is a form of spiritual ignorance or immaturity. Indeed such beliefs are nearly always intrinsic to Anglican churches as a whole avoiding the heresy of becoming indistinguishable from the Labour Party at prayer. (Not that there is anything bad about discovering that the Labour Party prays!!).
If the church - any church, everywhere - is to make a difference in the world, it is through our ideas (theology), the clarity with which we hold them and the clarity with which we communicate them. Our habit of building walls between church and world seems an inescapable part of being Christian. Breaking them down again is our inescapable obligation as disciples in the kingdom of God.
To return to TEC and ACI. The tragedy unfolding in South Carolina is the loss of missional vision. Canonical rules, whether observed or broken, are triumphing over gospel imperatives. It is no part of Anglicanism to build stockade walls with canons. The way forward for the C of E is to find as few canons as possible to make women bishops happen and a reformed mission move forward in faith.