Somehow I find the news from the primates of the Anglican Communion a bit more heartening. Listening to the comments of what happened yesterday, to the two bishops on Newsnight and Rowan’s words at the press conference, (the brief ones in the BBC news report), the sense I got was of a church that is beginning to be a great deal more honest with itself. It may have been there, but there was little sign tonight of the pretence that all agreed about what was right or what was Biblical, or who was more hurt. Instead there was an acknowledgement of profound difference between honest believing Christians, Archbishops even. There is even to be a commission reporting in twelve months which is really rather sensible.
What I wonder were their discussions like? It must be hard to accuse a fellow archbishop, leader of millions of Anglicans, of being unchristian or unthinking, particularly in front of all the others there. Perhaps it forced them to behave rather better than if they thought those other archbishops were not watching, or listening and they were playing simply to their own audiences. I wonder, did they pick up Rowan’s subtle remarks or miss them? I rather think that perhaps they heard them.
We may not have seen white smoke coming out of anyone’s ears but the legal fragility of the Anglican Communion is an incontrovertable fact. There is little to secede from, and that is actually quite helpful. They have come to realise that in order to make a statement about this, the most a national church can do is to declare itself out of communion with some other church. It seems unlikely that any at this stage want to be out of communion with England or Canterbury. This may therefore end up working in a similar way to women Bishops. Some do have them, some do not, but they remain Anglican, and the bishops are careful about what they do when visiting countries which do not share the same view. Surely this will be the same, but potentially with a few, probably very few, choosing to be out of communion with say ECUSA. Perhaps we can learn to live with that untidiness, that disunity for the sake of a greater unity in remaining Anglican and connected through Canterbury.
The two bishops on Newsnight even appeared to agree that this was not a first order priority, (was that to give something away?) that other things, like HIV, Aids and the Middle East were more pressing problems. If that is the case, to prove it, what are the chances that we can look forward to another Anglican summit on those issues?