Totally missing the point
The primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion just met in Tanzania, and one of the things they discussed was the U. S. Episcopal Church. A few years ago the leaders of the Anglican Communion had produced the Windsor Report, which had invited the Episcopal Church (TEC) to repent of its going ahead with controversial theology without consulting the rest of the Communion, of consecrating a practicing homosexual bishop, and of blessing same-sex unions; it also requested that TEC stop such consecrations and blessings.
Since TEC's response to the Windsor Report has so far been less than satisfactory, the primates, in a communiqué issued at the end of their recent meeting, decided upon an interim plan to deal with the Episcopal Church until an Anglican Covenant is solidified. Among the items in this plan is a request that TEC unequivocally refrain from blessing same-sex unions:
In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church ... make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention....
The Episcopal bishops have until September 30 to make their response to the primates. If the Episcopal bishops do not give a satisfactory response by then, their membership in the Anglican Communion may be at risk.
Already some of the progressives in TEC, such as Susan Russell, Mark Andrus, and Steven Charleston are lamenting this plan and speaking defiantly about it. One in particular, Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., has commented in a way that I find almost defies belief. About the section of the plan that I have quoted above, regarding same-sex blessings, he says:
The definition of "authorizing," as in we must renounce the authorization of "any Rites for Blessing of same-sex unions," by Sept. 30 will be hotly debated. As I have said before, I think we are being given some room here, as there is a difference between authorizing and allowing. I take comfort in those capital letters. We are being asked not to approve texts. Very, very few dioceses have approved texts. Our diocese doesn't. So I think we can comply with this.
When I read this, I thought, "Does he not get it? Or is he just spinning it to his readership?" In charity, I will assume that he is not being deceitful; but in that case he must be very obtuse. He is missing the whole point. The primates are not merely asking TEC to refrain from writing official liturgies; they are asking TEC to stop doing same-sex blessings altogether.
But Naughton's response to their request is basically, "Hey, this will work. They don't want us to authorize official Rites of Blessing (with capital letters). But we're not doing that. We're only allowing unofficial rites of blessing (without capital letters). So we're just fine! ‘Authorizing’ is way different from ‘allowing,’ and ‘Rites of Blessing’ [capital letters] are different from ‘rites of blessing’ [no capital letters]."
Really, how self-deceived can a person be? It is hard to believe.
The sad thing is, if Naughton and the other progressives press ahead with this strategy, it is not going to work for them. He ought to be smart enough to see this. If they go on with their lower-case rites of blessing, then in September, when the primates ask them why they continued with same-sex blessings, those primates are not going to be satisfied with TEC’s playing about with words. The primates will not be happy if TEC says to them, "Yes, we did comply with your request; we did not authorize any Rites of Blessing; what you see here that we were doing was merely allowing rites of blessing." The primates will not nod in dawning comprehension and say, "Ah, we understand; that's different. OK, no problem." No, in September, if this is TEC's response to the primates' request, then the prospects for TEC as a member of the Anglican Communion do not look good.
Deborah Milam Berkley