I've just come back from an Ash Wednesday service at St. Alban's Cathedral here in Dar es Salaam. It was a vivid reminder to me of the value of the Anglican Communion. I could still have attended the service without an Anglican Communion, but it would not be my Communion. And that would be a shame.
I didn't understand a word of the service. It was all in Swahili. But I understand everything important about the service. I understood that we were all there to praise God and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I understood that we are all sinners, especially as I knelt and ashes were placed on my forehead. And, finally, I understood that in the life of Jesus Christ we are redeemed, especially as I knelt and received Christ's Body and Blood.
The structure of the service was high church Anglican, so it was pretty easy to know what was happening. The only part of the service I couldn't comprehend at all, but whatever the preacher said was delivered with gusto. As I was leaving the church, several people greeted me. I was easy to spot. I was the only white person there. People were, as Tanzanians always seem to be, endlessly warm, friendly, and hospitable.
I was be saddened if we lost our special fellowship with our sisters and brothers around the globe. I've been reading some of the reactions to the Primates' Meeting. There has been some criticism of my own initially optimistic reading. Fine. I can handle disagreement, and I even enjoy the conversations it creates.
Here's why I still think this is was a positive outcome for the movement toward an inclusive church. One of the real possibilities was the immediate breakup of the Communion. Another was a rollback of the gains LGBT people have made in ECUSA. A second province to rival ECUSA was possible. All of these have been averted.
Instead, it appears to me (I'm prepared to admit I'm quite wrong!) after a quick reading that our current status quo is preserved. General Convention's actions have been endorsed, and our church has been asked to clarify its position on Rites of Blessing for same-sex couples.
Sure, I would much prefer to have full inclusion immediately. And if we are asked to roll back what we've gained, I think the cost of Communion has become too high. By staying in Communion, we from ECUSA are able to have built-in relationships to strengthen the movement for inclusion around the globe. Priests will still bless same-sex couples, but they will not be able to do this -- much to my dismay -- with officially authorized texts. So I'll Anglicanize another more progressive denomination's prayers or write my own or use Google or...
We have much work to do. Of that I am certain. But I'd rather us be doing it with people from around the world, who look to us for hope and inspiration. If ECUSA is cut off from the Anglican Communion, it will be much harder to witness to people in other nations.
For the first time, the dissidents in the US will be reined in. I don't know exactly what a Primatial Vicar will do, or how that will work, but I'm confident in our Executive Council. They will not approve a scheme that bypasses Bishop Katharine entirely, and our canons would not permit that anyway. Bishop Jack Iker will still need to face the fact that his primate is a woman.
In all this, we'll have some great conversations. The primates of the Anglican Communion will soon learn, I'm sure, from others that we may not approve of their power grab (see the last section of the communique). The House of Bishops in the US will be reminded, I'm sure, that lay people and other clergy have a role in church governance. But we're doing all this work in the Communion.
Bishop Katharine's place is secure is the primate of all those Americans legitimately in communion with Canterbury, and she's even on the primates' standing committee. And that is all good.
Don't get me wrong. I will continue to pray daily for a church that lives the Gospel by welcoming all people fully, with no regard for...anything. This was, in many respects, disappointing to me. I know it especially hurts for my lesbian and gay friends, and I look forward to hearing more from them. I choose to believe that we're headed in the right direction, albeit too slowly. Let us hope that this is true.