You almost have to smile

You almost have to smile at the bishops of the Episcopal Church in the states. It would appear that they have managed to get Rowan Williams the headlines that he wanted without changing their policy on anything at all.

The BBC is reporting things particularly inaccurately.

They say today:

Leaders of the Episcopal Church in the United States have agreed to halt the ordination of gay clergy to prevent a split in the Anglican Church.

The Church will also no longer approve prayers to bless same-sex couples.

But neither statement is true at all. The bishops have not said they will halt the ordination of gay people. Some people think that they said that they would not ordain any more gay bishops. That is not quite right either. The polity lingers on. If any diocese elects a bishop who is in a partnership, it will still be for the other diocesan bishops with jurisdiction & Standing Committees to vote on whether to confirm the election just as they do for all bishops. We might presume that quite a few of them would vote against such an appointment at this time. We must also assume that quite a few would vote in favour. The process has changed not a jot as a result of this latest meeting.

As to the claim that they will no longer approve same-sex blessings, it is nonsense. They have not approved them previously so they can’t stop. There are no formal liturgies for such things in the States and never have been. Nor are there any in Scotland. Clergy in the US can still respond as pastorally today to gay couples seeking a blessing as they could yesterday. Again, almost the same policy as in Scotland.

Congratulations to ++Rowan and to the US House of Bishops.

One step ahead of the game as usual.

[You can read their actual words here]


  1. Eamonn says

    Maybe this is the contemporary way of being ‘as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents’!

  2. It is the contemporary way of letting your “yes” be “no” and your “no” be “yes,” or “for now,” or “maybe,” or “perhaps” or . . . .

  3. asphodeline says

    Thank you, I knew I could rely on finding a sensible answer to that report here.
    I woke with a horrible headache and couldn’t work out what the dear BBC reporter was on about!

  4. Anonymous says

    I’m still not quite sure of what to make of the HOB statement except that it more or less reiterated the resolutions of General Convention, which was what I expected. And a timely reminder about the (non)Listening Process.
    I’ve seen it said that perhaps the intention was to irk the laity (both conservative and liberal) so that they unite against a common enemy – the HOB.

    I know they can’t say much else without General Convention, but I think they could have said it more clearly. It could have been worse, but I still think it could have been better. But then better would be not having the wretched Gen Con resolution in question anyway, and that won’t have a chance to get undone until 2009.

  5. Elizabeth says

    Opps. That ‘anonymous’ is actually me. I never was great at filling in forms.

  6. It’s still a bit wimpy of them though isn’t it? And why is the Scottish Episcopal church letting the US get the blame for liberalism instead of coming out firmly in favour of equality for homosexuals? I can see that there are some aspects of non- church life that the church wishes to avoid – binge drinking for instance. But why is the church so far behind on good things that have happened, such as civil partnerships? I live in a relatively conservative Scottish town and when I said I was going to a civil partnership party it raised the odd eyebrow, but by and large people weren’t remotely fussed. Why can’t the church just accept it’s a good thing if their clergy can have stable relationships with partner of choice? Signing off in bemusement……………….

  7. kelvin says

    Steg – you say, “And why is the Scottish Episcopal church letting the US get the blame for liberalism instead of coming out firmly in favour of equality for homosexuals?”

    My question is, what is the next thing you would like to happen in Scotland? The Primus is doing his bit this weekend for Inclusive Church. It would seem (!) that same-sex blessings are happening more publicly now than they have been happening before. (I know they have been going on in Scotland for at least 30 years). I’m also not aware of anyone “speaking for the church” who has said anything bad about civil partnerships. I think that most people in church are as unfussed as most people outside the church.

    So, I’m genuinely interested. What comes next?

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