The post-convention spinning is underway. Regular readers know that I don’t use the word “spin” in a derogatory way. If you’ve ever thrown a baseball, you know that any ball that leaves your hand spins. If you are playing catch, the ball that lands in your glove was spinning and the ball that leaves your hand is spinning. The lone exception is a perfectly thrown knuckleball. And if you’ve ever watched a major league catcher struggle to handle a knuckleball, you realize that it lacks the, um, clarity, of pitches that spin.
So then…Bishop Duncan and his folks have said what they have to say here.
I will be interested to know what their next move is going to be. It wouldn’t seem that the ball is in their court at the moment. All they, like we, can do is wait to see how the rest of the Communion responds to what we have done. If they don't like the response, I am not sure what recourse they have other than lawsuits that seem likely, in most instances, to fail. They are solid strategists, however, and, as I've pointed out in the Following the Money series, they haven't, thus far, lacked for resources. So perhaps something else is afoot.
One interesting response has already come from the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. It’s here.
I may regret saying this, but I do believe these gentlemen are speaking in a more charitable tone of voice. Note they express sadness, not outrage, that they express gratitude for our express gratitude for our statements of affection for the Communion and say they are “moved by your generosity as you have rededicated yourselves to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.”
It isn’t as though they are agreeing with us. It isn’t as though they have promised to stop crossing our borders, and it isn’t as though the September gathering of Primates from the “Global South” might not come out with something harsher. Still, the letter is signed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, and I think that counts for something.
The key paragraph, I think, is this one:
We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to your General Convention in 2003.
This seems more along the lines of a statement of fact than a rattling of swords to me, and I welcome that. (I am also happy to note the absence of Episcopal Church bashing in the communiqué from the CAPA Primates meeting.) I would point out a misstatement, though in the response to our Church. No instrument of Anglican unity that I am aware of us has opposed gay civil rights, as the statement implies.
That is why so many of us are concerned about Akinola’s support for a regressive Nigerian law that does, in fact, support the active repression of gays and lesbians’ role in civil life. For an excellent summary of this law and the political and ecclesial maneuverings it has engendered, see Matt Thompson’s work on Political Spaghetti.
I can’t close without mentioning the consider controversy manqué that some on the Anglican right attempted to gin up just after Convention. In her sermon at the closing Convention Eucharist, our Presiding Bishop-Elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori said that our “Mother Jesus” had given birth to a new creation.
I can understand why people found this statement challenging. The bishop was using a sophisticated rhetorical device that we professional writers recognize immediately as… a metaphor. You know you are in the presence of a metaphor when a speaker likens Thing One, to Thing Two. The speaker isn’t saying Thing One is Thing Two. She is saying Thing One is like Thing Two. (Only she doesn’t use the word “like” because that would be a simile, and, oh, never mind.)
We learn about these things in grade school, but then, apparently, we forget.