If form holds, the Episcopal Church and perhaps the Anglican Church of Canada will receive an invitation from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggesting that its representatives consider absenting themselves from some upcoming meeting or meetings of some Anglican or ecumenical bodies.
He may suggest that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz stay home from the January Primates Meeting, or that Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bishop Ian Douglas not attend the next meeting of the newly-fashioned Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, even though they were elected to that body by their peers. It may be that he will ask the Episcopalians whom he has appointed to ecumenical bodies to consider resigning from those groups.
The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada received an invitation to send their delegates to the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, England in 2005 as observers rather than voting members, and, in a spirit of cooperation, complied. The Anglican right seized that opportunity to win that body’s approval for the Windsor Report as amended by the Primates Meeting—approval it would not have won had the Americans and Canadians voted.
Archbishop Robin Eames, former Primate of Ireland, later told several Episcopalians during a visit to Washington National Cathedral, that he had not expected the two North American churches to acquiesce to this request.
If a request to remove ourselves from various Anglican bodies comes (or has already come) again, how should the Episcopal Church respond? There are advantages and drawbacks to either choice, and perhaps we could air those here. I believe it is essential to avoid self-marginalization, which can result from absenting one’s self from meetings at which important conversations are held, or after which public stands are taken. But I also believe it is essential to avoid self-trivialization, and the argument over homosexuality in which the Anglican Communion is currently involved becomes more trivial by the day. A high-profile spat over whether we are going to attend a meeting of people whom we all agree wield no power over our church may be more trouble than it is worth. Such an argument promotes the erroneous notion that membership in the Anglican Communion consists primarily in attending meetings and not in collaborating in mission with other member churches--collaborations that will continue no matter what the anti-gay forces in the Communion try to do to marginalize the Episcopal and Canadian churches.
Perhaps the time has come to say simply: Dear Archbishop Williams, we are siding with our LGBT brothers and sisters. Do what you like. We are prepared to pay what this stand will cost us. We hope you are prepared to pay what it will cost you. And may God have mercy on us all.