By Jim Naughton
The Lambeth Conference concludes in five days, and I don’t think anyone can predict with confidence how it will end. The bishops I have talked to–most of the them from the Episcopal Church and the Churches of Brazil, Central America and Mexico–seem to be cautiously optimistic about the outcome of events here. They came with the hopes of building relationships with bishops from other provinces, and, for the most part, they have accomplished that. Their aim now is to get out of Dodge before anything happens to undermine those friendships.
The only fresh development that I can report on has to do with timing. Because both the Covenant Design group and the Windsor Continuation Group make their next–and possibly final–reports to the Anglican Consultative Council in May, it seems at least somewhat unlikely that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church would be ready to take action on any major initiatives arising out of that meeting when it convenes next July–meaning that in the absence of a special convention, the Episcopal Church could not take an up or down vote on a covenant, or on the proposed pastoral forum until 2012.
If you favor kicking the can down the road indefinitely, this may seem good news. If, like me, you are beginning to worry that this interminable dispute is bad for the member provinces of the Anglican Communion–that we may be damaging churches in order to save the organization to which they belong–then you may take a dimmer view. Is it possible that relationships among members of the Communion would actually improve if the Communion did not exist? That is what I am starting to wonder.
Meanwhile, barring some spectacular contrivance, today is looking like a fairly quiet day here at the Conference. There are hearings this afternoon at which the bishops will have an opportunity to speak out on the final “reflections document” to be issued at the end of the conference, and perhaps that will produce some news.