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I am glad that the Executive Council of our national church wants to reach out to those who have left TEC or are on that road. It is difficult to assess whether such an initiative, earlier on, might have prevented schism. Certainly there were a few meetings between the PBs and leading traditional bishops, although none came to anything. Those who truly believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding the world church through the North American Provinces of the Communion to embrace a new approach to sexual ethics and perhaps a more universalist and less evangelical interpretation of the Gospel, compromise seems unprincipled, a retreat from justice and compassion.

Conservatives, certain that there is no room for a radical reformation of marriage and sexual relationships and who wish to stress the unique nature of Christianity and lift up the claim that Jesus is Lord, find little room to maneuver in seeking common cause with liberal Anglicanism.

It is true that both sides for the most part now stress that the church must be open to gays and lesbians, admit them to the sacraments including Holy Orders, in the latter case as long as celibacy is promised. Whether in fact there is progress there, it is difficult to assess. My own experience in the church suggests that there was always a good deal of de facto tolerance in parish life and that gay clergy, including bishops were not unknown. Perhaps it was “don’t ask; don’t tell” but in those days one didn’t chatter about ones bedroom habits in polite society. Doesn’t that sound old fashioned now? Is the church more or less open than it once was?

If we have reached the point where many cannot in good conscience remain within TEC if the majority in General Convention and the Executive Council, led by the Presiding Bishop determine not to observe the moratoria or sign the Covenant, then perhaps discussions about regulating a dual form of Anglicanism are appropriate. Certainly it would have been a better witness to the watching world if a system had been worked out granting traditionalist Anglicans in TEC safety to live in peace and to proclaim the Gospel.

Now, however, bishops have been deposed, clergy have been stripped of their Orders, properties are in dispute in the secular courts and rhetoric runs wild on the blogs. How may TEC seek reconciliation while it cleaves stubbornly to territorialism as if that system had been vouchsafed by Jesus to the disciples at the Last Supper?

So what does the Executive Council want to do? Having rid themselves of these meddlesome Christians, does the Council really want to offer them that form of recognition which formal talks imply? What may be offered and what may extra-mural Anglicans feel able to offer in return?

Nor are those in Common Cause and Continuing Jurisdictions the only people involved. There remain within TEC loyal bishops, other clergy and laity, dioceses and parishes determined to remain within TEC not because they have much love for “the National Church” but because they do not believe schism to be the answer or even the question. Such people too require those in power to recognize their existence and afford them protection and the right to adopt a future Covenant whatever TEC officially decides to do. We are loyal to the Church, but that also means we are loyal to the Communion and to the See of Canterbury and have no more stomach to belong to an Independent National Episcopal Church than to Gafcon.

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