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DAR2007: Day Three of the Primates Conference: From My Ear To Yours...

DAR2007: FROM MY EAR TO YOURS...

By David W. Virtue in Dar es Salaam
www.virtueonline.org
2/16/2007

It's a waiting game. Speculation is rife about what is going to happen next. The Indian Ocean shimmers in the midday heat; the sand is hot and the pool uncomfortably warm as reporters sip water and beer while waiting, waiting, waiting. Behind closed doors, the Primates are in theological combat mode trying to hammer out a Covenant they can all live with.

Round one went to the liberals. The Windsor Report got a two-thirds rating pass by the Primates, and so, on the surface, it looks as though the liberals, who presently have the high moral ground, have nowhere to go but higher.

FROM MY EAR TO YOURS...
But this morning, at breakfast, an excited orthodox bishop told VOL that "it ain't over till the fat lady sings", and "think Rocky Balboa". So, surprises are still in store. The Global South archbishops have not yet mounted their main offensive; there is more to come. The line has only been breached temporarily; the ecclesiastical Maginot Line is still holding.

The clamp down on information is affecting even the Episcopal News Service, the official organ of The American Episcopal Church, whose reporters are no more privy to inside information than the rest of the media herd. Information control by the Anglican Communion News Service is total. Even their media office is off limits to the media. Some conservative bloggers, who THINK they know what is going on, know nothing. The next public statements will be on the much heralded COVENANT recommended by the Windsor Report which specifies more exactly what it means to be an Anglican. The Covenant goes something like this: If you sign on you receive membership status; if you don't sign on you get associate status. There is no such thing as formal excommunication in Anglicanism; that is far too unAnglican. Voluntary withdrawal is what was asked of The Episcopal Church, which somehow means that one freely chooses not to be included!

If the liberal Anglican Consultative Council pushes that too hard they might find their funding withheld from The Episcopal Church putting them in a Catch-22 situation.

ALSO present here, among the watchers and would be movers and shakers, are members of the pro-gay British organization, Changing Attitudes, whose leader, the Rev. Colin Coward, (his Nigerian counterpart is with him) is doing his best to keep a high profile among the archbishops. Already he has been seen sitting poolside with the liberal Southern Africa Archbishop Ndungane and having a brief encounter with Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola which found its way into the ultra-liberal Guardian newspaper whose Writer, Stephen Bates, loves to needle conservatives and "homophobic" Global South Primates for their inability to see the new reality of homoerotic behavior and ordain it to the episcopacy.

When Akinola happened into the lobby of the White Sands Hotel on his way to seeing his fellow Nigerian archbishop, he was accosted by gays and lesbians and quickly withdrew, but not in time for paparazzi photographers catching him with his hands held high in a "no comment" mode. Gays quickly pounced on this bit of theatre trying to make of it something that it wasn't. Oh, the pain of the archbishop not talking to THEM, when it has been made abundantly clear to all of us that the only public statement from the archbishops would be the daily press briefings.

ONE factor that is consistently being overlooked by the media is the reality of 14 new archbishops making a first time appearance. Whatever the Global South Primates have in mind, these new comers are not going to shoot themselves in the foot, knee or groin, and vote for schism. That isn't going to happen.

Of course, there are always silly American blogger theologians, some conservative, who make statements like, "the situation is redeemable but the archbishops are moving close to the brink" - sheer double speak. The situation is NOT redeemable, the Communion is doing what it always does - limp along with more "conversation", more "covenants", endless "listening" and the new antidote to absolute decision making, "hermeneutics" - the science of contextualizing sodomy. This is living proof that sodomy is an abomination in the Anglican Communion which it can apparently live with, merely an anathema, hardly a communion breaker.

Oddly enough, liberals are not claiming total victory even as conservatives feel betrayed by yesterday's results. There were no high fives among liberals. There is a sense, even by them, that it is not over and more surprises might be in store. Also what they want is FULL and TOTAL acceptance of their lifestyle, not a half-hearted acceptance or non-acceptance by a large portion of the communion. They want their sexuality fully embraced, and not in coded covenants that embrace them but not their behavior. As Mrs. Schori's aide, Robert Williams, said, "the spirit of Anglicanism will prevail here, and there will be a middle way forward. She will not waver in her stand for justice and inclusion of all people in the Body of Christ."

We shall know more ere long.

FROM J. GARY L'HOMMEDIEU... VOL Correspondent

ON DAY THREE the reporters have become the news. Not that any of them are doing or saying anything newsworthy per se. All of them seem to be speculating on what has been done and said so far by the Primates, along with what has not been done or said. Put it all together and... what does it mean?

Everyone is struggling with the same bewilderment: what did last night's press briefing really amount to? It sure sounded like the liberal consortium got a pass on everything that mattered. Based upon the Primates' genteel language regarding TEC's Windsor response, one can only come away wondering what all the fuss was about to begin with.

Among the reporters there are gays and straights, liberals and conservatives. The story, so far, is not the story any of them came to cover. Everyone came for the fireworks display, and it seems, in a way, everyone is more or less disappointed.

Conservatives appear a bit shell-shocked. It sounded last night like the liberal Primates outfoxed the Global South who, for whatever reason, gave in. No one knows why they might have given in, or to whom or what. Theories abound, both fearful and fanciful.

Sitting at breakfast, I commented that yesterday's meeting sounded like a sell-out. One colleague said emphatically that he thought that was much too strong a word. He couldn't quite tell me why he thought so.

Everyone is puzzling over the same data. We have made a point to verify that we were at the same meeting last night. It is reassuring to know we all saw and heard the same things. People are dazed, in denial. There is an unspoken refrain of "Say it ain't so" ringing in the ears of the orthodox.

I have also observed what might be called a continuum of hope. The scenario of yesterday's meeting, as it was presented to the press, can be interpreted to justify despair, hope, or triumph, depending on where you line up on the theological spectrum. Conservatives in their diverse interpretations are summoning personal effort to read into them their own hopes.

Another way to say this: they're grasping at straws. From the conservative perspective yesterday's Primates' meeting could be staged as "Rowan Williams and the Fudge Factory." A day later, conservatives are speculating on what sort of rabbit might be pulled out of a hat.

There's a message there. What reporters have gleaned is that, based upon the summary of yesterday's meeting, it would be illogical to anticipate that the orthodox Primates will deliver on their earlier rhetoric. Something else has to be in the mix. Some dramatic surprise, some ace up a sleeve, something almost magical would have to be revealed in an eleventh hour drama.

This is a formula for hope. Conservatives in the wings at Dar es Salaam are summoning hope that the orthodox Primates will surprise them, even though it looks like the moment has passed even for surprises. Yesterday's meeting has launched us into free fall. Sophisticated analysis quickly turns into wild fantasy, and it's hard to tell when one has switched from one to the other. Perhaps, the one thing we're all trying to deny is that the Primates' Meeting could, in the final analysis, prove to be a non-event after all.

END

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