One of the reasons I really like sailing is that things happen slowly – at least more slowly than in a powerboat. If you’re attentive and have prepared carefully, and if you don’t go out beyond your capacity (well, at least not far beyond your capacity) you don’t have to do anything quickly at all. It’s at the far end of the spectrum from responding to an emergency in the hospital.
With that in mind, let me say that I’m backing off on my concern about the consequences of the 75th General Convention for the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. It is exciting and exercising to follow. All those dioceses calling for “alternative primatial oversight,” as if they know what it really meant, much less how it could be accomplished. All those exchanges of opinions and reflections about what actually happened, whether the response to Windsor was adequate, whether the process was manipulated by liberals or conservatives or the Archbishop of Canterbury. All those predictions of what a Covenant will look like, and who will be in and who will be out, and by how far, even though no one has actually decided what sort of process should be started.
But none of these things – none of them – can happen quickly. I have felt a bit like those days when I walk into a patient’s room and the first thing the patient sees is the collar. I often have to say, “Don’t Panic!” before the patient can speak (although usually by that time there’s been a clear physical reaction). So it is now: we need to not panic. There are many opinions of what the future holds, and a number of plans to shape the future. However, we can only participate in those plans and those events one day at a time, as was the case before.
Take “alternative primatial oversight,” for example. To seek a different primate is to leave one province for another – in this case, to leave the Episcopal Church. But, that will run counter to standards set down in primate’s comments on alternative episcopal oversight or to the procedures of the Committee of Reference. Both have stated they want to see efforts made to work these issues out within provinces before provincial lines are crossed. Moreover, the Archbishop’s last statement, reflecting on the General Convention, makes clear that he can’t make these decisions, that he doesn’t have that kind of authority. So, any such efforts will take years to make sense of.
The same is true of any Covenant. No process has been laid out. No one’s been invited to contribute, and no parameters have been established to contribute to. Those, too, will take time.
So, this is a time for us all to say “Don’t Panic.” Sure, these are important, and we need to think through how we will participate and/or respond. However, none of them will happen fast, whatever the opinions to the contrary.
So, I’ll be returning to my earlier tasks – to reflecting on chaplaincy and health care, on how the Episcopal Church and General Convention have spoken to health care, and on what might be an Episcopal context for health care. I should have plenty of time for those, while we wait to see how all these other changes shape up. And if I’m attentive and well prepared, and don’t stretch too far beyond my own capacity, I’ll see what I need to do and be able to act appropriately – but not quickly.