It starts off:
The Conference was not a time for making new laws or for binding decisions; in spite of the way some have expressed their expectations...
But then he states later on:
there was a clear sense that some sort of covenant will help our identity and cohesion, although the bishops wish to avoid a legalistic or juridical tone. A strong majority of bishops present agreed [my emphasis, but a strong majority?] that moratoria on same-sex blessings and on cross-provincial interventions were necessary, but they were aware of the conscientious difficulties this posed for some, and there needs to be a greater clarity about the exact expectations and what can be realistically implemented...
What was the counting system used? What "strong majority"? Perhaps it was those big sheets used where scribes noted down in big writing the conflicting opinions of bishops in small groups and then scribes wrote an approximate summary.
He is still sort of counting when it comes to those in Jerusalem:
many of us expressed a clear sense of affinity with much that was said there and were grateful that many had attended both meetings
Yes. And many did not, apparently, particularly those with boundary crossings going on and expected.
In the same way, when is not a report a report? When:
it has a number of pointers as to where the common goals and assumptions are in the Communion.
Let's examine the rest of the Pastoral Letter's sense that decisions were not taken but were taken:
- repeatedly stressed - The Millennium Development Goals
- it was agreed - needed a much enhanced capacity in the Communion for co-ordinated work in the field of development
- clear goals - for developing environmentally responsible policies in church life
- a very widely-held conviction - premature or unilateral local change was risky and divisive, in spite of the diversity of opinion expressed
- no appetite - revising Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 [hardly was on offer, was it?]
- a clear commitment - continue theological and pastoral discussion of the questions involved
- widespread support - moratoria
- much support - the idea of a 'Pastoral Forum'
- it was recognized - serious reflection on the Christian doctrine of human nature and a continuing deepening of our understanding of Christian marriage
- a general desire - find better ways of managing our business as a Communion
- Many ...expressed - the desire to see the [indaba] method used more widely
So through all this vagueness of what many expressed and what was recognised and any other phrase that reduces the amount of repetition going into a Pastoral Letter, we have this upshot:
I shall be seeking to identify the resources we shall need in order to take forward some of the proposals about our structures and methods
This is the big outcome, then, of the gathering. Couldn't he have arrived at this more cost-effectively? Presumably the one concrete outcome refers to the Pastoral Forum. This should be real enough, shouldn't it? It is:
- a means of addressing present and future tensions
- a clearing house for proposals concerning the care of groups at odds with dominant views within their Provinces
- [a way to] avoid the confusing situation of violations of provincial boundaries and competing jurisdictions
Except, of course, it won't operate until after the big second votes are taken in Episcopal Dioceses in their bishops' attempts to break away from The Episcopal Church. It is their move first, not a Pastoral Forum's. Like a version of Monty Python's bishops coming by bus, it will arrive too late.
Anyway, let's hear it for the rest of the Pastoral Letter: it's like the script of an awards ceremony. Thanks! to:
- all who planned and organized the Conference
- those who composed the Bible Studies
- those who devised and monitored the work of the indaba groups
- others who served us so devotedly - not least the Stewards
- bishops and spouses
- God for his presence with us
And I love you all!