No one thought it possible, but there is a wave of nostalgia sweeping through the ranks of conservative Episcopalians for their old presiding bishop, Frank Griswold. Of course, he may well have been heretical, but no one could really tell for sure. His statements were a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a bureaucracy, raising what commonly is known as "Episco-babble" to something of an art form. By and large, we conservatives could confidently ignore what he said, resting assured that no one understood him anyway.
But those days, alas, are now gone. Our new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, is by comparison a model of clarity, and within the span of a month has managed to offend a rather astonishing range of people , including Catholics, Mormons, individuals without a graduate degree, and mothers with children. Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, has said that conservatives ought to give her a chance, which is of course the charitable thing to do. But for those less inclined to charity, there is good reason to believe she intends nothing less than to run conservatives out of the church, finalize the split between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and set up an international communion of liberal Anglicanism as a rival to Canterbury. In short, from her recent actions and public statements, it is reasonable to infer that her term is likely to tear the Episcopal Church in two¯and, what’s more, that that is precisely what she intends.
To her credit, Bishop Schori has always been quite forthright about her intentions. Prior to her election as presiding bishop, she told a liberal Episcopalian magazine that:
As a church we have got to be better self-differentiated. We have to decide what it is we are going to stand for and be clear about it, and then say "these are the consequences." Yes, Anglicans don’t much like to do that, but we do do it about some things . . . . I think we are getting there about the issues that are dividing us right now.
In the Anglican world, which tends to treat theological fuzziness as a virtue (we call it "comprehensiveness"), these are fighting words. With great frequency and clarity, she has committed herself to the full affirmation of homosexual practice, including ordination to the episcopate and same-sex marriage. This, she has stated , is the "reasonable conclusion and consensus" of the Episcopal Church, regardless of the contrary decisions of the Anglican Communion as a whole and the continued objection of a sizeable minority within ECUSA. In fact, she has said that their continued objection is "schismatic," distracts from the real mission of the church (i.e., social justice), and will no longer be tolerated.
And, unlike her predecessor Frank Griswold, she has shown already that she is willing to put her money where her mouth is. A task force has been set up to deal with "property disputes," and so far eight "problem dioceses" have been identified, which may or may not be met with legislation. Letters have been sent to the bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy , and San Joaquin , warning that nothing less than "unqualified accession" to the decisions of General Convention will be allowed. In short, Bishop Schori has in no uncertain terms laid out the agenda for her tenure of leadership¯as she signaled before her election, she is making clear that the Episcopal Church has decided where it stands and that there will be "consequences" for those who disagree.
The problem is that she is on a direct collision course with the rest of the Anglican Communion. And, while she will not admit it in so many words, it has become increasingly clear that Bishop Schori and her supporters know perfectly well that their actions will end in a final break with Canterbury and the Global South. The church’s Executive Council has already proposed the formation of an " Anglican Convocation of the Americas ," comprising liberal churches such as ECUSA, Canada, and Brazil. Even the Episcopal Church’s name no longer officially includes reference to the United States, which Bishop Schori has stated reflects the "transnational" character (better put, “ambition”) of the church. Liberal voices from England and elsewhere have signaled their desire to join such a convocation, which almost certainly will set itself up as a "progressive" alternative to mainstream Anglicanism.
Quite obviously, this puts Episcopalians who wish to remain in full communion with Canterbury in a bind. This past September, nearly a quarter of diocesan bishops met at Camp Allen, Texas , and stated their firm desire to remain both Episcopalian and Anglican. The hope, which still is expressed by many, is that a compromise solution will be reached, allowing the Camp Allen bishops to provide a safe haven within the Episcopal Church for those who continue to profess Anglican orthodoxy.
That hope is not dead, but it is becoming more and more unlikely by the day. The actions of Bishop Schori have so far demonstrated that she does not intend to allow Episcopalians to do anything less than adhere fully to the decisions of General Convention, however they may conflict with the rest of the Communion. The Camp Allen bishops, if they are to have any chance at succeeding in their goal, must firmly and consistently articulate their opposition to what so clearly is happening to the Episcopal Church. If they do not do so, the rise of Bishop Schori will constitute the clearest example in years of the truth of Neuhaus’ Law: "Where orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed."
It is all very unfortunate, particularly since most Episcopalians sincerely hope that a compromise will be reached. It is a great pity that it almost certainly will not be, unless a significant number of bishops and laypeople refuse to follow the so-called "inclusionary" agenda of Bishop Schori. As it stands, it will not be long before she "includes" conservatives right out of the church.
Jordan Hylden is a junior fellow at First Things .