It may be helpful to distinguish two questions in relation to the JSC Report:
1. Has it been faithful to Windsor and Dar in the criteria it has set by which to judge
2. Has it been accurate in its interpretation and assessment of the HoB’s response?
On the first question, it is clear that the JSC have not stuck to the letter of TWR or Dar. The HoB could have embraced the Windsor/Camp Allen Bishops’ resolutions which took this path but they refused. However, it is also clear that JSC have sought to determine whether or not, in practice, TEC has made a commitment to the two requested moratoria. Furthermore, their report understands the moratorium on same-sex blessings in a stronger sense than simply whether or not there is in existence an authorised rite. It appears to be requiring a moratorium that would mean (whatever the private and pastoral response to gay and lesbian Christians) there are no longer any public liturgies of blessing known to be occurring within TEC. Its test, in other words, is captured in the instruction of the Bishop of Hawaii ”“ there must be the bringing to an end of “any liturgies in our churches that might be construed by the reasonable outside observer as a formal public“blessing” or “marriage” of a same-sex couple”.
On the second question, the interpretation and assessment offered was undoubtedly a very generous one. The rejection of the Dar Pastoral Scheme and Council was largely passed by and TEC’s replacement proposals of Episcopal Visitors and wider consultation accepted as a viable alternative model. In addition, there was a willingness to accept the claimed constraints on the HoB due to the alleged supremacy of General Convention in TEC’s polity and a strong and maximalist reading of their commitments (especially in relation to same-sex blessings) that depended more on reading between the lines with a very strong presumption of good faith than on any evidence in the HoB statement (or apparently discussions) itself or any evidence on the ground in many dioceses of TEC. While it will, perhaps, be some time before the generous reading of B033 is tested, it is already becoming clear that the assessment in relation to same-sex blessings was overly optimistic and that a good number of bishops and dioceses have no intention of ending their current practice. What should have been evident from the wording of the statement is now crystal clear in the light of subsequent statements ”“ nothing in the HoB statement is likely to alter the assessment of the Communion Sub-Group Report (para 17) that it is “not at all clear whether, in fact, the Episcopal Church is living with the recommendations of the Windsor Report on this matter” and the Primates’ statement at Dar (para 21) remains as true after NOLA as before ”“ “we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us”. The proof of the pudding will, as always, be in the eating but it seems almost certain that liturgies blessing same-sex unions will continue being conducted in the face of the congregation with the explicit or implicit authority of the bishop in a significant number of dioceses. Furthermore, though contrary to JSC’s maximalist interpretation of the HoB response, this outcome is quite compatible with (indeed perhaps the best understanding of) the intended and plain sense of the HoB statement itself.
In summary, although it may be argued that the JSC slightly lowered the bar set by Windsor/Dar, on the whole they kept faith with the developing Windsor process in terms of the criteria they used. However, the more serious problem is that ”“as has become increasingly obvious since its report was published – they gave the HoB credit for clearing the Windsor/Dar bar when, in fact, they have demonstrably fallen short. That failure at New Orleans sadly means the Archbishop of Canterbury must now face even more difficult decisions than those JSC have already outlined in Part Two of their report.
Read it all.