Fortunately, there is a way of clearing all of this up that doesn’t require consulting dead authors, or piling excerpts atop of one another and defending one’s interpretation of each dash and comma. We can ask the Archbishop of Canterbury how he interprets the document. He has actually weighed in on this issue, but in a way that I found confusing. Kendall quotes a fragment of the sentence that he spoke on this topic, but here is the whole thing:
“We have asked for more clarity as to whether a moratorium has indeed been agreed on the election of bishops in active sexual partnerships outside marriage; and we have suggested a similar voluntary moratorium by the bishops on licensing any kind of liturgical order for same-sex blessings (the understanding of the Meeting was certainly that this should be a comprehensive abstention from any public rites), at least for the period during which the wider discussion of the Covenant goes forward.”
To my mind, the language about “licensing any kind of liturgical order” clearly supports the interpretation I have been advancing. But, I have to concede that the language in parenthesis “comprehensive abstention from any public rites” brings us back, at least, to the ambiguity of square one. The blessing of same sex unions in this country almost never involves a licensed rite. But the ceremonies are hardly private.
We can attempt to divine Williams’ intention by citing eight other instances in which he used the comprehensive, and tracing the history of the use of the word “public” since Lancelot Andrewes, but a simple statement of his position would be much more persuasive. At least two reporters that I am aware of have asked for clarification, but Lambeth Palace has yet to respond.
Read it carefully and read it all (and if you are up for it read the comments). It is a very useful reminder of where things were and sheds much light on Anglican affairs today.