It's sad, really
Anyone with a personal interest in small 'c' catholicism or small 'o' orthodoxy must certainly feel dismayed by the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop-elect of the ECUSA. Not only was she "arguably the least experienced and possibly the most liberal" candidate in the pool, she is also unabashedly forthright in her heterodoxy.
Still, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in response to the General Convention that elected her, what is most at issue here is not women's ordination, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, the consecration of same sex unions, or any other number of fault lines that have fractured the unity of the Episcopal Church in America. Regarding the Anglican Communion as a whole,
...whatever the presenting issue, no member Church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship; this would be uncomfortably like saying that every member could redefine the terms of belonging as and when it suited them. Some actions – and sacramental actions in particular - just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches...In acting unilaterally, the leadership of ECUSA has demonstrated that it is prepared to formally institutionalize schism with the rest of its Communion. This to say nothing of the fact that a number of Asian and African provinces had already declared that they were no longer in communion with their American counterpart. I can only imagine the intense fear and heartwrenching that orthodox Episcopalians must be experiencing now, as their Church is now merely another isolated American denomination.
Archbishop Williams, again,
It is true that witness to what is passionately believed to be the truth sometimes appears a higher value than unity, and there are moving and inspiring examples in the twentieth century. If someone genuinely thinks that a move like the ordination of a practising gay bishop is that sort of thing, it is understandable that they are prepared to risk the breakage of a unity they can only see as false or corrupt. But the risk is a real one; and it is never easy to recognise when the moment of inevitable separation has arrived - to recognise that this is the issue on which you stand or fall and that this is the great issue of faithfulness to the gospel. The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that you’re right.Boy does he hit the nail on the head here.
For capital 'C' Catholics (like myself) and those of the capital 'O' Orthodox tradition, these recent happenings are especially disconcerting. The Catholic Church is ever committed to greater Christian unity, and there have long been hopes that Anglicanism would someday re-enter the greater fold of the Catholic Communion. Given the present circumstances, the prospects of that happening now appear to be slim to none.
Neuhaus, as always, says it best:
As of this week’s General Convention, however, one thing seems certain beyond doubt: The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has declared itself to be just another liberal Protestant denomination, in deliberate defiance of the Anglican Communion and in scornful indifference to a long history of hope for reconciliation with Catholicism. Yes, many, going back to John Henry Newman in the early nineteenth century, said that this would be the inevitable outcome of Anglicanism’s claim to be a “middle way” between liberalism and Catholicism, but it is nonetheless very sad to see it come to pass, and to see the self-congratulatory rejoicing of Episcopalians in celebratory assembly at the death of an honorable, if finally untenable, hope for greater Christian unity.The gravity of the situation cannot be downplayed.