The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America met in Melbourne, Florida on January 9-13, and received, as anticipated, the fourth and final phase of the report of its Holy Orders Task Force. Of this the bishops said,

At our meeting this week, the Holy Orders Task Force presented Phase 4 of their work to the college. The College thanked the task force for the hard work that they have done on this topic in just a few short years. Having received the report at this meeting, the conversation then turned to the timeline for addressing these issues.

The Phase 4 report is being formatted and combined with the previous documents from the task force. This report will be passed on to the GAFCON Primates and to our ecumenical partners for feedback, and released to the whole Church in late February. The bishops will pick up these discussions at their next two meetings, in June and September of this year.

The task force’s report does not represent the position of the college, as our formal discussions on this topic are just now beginning, but it is our hope that this document will begin to give us a common language for conversation in the College, and aid dialogue in the larger Church.

In my Mere Comments posting of 28 June 2016, I indicated that in the previous (third) installment of the report, the Task Force demoted the issue of women’s ordination from being principally one of orthodox Christian theology by placing emphasis on the preservation of unity among the various strains of Anglican churchmanship found in the denomination, not all of which agree on the question.

Of this prestidigital diversion of the issue to lower ground by stressing the importance of unity over truth I noted,

The reason I cited C. S. Lewis’s essay “Priestesses in the Church?” at the beginning of this commentary was that I might stress the radical difference between his views (which reflect the theology of the great majority of the Church, past and present) and the ones the Task Force wishes the ACNA to adopt–in fact makes it immoral not to adopt. The view I identify with Lewis, is that the ordination of women is not in the first instance a matter of churchmanship within Anglicanism or anywhere else, but a involves the living symbolism in and by which the Church is defined and identified, so that a church with female priests cannot be identified as a Christian church any more than a church whose principal symbol is a circle instead of a cross. The Task Force has attempted to divert attention from this matter of indispensably central importance, presenting it a mere disagreement in which competing ecclesiologies, all defective in themselves and in need of others for completion, disagree on women’s ordination as one issue among others, and so can fall with the others into the category of things which reasonable and charitable people should overlook for the greater cause of unity. . . .

Here is what the Task Force will conclude [in the fourth segment of the Report]: Arguments pro and con . . . all carry some weight, but at the end of the day they are, taken as a whole, inconclusive because they are associated with conflicting and inconclusive ecclesiologies. On that account, for the sake of unity, no departure from the status quo, that is, the denominational acceptance of women’s ordination, can be urged. There you have it.

So, the fourth and final installment of the Task Force report is slated for public availability soon. I’ll let you know what it says and whether I was right about what to expect.  One can be sure we’ll get a clever piece of work.