Returning recently from vacation I discovered that the fourth and final report of the Anglican Church of North America’s Holy Orders Task Force (primarily on women’s ordination) has now been made available on the denomination’s website.  In an earlier Mere Comments posting, I had predicted the Task Force would conclude:

Arguments pro and con (including the one found here) 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 [already resident and accepted in the ACNA]. 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.

Was I right? Not entirely, for the Task Force, despite the methodological groundwork it had laid in irresolution because of the existence of differing ecclesiologies, was careful not to tell the bishops explicitly what they should do, but employed terminology that tended toward making the change of the current denominational status quo (i.e., ordained women in some dioceses) a long, distasteful, divisive, anger and angst-filled process, making it easier, much easier, not to change anything, and thus to fall back on denominational unity as the principal value to be served, with no weightier theological reasoning than the necessity to accommodate pre-existing ecclesiologies–the acceptability of none of which is apparently open to questioning–that is, the threat of more time-consuming, divisive, destabilizing, and unpleasant theological work.  Better all-round, it would appear, to make unity the thing by waking only one sleeping dog, and doing it carefully:

The Task Force is aware that there is a great deal of anxiety for many in our Province on both sides, who hold this issue to be of great importance. Some may be tempted to act on this anxiety, if their desired outcome is not realized in this report or in the College’s use of it.  We encourage the College of Bishops to be aware of the extent to which anxiety can be a powerful motivator toward detrimental, reactionary behavior and to be a model of peace and stability to each other and the dioceses we serve . . . . Both positions on this issue cannot be right, but both positions are held by good and godly people. Work toward a resolution of this issue must move forward, but it should be done with patience and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  (pp. 316, 318)

The Report is heavily larded with the customary affidavits in defense of the learning, goodness, and godliness of all parties involved.  Alas, another red herring in which this long report seems to have specialized, as in this whole business of treating varieties of churchmanship as bearing on the issue.  A person’s goodness and godliness cannot, we are assured, be tested by his endorsement or rejection of women’s ordination.  Clever, but deceptive, since if someone is right about it, those opposing–who may be good and godly in a general way, but in this case are rejecting his word and will by promulgating error–are behaving badly, even if they don’t usually.  We may certainly believe that the lot of them are Very Nice, but none of that is to the point either.  Right doctrine and practice is good and godly; bad teaching and disobedience is not, and the question here is which of the two mutually exclusive possibilities is right.

My guess is that a number of ACNA members are now wishing they had some way back joined a church where women’s ordination wasn’t even on the agenda, for they are now able to see what happens when the good and godly put it there, in good and godly awareness that “women’s ordination has not been accepted by the whole church, despite its existence for [!] decades.”  (316)