Several features were entirely predictable ahead of time concerning the just-concluded media briefing with Bishop John Rabb of the Diocese of Maryland and Bishop Robert O'Neill of the Diocese of Colorado:
*The word "conversations" was uttered more times than I could count. We essentially were assured that "deep listening" was occurring in abundance, although that phrase was never used. We were told more than once that the bishops listened with utmost seriousness to the whole range of viewpoints.
*Almost every attempt to get word on what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had said to the bishops was sidestepped. Bishop O' Neill was the first to initiate the disclaimer that he couldn't speak for the Archbishop, and that line was used repeatedly (and even once was applied to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori).
And, indeed, we were given the impression that almost everything was in process. Archbishop Williams' two questions for the bishops -- how they viewed their roles, lives, and ministries; and how they would provide adequate pastoral care for orthodox Anglicans -- were described as general questions designed to lead to deeper discussions. We were told that there were no current details available about how the eight bishops appointed as episcopal visitors for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) would operate. Instead, Bishop Jefferts Schori is still "exploring ways" for providing pastoral care. And we were told that the Dar es Salaam communique was not the "essence" of what the bishops discussed; it was only part of a larger, more wide-ranging conversation.
But then there was this curious tidbit from Bishop O'Neill: "we're two-thirds of the way through the conversation for this meeting."
"The conversation" with the Archbishop of Canterbury? That's surely true. But was O'Neill instead referring to the entire conversation about the larger issues of which the Dar es Salaam communique apparently was not the "essence"?
It's not surprising if the bishops want to hold their cards close to their chests at this point in the meeting. But how much of this is holding back, and how much is happening on the fly? Bishops Rabb and O'Neill seemed genuinely uncertain as to whether any detailed plans had been made for DEPO beyond the announcement of the bishops who would serve as visitors. So is there any real substance (at this time, at least), or is this just something assembled quickly in an attempt to satisfy the larger Anglican Communion?
Most troubling of all, of course, is the thought that the bishops are attempting to minimize the Dar es Salaam communique by focusing on a (from their point of view or desire) bigger picture, or from what they consider to be the "essence" of the matter (whatever that may be). In that case, they might either attempt to delay a full response or maneuver around the real issues that the primates asked them to address. Neither response would be unexpected, but neither would help in the healing of the Anglican Communion.