Sam Wells (Anglican priest and chaplain at Duke University) gives a good review of Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopalian Dissidents and their African Allies are reshaping Anglicanism in The Christian Century.

It is the emergence of the third option that Miranda Hassett describes in her evenhanded, informative and wholly admirable book. She plausibly identifies a series of significant moments in an unfolding drama. In 1996 a committee of bishops threw out charges of heresy against Bishop Walter Righter after he was accused of knowingly ordaining a noncelibate gay man. The precedent convinced conservatives that the Episcopal Church could not be reformed from within. Revolution by acronym began, with the American Anglican Council and the Ekklesia Society among the protagonists.

Having lost the battle for orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church, as they saw it, American conservatives changed tactics and looked instead toward the global South. In a series of significant gatherings at Kuala Lumpur, Dallas and Kampala, they developed an ethos, a strategy and momentum for transferring the American conflict onto a world stage.

Homosexuality, already an emblematic issue in the North American culture wars, became a signal issue in many African bishops’ effort to redraw the postcolonial map of Anglican power and decision making. While American conservatives rapidly learned the vocabulary of debt relief and other apparently key African issues, African bishops quickly acquired the techniques of conference management—the caucuses, the lobbying, the friendly amendments—and became adept at using the Internet.

Late in the three-week 1998 Lambeth Conference, the sexuality debate finally came, and a remarkably conservative, though subtly moderated, statement was overwhelmingly passed, with the support not only of Southern postcolonial revisionists but also of scores of Northern moderates who feared that otherwise there would be something much less digestible. (The majority was huge: if the African bishops had all voted against the resolution, it would still have passed.)

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