Last Thursday afternoon, roughly 2,700 Episcopalians who gathered in Dallas asked Anglican primates to rebuke their church for rejecting historic Christian teaching on sexual morality. Their spirits boosted by two days of confrontational, humorous, and (it now appears) overly confident speeches, these Episcopalians expected the primates would live up to their offices and exercise leadership.

Instead, the primates responded with the tepid language one expects from mid-level bureaucrats committed to protecting their turf.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, announced the meeting of 38 Anglican primates (37 made it to Lambeth Palace in central London) even before the Episcopal Church's General Convention had adjourned in early August. He did so in response to General Convention's confirmation of the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson, a noncelibate gay man, as the Episcopal Church's next bishop of New Hampshire.

Yesterday afternoon, one week after the triumphant speeches heard in Dallas, some Episcopalians might have expected Ashton Kutcher to spring around some corner and shout, "Yo, Anglican dudes, you just got punk'd!"

Would that this were only an elaborate practical joke between celebrity pals. In reality, it appears, members of the American Anglican Council and other orthodox Anglicans just got clobbered.

It's not that anyone expected Episcopal leaders to feel the sting of a primatial rebuke. Only the terminally optimistic would expect anything to shame the Episcopal Church into forsaking the gay liberation it has described as prophetic, a new revelation, an inbreaking of the Spirit, and an evangelistic opportunity.

"If [Robinson's] consecration proceeds," the primates' statement says, "we recognize that we have reached a crucial ...

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