Almost more than any other Christian group, Anglicans are notoriously—and proudly—hard to pin down.

They are not fully Protestant yet not quite Catholic; hierarchical yet independent; scripturally literate but not literal; equal parts New York and Nairobi.

So, too, was the response on Thursday from the 38 primates, or top national bishops, of the Anglican Communion to Episcopalians' and Canadians' defiant embrace of homosexuality. It was firm but not heavy-handed, establishing deadlines and breathing room all at the same time.

In other words, it was a classically Anglican search for the cherished "Via Media"—the middle way. In it, there was a little something for everyone.

Specifically, the primates requested three things:

  • A self-imposed moratorium on same-sex blessings and gay bishops within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
  • A three-year "voluntary" withdrawal by both churches from the Anglican Consultative Council, a key elected governing body within the 77 million-member Communion.
  • A promise from conservative Third World prelates not to "encourage nor to initiate" meddling in North American affairs, while also creating a panel to ensure that "the legitimate needs" of dissident conservatives are met.

The report gave the U.S. and Canadian churches enough time to seek remedies through "their relevant constitutional processes"—punting the next round of real decisions to the Episcopalians' General Convention in 2006.

The Rev. Ian Douglas, professor of mission and world Christianity at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., said the primates were trying to do more than simply keep their rocking boat afloat.

"It would be unfair to the work the primates have done to simply say they're ...

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