By some gracious irony, the death of Robert Runcie came while the U.S. Episcopal Church’s General Convention was in session. As archbishop of Canterbury, Runcie led the Church of England and the Anglican Communion through the turbulent 1980s, seeking to hew to a “middle way” when issues of women’s ordination and modernized liturgies threatened to split his church. Episcopal bishops, along with lay and clergy deputies making legislative decisions at the July 5-14 triennial Denver meeting, were able to mourn Runcie at a time when they themselves were walking the via media in an effort to hold the church together amid disunity over “same-sex blessings” and other issues related to homosexuality.
What was probably the convention’s most historically significant action was on a different matter: the agreement to enter into full communion and “common mission” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The agreement culminated more than 30 years of dialogue.