Monday, August 4, 2008

Lambeth (5)

August 4, 2008

So Lambeth comes to an end and we will have to see what it all means as the Anglican Communion limps forward toward the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). The ACC is, significantly, the only ‘instrument of communion that includes lay people in its councils.

As best I can tell at this point the Bishops have enjoyed working together but that to the degree there is consensus about how to move forward it looks very like the solution of the Windsor Report. ‘Generous actions’ are required by those who believe in the inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the form of declining to consecrate any more bishops who are honest about their homosexuality and declining to bless (or actually carry our any liturgical expression of ‘pastoral support’ for)gay and lesbian unions. At the same a moratorium on ‘border crossings’ is invited by those who cannot abide being in the same communion with those who would include and affirm gay and lesbian people and their relationships as such.

From the Archbishop of Canterbury’s final sermon:

The Church in its wider life can’t be committed definitively by the judgment of some; but when a new thing is enshrined, in whatever way, in public order and ministry, it will look like a definitive commitment. The theological ground for a plea for moratoria is the need to avoid this confusion so that discernment continues together. The Resolution of Lambeth ’98 was an attempt to say both ‘We need understanding and shared discernment on a hugely complex topic,’ and ‘We as the bishops in council together are not persuaded that the new thoughts offered to us can be reconciled with our shared loyalty to Scripture.’

It looks like an attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube and I won’t hold my breath on it happening. No one wants to be considered schismatic. No one apparently wants to ‘leave’ the Anglican Communion. Those behind GAFCON and FOCA (the new Fellowship Of Confessing Anglicans) are following the American conservative playbook and trying what will be some kind of ‘takeover’. Archbishop Orombi of Uganda was given space in The Times to rant about how Rowan Williams has betrayed the church by expecting Canterbury to have some degree of primacy among equals when he was appointed by a secular government. It looks to me as though he and his American friends have already made their decision to separate themselves. And it looks as though the bishops of the communion gathered in conference (which occasionally gets elevated to ‘council’ as in the sermon quoted above) have still not learned the lesson of Virginia and elsewhere that there is no placating an Anglican conservative and nothing that will trump their sense of being convicted by the scriptures to a position that is most clearly that of God Almighty. (I am equally convicted by the scriptures as to what Jesus would do confronted with the reality of gay and lesbian people. I’m less inclined to believe I know how this conviction will be treated at the final judgment.)

As far as what we will do at All Saints’ in the near term is consider whether to continue to invest in relationship with Christians in very different circumstances than those in which we find ourselves. This means, in effect, ensuring that our partners are willing either to suspend judgment on our actions and commitments which they find difficult for a variety of reasons, and being willing to do so ourselves. In effect we would be in partnership with those who are willing to live as though our interpretation of scripture might be a legitimate and godly reading in our time and place even if they can’t see how at the moment, and so be willing to live as though our decisions regarding the proper place of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church is not something that is of the essence of the faith once delivered to the saints (adiaphora). For our part, we would be acknowledging that in the great scheme of things we could yet be shown to be wrong. Until such time however we need to continue to affirm all of God’s people. As Jim Naughton of Episcopal CafĂ© ( has written of one bishop:

Anis, who is a medical doctor, believes gay people can change their sexual orientation under reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers, disagree.

This of course raises the question as to whether the church is following ‘the culture’ at this point or whether the church has played and is still playing a role in leading and shaping the culture toward a greater manifestation of divine justice (the second alternative being my position.)

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