Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Father Greg Jones Has More to Say About Lambeth 2008


Well the invitations went out, and lots of people are very angry. The Nigerians are already threatening a boycott, and the blogosphere went wild. Heck even the readership of this humble blog went way up thanks to a mention of my own blogging on Lambeth on The Lead.

But I am just a guy in the pew. To tell you the truth, I won't even be received in the Episcopal Church for two more weeks. (I have been worshipping at an Episcopal Church for 6 years--my wife(who joined TEC decades ago) finds the timing of my decision to be received quite amusing.) You should therefore read from someone with a bit more historical perspective.. Father Greg Jones has a very thoughtful post on Lambeth 2008. After giving a history lesson on what has happened at the previous Lambeth Conferences, he has this to say:

Lambeth has never been a legislative assembly, or a group empowered to decide complex questions with magisterial authority over the constituent churches of the Communion. A quick glance at the past shows that the conference has produced teaching statements which have been reversed over time. Clearly, the teachings on various ethical and church order issues have evolved in a more 'liberal' direction over time. . . . The trajectory of Anglicanism as evidenced at Lambeth Conferences has been one of careful, slow and eventual evolution of teaching and understanding -- at least as regards human ethics and church order. The theological essentials as outlined in the Quadrilateral have never been up for debate or change -- but how people understand what it means to lead 'godly lives' and how the Church orders itself has been.

It would seem, therefore, that if Gene Robinson is not invited officially, but as a guest, and if Martyn Minns is not invited at all -- and the Nigerians boycott the conference as Akinola has suggested they will -- then this slow, gradual movement will continue in roughly the same way it always has. In other words, it would seem to me that the Anglican Communion could continue to be as it always has been, and that it could continue to prayerfully, theologically and deliberately consider what changes might need to be made in ethics and church order -- as it always has. In other words, without the pot-stirring brand of dogmatic culture warfare that Akinola and Robinson have become so adept at -- maybe the Communion can do what it always has done. The bishops gather to meet and pray and reason with each other -- not as a legislative assembly with a number of activist 'parties' and 'lobbies' -- but as leaders of the Church of God. It seems to me that a season or two of respectful, low-pressure, dialogue between the folks in the vast middle -- the 'great heartland of Anglicanism' as the primate of South Africa calls it -- will do more to heal this divided Communion than anything else.

The outcome could very well be in the short-term that the Nigerian contingent will walk away -- and form their own Communion. I think that will probably happen.

But for those big-tent conservative, moderate and liberal folks not looking to radicalize things -- or chase after every new idea -- or require striking and divisive preemptive action on all things -- this could be a return to where we always thought we were.

I would encourage all Episcopal bishops to see this as a positive move. The Archbishop of Canterbury has asserted his authority to invite. He has reasserted that the Lambeth Conference is not a magisterial or legislative body. He has clearly shown that the Nigerian and Rwandan groups in North America are not recognized by him. He has indicated that Gene Robinson is a duly consecrated bishop, and he may even be welcomed as a guest.

Frankly, it seems to me that the people who should be the most upset by this move are the followers of the extreme right. A quick read through the comments over at the Stand Firm in Faith blog -- especially those of Matt Kennedy -- indicate that the evangelical conservative party sees this as the end of the line.

The apparent meltdown of the Anglican Communion Network -- the division there between various dioceses over what to do next -- the resignation of the dean of Trinity Episcopal Seminary -- the non-invitation of Minns or Anglican Mission in America bishops -- the invitation of every single Episcopal Church bishop except Gene Robinson -- the absurdities going on in a number of supposedly 'orthodox' parishes engaged in rancorous lawsuits -- the resignations or public accusations of impropriety of leading 'orthodox' separatist former Episcopal clergy -- the increasingly provocative rhetoric of Peter Akinola threatening to boycott Lambeth .... folks these are not good signs for the so-called 'orthodox' realignment crowd.


Read it all.
On the issues that divide the Anglican Communion, I side with the progressives. I want a fully inclusive church. But I also think that Father Jones is reading the meaning of Lambeth 2008 quite correctly. In the end, I think we will view this conference as an important milestone in the movement toward a fully inclusive church.

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