Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Lambeth 2008 Boycotts?

Ruth Gledhill reports in the Timesthat a large number of Church of England Bishops are threatening to boycott Lambeth if the Episcopal Church does not agree to the requirements of the Communique:

Six out of ten senior Church of England bishops could boycott next year’s Lambeth Conference of more than 800 Anglican bishops and archbishops from around the world because of the row over gays.

Such a boycott would be unprecedented in the history of the Anglican Church and would be an indication of how deep the divisions go, in England as well as in the rest of the communion.

The fifth most senior bishop in the mother church of the Anglican Communion warns today that a majority of English diocesan bishops could consider a boycott if the US does not row back on its pro-gay agenda.

A UK boycott would confirm the gravity of the splits within even the Church of England, traditionally the model for Anglicanism’s “via media”. It would effectively spell the end of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s dream of maintaing unity.

. . .

He tells the Gazette that up to ten diocesan and suffragan bishops, from the Church’s evangelical and Anglican-Catholic wings, would be “constrained” in their protest by their loyalty to Dr Rowan Williams. Speaking to The Times he said later, "The point I was making was that they are having to think about it".

. . .

Bishop Scott-Joynt says in the Gazette that for a boycott not to take place, the bishops of The Episcopal Church must meet the demands of the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam.

In their communique, the Primates gave the US bishops until September 30 to agree to “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions” and “confirm that... a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion.”

The Primates warned that “if the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.”

Read it all here.

On her blog, Ruth offers these thoughts:
Great efforts are being made to forestall any kind of Lambeth boycott. There is more than a hint of desperation coming out of it all. The Lambeth Conference is of course an instrument of unity, or communion now I think. It would be a disaster were it to become a symbol of disunity. Were it to be the mark of fragmentation of the communion for future historians.

Winton himself admits that Bishops who want to boycott might be "constrained" by their loyalty to Dr Williams. Probably they will in their end be constrained also by their loyalty to the Church.

But as the Global South leaders said in London last week, now is a 'critical time' for the Communion. It will be surprising if everyone does in the end turn up. The deadline for responses to invites is next Tuesday, two months before the critical TEC bishops' meeting in September. The only thing that will be more surprising than a unified Lambeth will be a decision from the September meeting that somehow averts a split.

Read the entire post here.

There is also some good analysis at the Episcopal Cafe's The Lead.

I think we need to take this with a big grain of salt--as Ruth notes, many (if not most) of the Church of England Bishops making this threat may not follow through out of affection and loyalty to Williams. Moreover, the consequence of such a boycott to the Anglican Communion (and the Church of England) would be so immense that it is difficult to believe that the Bishops would, after reflection, take this step.

Of course, a key to the events in the future will be the Episcopal Bishops response to the Communique. As I have said before, the audience for this response should not be the more conservative Global South Bishops--rather the audience should be the Archbishop of Canterbury and the more moderate Bishops and Primates in the Anglican Communion. An appropriately respectful and thoughtful response--that rests on a desire to stay in Communion--will go a long to forestalling such a disastrous boycott. this does not meant that we need to agree to the Communique in full detail or in full, but a another decalration of independence or a lecture on polity will not do.

1 comment:

Alan said...

More and more, his remark about who would absent themselves from the AC by a boycott of Lambeth is starting to sound like the old line, perhaps from Monty Python, about Rome having separated from the CofE.