Monday, August 15, 2022

Moving on but not away from Lambeth 2022

Since leaving #LambethConference2022, Teresa and I have been able to enjoy some annual leave - still in the heat of the mad English/European scorching summer. As this post is published, however, we are en route to Heathrow and the flights home. (Where NZ readers know it has been very cold - not quite a global warming winter this year!) What follows are bits and bobs of things which interest me, especially but not exclusively in relation to Lambeth.

First, some news: Christopher Wells has been appointed executive director for Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion. Some years back I corresponded with Christopher Wells, mostly in relation to The Living Church, an Anglican/Episcopalian magazine based in North America. This conference I met him in person. In my view, this is a very good appointment and I look forward to the continuing work of IASCUFO (the Communion task force charged with Unity, Faith and Order responsibilities, under the leadership of Bishop Graham Tomlin).

Then, also drawing on The Living Church, David Goodhew makes a number of pertinent observations re Anglican church decline and growth which, adroitly, could lead to similar questions being raised here in ACANZP. But one takeaway is, churches which decline can grow!

Back to Lambeth. Archbishop Foley Beach, in his capacity as Chair of GAFCON, has written an extraordinary piece on the Lambeth Conference signalling the Communion is “broken.” I say “extraordinary” because 

(i) it is written from the (disad)vantage point of view of not actually attending the conference, yet holds nothing back in its certainty of judgment; 

(ii) it manages to make the conference all about one issue, when the conference was about many issues, and even on that one issue, managed to reach a place which can only be reached if everyone is in the same location. 

The irony of ++Beach’s article is that the conference demonstrated that change in the Communion will only come via people meeting in the same place and not via boycotts.

But, in contrast to both the tone and the tenet of ++Beach’s proclamation, is this beautifully written reflection by Bishop Andrew Rumsey (CofE), which makes the point, in my words, that despite some not sharing in (eucharistic) communion, there was much communion in other ways through our conferring and praying together. Further, the very process of meeting together - plenaries, small groups, discussions, prayers, conversations over meals and when getting off/on buses/boats etc - has powerful effects, including, on Andrew Rumsey’s own confession, the minds and mindsets of bishops. Boycotts, less so.

In my own mind and mindset - whether it is changing may be a little early to tell :) - I take away from the conference a bunch of conversations, including with those holding to some quite conservative viewpoints, which I continue to reflect on and to digest as I return to my own diocese with its particular range of viewpoints, issues, concerns and questions. But what I am reflecting on is personal conversations “in the room,” not external to the room.

On another aspect of Anglican life, I was delighted to get to know various bishops at the conference, including bishop X. But this week, in a conversation with a person about life in their parish, there was a bemoaning of the direction the local bishop was trying to impose on the parish. Who is that bishop? It’s bishop X. … A salutary reminder that outside of the joys of conference life and the frisson of “issues” worked on in a globalist context, there are challenging questions about the future of the everyday church in the raw localism of “the parish of Y” where Y’s demographics, present congregational make up, historic character, etc run with (or rub against) aspirations - provincial, diocesan, parochial - for continuity and for change.

This paragraph without links - I’ll be honest, there are some Anglican commentators I prefer not to link to: I see some commentary of the kind “that was the last Lambeth Conference/the Anglican Communion is finished - there will be two global Anglicanisms and the bright future is with the one which won’t budge from traditional, orthodox teaching on sexuality.” It goes without saying that no one knows the future except our Father in heaven, so such commentary may prove correct. But there are two questions such commentary begs in the present:

(1) What is meant by Anglicanism? To take just one aspect of Anglicanism which the conference has reinforced for me - directly seeing the ABC in action, sitting in retreat and services in Canterbury Cathedral: to be Anglican is to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Can there be two meaningful versions of Anglicanism in which one version is not in communion with Canterbury? This does not mean - of course not - that a form of Christianity based on the historic teaching of the 16th century reformed Church of England but liturgically not using BCP services (or any other Anglican liturgies of churches still in commmunion with Canterbury) cannot be a growing, converting, flourishing, Bible-based Christian church or global network of churches. But may such a flourishing Christian movement lay claim to being “true Anglicanism”?

(2) Is there an intrinsic reason why two claimants to true Anglicanism could not deign to meet together in one conference? Again, at great risk of harping on about a point made often here at ADU, and already above in this post, the success of the conference lies in the fact that Anglicans with difference bothered to meet together, to be in one room of conversation and at one table of discussion. Other Anglicans (with pretty much the same convictions as many Anglicans at the conference) did not bother to show up. What is so special about them that they deserve to be deemed “true Anglicans” when they won’t talk to other Anglicans? Where in Anglicanism, even in the 16th century, do we find such spectacular exclusivist, separationist precedent? The great Anglican minds of the 16th century - Cranmer, Hooker, Elizabeth 1 - sought to hold the differences of the English Christians in one church - the Church of England. Not the Church of the True and Orthodox English. Sure: for some English Christians, the efforts of Cranmer, Hooker and Elizabeth 1 were inadequate - so fervent Catholics smuggled in their priests and the Puritans stood their “biblical” (if not in the Bible then not permissible) grounds - but they did not claim to be the broad Church of England. They made a pitch for a narrower understanding of English Christianity, based on Rome or Geneva, and the pitch did not yield strong sales.

Perhaps a question permeating this post is the question of accuracy! How might we describe each other with words that correspond to reality. A post mentioned above, which I refuse to link to, grandiloquently speaks of some wide ranging, slippery slope of moral decay which the “revisionist” provinces are cheerfully sliding down. This is inaccurate. The revision of Anglican understanding which is emerging and evolving through the post 1998 decades is a revision with respect to the nature of marriage. It is, actually, a pretty conservative revision because it is focused on permanent, faithful, stable, loving relationships between two people. Whether we agree with such revision or not, whether we think the arguments for such revision are sound theology or not, could we at least agree that no Anglican province is now or in the future about to canonically permit orgies, casual sexual liaisons, polyamory, and the like. Put another way, we all read 1 Peter at the conference and none were proposing that we ignore 4:3-4a.

Does this mean that, from an inside the conference tent perspective, all is actually well with Anglicanism as found in the attending provinces of the Anglican Communion? Not at all. We have work to do which, in my humble opinion, would help us to be better Christians, and therefore better Anglican Christians. For example, in one of our Bible studies, focusing on one theme in 1 Peter, we had a fine lead off from ++Justin, followed by a panel of contributors talking about what that theme means to them. I found these contributions to be overall unimpressive. This particular theological concept seemed to mean whatever the speaker wanted it to mean. I described this in my small group as very “plastic” - maybe “pliable” would be the better word. How could we grow in theological depth and precision as a Communion because we who lead (clergy, preachers, Bible study leaders) have done the hard yards of theological study, intent on not ending up with plastic/pliable notions of critical theological concepts?

A related matter, perhaps, is the question of worship in the life of the Communion. A fellow Kiwi, Christchurch blogger, Bosco Peters in a recent post has voiced concern that the conference managed to talk about Anglican Identity without talking about Anglican worship, in respect of our common history in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) or in respect of the general idea that Anglicans (most, most of our history) believe in praying together what we believe - binding ourselves to “common prayer.” Now, I put my hand up in the first instance as one who didn’t think about this when we discussed that Call paper. But perhaps I (and we bishops, theological advisors to the Communion, etc) need to ask, why didn’t we think about this aspect of Anglican identity? The answer (explanation/excuse/!?) lies - I am proposing for discussion - in two aspects of the situation. 

First, that we Anglicans take our worship together so much for granted that we do not notice when it is not part of (e.g.) a Call paper on Anglican Identity. 

Secondly, that we have some important ways of speaking about what constitutes Anglicanism which (for reasons I do not know) either do not reference worship or, at best, imply it obliquely. Two such ways were at the heart of the Call paper on Anglican Identity: the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Five Marks of Mission. How might we change this? (One possibility lies in talk at the conference of review of such things!)

Worship at the conference itself was significant - a prayerful retreat, grand opening service, intentionally less grand, a little bit informal closing service, conference morning eucharists and evening prayer services, and the chaplaincy team leading other services, including early morning prayer and night prayer - yet, we could have done more. Noting that daily eucharist and evening prayer services were “opt in” services, some around me observed that we didn’t actually worship when all together in plenary (e.g. Could we have sung a hymn at the beginning of each morning Bible study session?).

Incidentally, the morning eucharist services, led by a different province each day, provided in place of the sermon a short video presentation exemplifying the life of that province. Of the services I attended, the presentation by Pakistan was outstanding - you may be able to access it on the conference website.

So, a final paragraph for this post - written in the privilege of a short 24 hour stay in Oxford, most of it at Christ Church Oxford, including Evensong in the cathedral which is uniquely also the “house” chapel - pic below.* Isn’t Anglicanism amazing? Being at Canterbury, UK a few weeks ago, and now at a place particualrly connected to Canterbury, NZ and my own diocese, I have been reminded that from the small seed of Pope Gregory sending Augustine to Canterbury, and all the celtic missional endeavours before that, the faith shared by the English speaking peoples has advanced beyond Kent, Northumbria, etc into all the countries colonized by the British empire, and beyond those countries into place never coloured red on the map of the world. We are part of an amazing story of gospel growth. May it continue in the power of the Spirit of the God who has loved us in Jesus Christ.


*This photo of the east end of Christ Church cathedral, Oxford, captures work done in the 19th century, designed by renowned architect, Gilbert Scott … also architect for Christ Church cathedral, Christchurch, NZ.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Lambeth Conference 2022: the outstanding, unanswered questions maybe not what you think

Introduction

In the background to what I write below, the following links may be helpful:

Global South Fellowship of Anglicans communique towards the end of the conference.

The Tablet report on Cardinal Koch’s address on Christian unity.

The Lambeth Conference website where all sorts of reports on the events and addresses of the conference are available.

A very helpful Church Times article on the course of events regarding sexuality at the conference in relation to the much talked about, twice edited, not voted on Call re Human Dignity.

Also worth bearing in mind as you read below re the future of the Anglican Communion is that while the Archbishop of Nigeria has not been to Lambeth, he has been able to travel recently to the USA dedicating new churches for the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity. This Diocese, in the territory of the USA, belongs to neither ACNA nor to TEC, it is an overseas Diocese of an Anglican church which is a member province of the Anglican Communion. That is, while the Anglican Communion has problems (see below), we live in a strange Anglican world in which a stern critic of the Communion, such as Nigeria’s Archbiship Ndukuba, cannot even trust GAFCON’s preferred alternative to TEC, i.e. ACNA, with the oversight and pastoral care of Nigerians in the USA. In passing, this looks like a culturally-attuned, highly contextual, locally-oriented solution to the care of Nigerian Anglicans in another jurisdiction! Apparently culture and context matter, even in GAFCON oriented churches.

Then, two analytical posts on the human sexuality debate at the conference by Andrew Goddard in the Psephizo blog run by Ian Paul*: Part One and Part Two.

*I happened to meet Ian, in person, for the first time, during the course of last week - a great pleasure!

The whole of Archbishop Welby’s final keynote address which is significant re Anglican missiology and ecclesiology.

The Anglican Communion This Week as #LambethConference2022 Concludes

Potentially there is a very, very large amount of things to say (for example reading the two posts noted above by Andrew Goddard on the Psephizo blog and commenting on them). There is also a lot to say about things which happened at the conference which were very interesting and worthwhile to me, but may not be to you, dear readers. Suffice to say, on that score, that I met a huge number of very lovely people who are very dedicated Anglicans in their respective parts of the Communion; that the conference discussed a range of topics and heard from a considerable number of speakers, so that there was no single issue which dominated the conference (whatever any external observer says otherwise); and that, if there is one takeaway from the conference it is this: no matter what the problems we can describe (see further above and below), the Anglican Communion is in good heart and will remain alive and lively for a very long time to come. It is not on its last legs. Even though some commenters I read appear to wish that into being so.

There could also be a lot to say trying to unravel the tangled knot of what we think we have done at the conference re human sexuality in the context of the Call paper on Human Dignity: have we managed (as I think we have) to formalise the fact that we are a Communion with a plurality of views on marriage? What does ‘plurality’ mean in this context? Is it the same as ‘adiaphora’ or indifference to the consequences of such views in relation to salvation and so forth. (I have had a bit of a go on that score via my Twitter feed @petercarrell if you care to chase that up). But lots is being said about such tthings (again, see, for instance, Andrew Goddard at the links above) and some conversations towards the end of the conference have got me thinking about some other problems the Communion has, which we haven’t really discussed.

If the Communion is in good heart at the end of this gathering of bishops from 39/42 provinces, as I think it is, that doesn’t mean that the heart of the Communion doesn’t need its valves tuned up or its blood supply lines refurbished!

Thus the outstanding, unanswered questions after #LambethConference2022 may not be what you think. They may not be whether the Communion can hold together or not, but what work is yet to be done on being a better Communion.

Incidentally, on the matter of holding together, I have come across this brilliant sentence in an article entitled, “Lambeth 2022: Justin Welby spoke and the great shadow faded”:

 Lambeth Conference 2022 will be remembered as a watershed when those in favour and those against same-sex relationships accepted they were not going to agree, but resolved to stay in the same Anglican Communion.

Authority: in a Communion Determined Not To have a Pope or Patriarch (or even resolutions!?), what is possible?

While we are somewhat self-congratulatory that we found a way through the sexuality issue at this Lambeth Conference with a good degree of love and forbearance as well as recognition of difference that has not gone away in 24 years since 1998 - as well as giving due credit to ++Justin for his leadership on the matter, especially on Tuesday last week - listening to conversations, reading some commentary, I see a need to work on the question of authority in the Communion, especially when we are keen on not having authority bound to an hierarchical structure which has a Pope or Patriarch at its apex. 

We weren’t even, this past week, keen on voting on resolutions. While that led us away from turmoil on sexuality, as someone pointed out in another context (re our ecumenical relationships) we have granted ourselves no mechanism as bishops-in-conference for saying anything distinctive or decisive in respect of ecumenical agreements which do need some kind of “mind of Communion” if they are to be agreed to, implemented, changed and so forth.

How do we get such mind of Communion on matters which (let’s assume, we are agreed) it would be good to have a mind of Communion on them?

On the one hand, I noticed here and there over the past few days some of the usual criticism of the Instruments of Communion: there is too much made of bishops since there is only one, the Anglican Consultative Council which includes clergy and laity as well as bishops. I find that a strange criticism since it presumes that bishops are incapable of bringing the mind of their dioceses with them to a Lambeth Conference.

On the other hand, we agreed this week that there should be a review of the Instruments of Communion, and that would be a good thing. Wherever that review leads, it would be good if an outcome were that we are committed to acknowledging the due authority of the New or Renewed Whatever in matters where we agree we need interdependence in governance. Such example would be ecumenical agreements between the Anglican Communion (on behalf of its member provinces) and other communions/churches.

On the third hand, do we also need to restate what it means for Scripture to be authoritative in our life as Anglicans? Much of this conference has demonstrated that we are committed to the authority of Scripture. That we heed its directions on matters of justice, of stewardship of the environment, of mission and evangelism, of offering the world the kingdom of God in place of other kingdoms. 

Further, the Bible studies, including the commentary on 1 Peter offered to the conference, have shown that there are challenges translating Scriptural injunction into aspects of life today. For example, 1 Peter 3 includes directions re women submitting to men that requires careful elucidation so that we understand its meaning for today in a different world to the first century AD and the dominating Roman Empire. Scripture is authoritative yet it also invites our engagement with it, so that we rightly divine it. Informally, there has been a low key “magisterium” - a commentary, a book of study notes for the small Bible study groups, the teaching of the ABC and the panel of people who contributed via video to his talks - helping us to land in a good place in respect of the authority of 1 Peter over us: how might that be explained in respect of questions of authority and the Communion?

Also worth some deep reflection on is the process of the Calls and their acceptance through this past few weeks (and, on beyond the conference, as feedback is received and reflected upon and possibly absorbed into new editions of the Call papers). Initially we were going to vote one way, then it was directed that we would vote another way, then we settled on no votes but opportunity to signal that collectively we demurred from rather than generally agreed with a paticular Call document. Frustrating though this might have been for those of us who delight in synodical process (moving amendments on the floor of synod, debating matters until such point of exhuastion that we put the motion to a vote, etc), this approach -a team working assiduously before the conference to draft a paper, small group discussion and feedback on the paper, and then subsequent work - has merits, not least in giving the Holy Spirit the chance to work in the cool of the days and weeks such process takes, and to speak through the voices of many making feedback, rather than being suppressed in the heat of the moment when a fiery rhetoricist moves a synod in a direction it later regrets. More simply: how might we discern the leading of the Holy Spirit for the Communion in such a manner that we accept the authority of that discernment as the voice of God for the church today?

Faith, Order and Unity: When Does Actual Ecumenical Change take Place

One theme through the conference has been the unity of the church - the unity of the Anglican Communion, the unity of the universal church of God as critical to the witness of God’s people to the reconciling love of God, the provisional nature of Anglicanism because God’s plan for the church is a plan for the catholic church, not just for the Anglican church or, indeed, for the Roman Catholic Church - all underlined by the delightful presence of ecumenical observers from  many churches. Very much, John 17 and Jesus’ high priestly concerns for unity and mission. 

Now, I am a little out of date with ecumenical moves on the global level, but apart from the obvious matter of the Anglican Communion not being united at this time, I learned that at the global level there is concern that, to use a technical expression, nothing much is happening. Some kind of ecumenical chill has set in, I gathered.

One of the points made - and, sorry, I cannot recall by whom - is that our reflections through the conference have highlighted the fact that unity is not an optional extra for the keener Christians, the ones who eccentrically think it good to add to their list of meetings by turning out for ecumenical meetings as well as their own local church meetings. It is not even that Christ prayed that we might be one so we jolly well ought to be. The point is that our gospel is a message of God’s reconciling love for the world inviting all into God’s house (God has only one home). To be divided is to undermine the gospel. To be separated is to fail to attest in our own being as church to the character of the gospel.

What is to be done?

Apart from continuing work on our own Anglican “house” at this time (which we will be doing), an unasnwered question from the Lambeth Conference 2022 is what the Anglican Communion might do to play its part in fostering real ecumenical change.

There are, dare I say it, some other questions - questions for the internal life of provinces - about the unity of each of our provinces. Table talk tells me that tribalism is a problem in some provinces, if not in many provinces.

Conclusion

There is, to be sure, a big question about how we go forward as a Communion with difference and intent to remain together in some form or other.

But the outstanding, unanswered questions from this Lambeth Conference may be more than that, and, dare I say it, more significant than that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Lambeth Conference and the Indignity of Anglican Humanity (updateable thru today)

This morning (as I write this paragraph - I’ll add to this post later today) we are preparing to look at a  Call paper this afternoon on Human Dignity.

This memo to my Diocese gives a sense of the issues at stake.

This Global South press release gives a sense of what turmoil we might be in at 2 pm.

LATER

An interesting afternoon. What happened?

1. Something I never actually saw was a physical copy of the GSFA resolution which they said would be distributed at 2 pm. Not saying it didn’t exist in physical form but I never saw it as I moved in and out of the meeting venue this afternoon. Whether through the online version or paper version, I think they will get a decent number of signatures and those signatures will underline the importance of Resolution 1.10 (1998) for many, many Anglicans in most provinces of the Communion.

2. Conversationally (here at the conference), the importance of that Resolution is that offers support for parishes/dioceses that want to know they belong to a Communion in which it is taught that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that sexual activity outside of such marriage is a sin. And for some such Anglican churches this is doubly important if they are not to be derided by Muslim opponents.

3. But, also conversationally (for me, mostly seen in social media comments), for many Anglicans, expecially in Scotland, Wales, Canada, TEC, ACANZP, the Resolution stinks and any sense that it is re-affirmed is excruciatingly painful.

4. So we had an intervention by Archbishop Welby - two actually. First, he sent a letter to all of us early afternoon, and then, in the session on Human Dignity, he spoke at length - in a brilliant speech in which he  attempted to steer the Communion-as-represented-by-the-bishops between 2 and 3 above. See here for the speech and for a link to the letter.

5. Most of the conferees gave ++Justin a standing ovation at the end of the speech. Perhaps you would have done so. Perhaps not.

6. We then (in our small groups) discussed the Human Dignity paper, with opportunity for notes made to be fed back to the conference organisers. Obviously what is said in such a group stays in the group, but the group I was in had an extraordinarily respectful discussion despite our differences in views.

7. We did not vote. We did not voice anything, not even (as per other Calls), selected groups giving two minutes of feedback. Instead we stood in silence and offered our discussions to God in prayer.

8. What has been decided? I would say (repeat, I would say) the following are the effective decisions or outcomes or situations out of today: letter, speech, response to the speech, discussion:

- Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) remains in existence as the most recent formal decision of an Instrument of Communion concerning marriage and human sexuality; and it remains a decision that any Anglican province can choose to point to as its standard for teaching and for behaviour, as, in fact, most Anglican provinces do.

- No province not conforming to 1.10 will be disciplined by the ABC (imagining, which he himself does not, that he had such power of discipline.

- Recognition has been given explicitly by the ABC as an Instrument of Communion (and tacitly by the Lambeth Conference as another Instrument) that social context is very important to provinces when deciding about marriage and human sexuality, not least because derision for a church can arise in a social context if a church is mismatched with that context. Although ++Justin Welby did not mention this passage, Titus 2:5b (Then the gospel will not be brought into disrepute) springs to my mind.

9. Is this the end of the matter? Almost certainly not. I would expect a response from the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans soon (but am not prepared to predict that response). I see signs in social media commentary of Anglicans unhappy with the situation we have ended in - speaking from both (or more) sides of the matter.

10. I think that liberal/progressive Anglicans have been reminded that the Communion they belong to is inherently conservative. 

11. Depending on 9 above: what happens by way of response or reaction to today, it is possible that today marks a moment in Communion history in which we have formally become a Communion with plural understandings on marriage and human sexuality.

Thus, out of a discussion on Human Dignity (which had many other important things to say not focused on human sexuality), we faced the “indignity” of Anglican humanity - that some of us are uncomfortable about differences in sexual identity, that some of us hold views others find difficult if not anathema, that despite our common humanity and common life in Christ, we cannot easily find common cause on these matters, that we have hurt one another even by having this discussion. Yet, is it possible that only through such indignity can we find a way to dignity as a Communion?

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

On the cusp of the eve of the Lambeth Conference 2022

UPDATE: The updated Calls have been published (here).

The key change to the Human Dignity document is captured by Tim Chesterton in a Tweet here.

ORIGINAL: It is Monday (UK time). Tomorrow we head to Canterbury, Kent to register. Wednesday is a welcome day (with various meetings of the kind that prepare people - e.g. me as a Bible study group convenor). Thursday and Friday are retreat days. The conference begins on Saturday, though the formal opening service is on Sunday. I think we can say we are on the cusp of the eve of the Conference!

And what a cusp it is, as something seems to have backfired big time for the Conference organisers.

Last week we learned (and by the end of the week the Anglican public learned) that the draft “Calls” were available, and among these draft Calls, the one on Human Dignity, was text concerning the Lambeth 1998 1.10 resolution on human sexuality, couched on the one hand in a context which acknowledged the differences across Anglican provinces, and, on the other hand, offering the possibility of re-affirmation of the resolution.

Cue a concert of concerns over the weekend on Twitter, blogs and statements of various house of bishops.

Cue within the last 24 hours learning that the 1998 material was not part of the drafting group’s process and was added late and without notice of it being circulated to the drafting group.

Cue within the last hour or so (as I write, late Monday afternoon UK time) this Tweet issued by the official LC Twitter account:

In full consideration of comments made about the #LambethCalls the Lambeth Calls Subgroup that coordinates the process will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the President of the Lambeth Conference) today to discuss concerns raised. A further statement will be issued later.

As far as I can hypothesise (it is an hypothesis, as I have no inside knowledge), what has happened is this:

Initially there is a steering clear of the 1998 resolution.

Then Global South bishops make it clear that they intend a discussion of the resolution and even a vote to reaffirm.

Then someone added the resolution bit, which then offered the advantage to the Conference that the Global South desires were on the agenda before the Conference begins, rather than the Conference chugs along and then there is a hiatus while Global South tries to add to the agenda.

The furore thus created seems to have caused a massive rethink on the part of the Calls organising sub-group and we now await the outcome of their deliberations.

UPDATE: That outcome is here. The Human Dignity call will be amended and republished. There will be a third option for voting: in my words, Yes, More thought, No.

I am loathe to jump on a bandwagon of blame or accusations of “bait-and-switch” (as some of the Anglican punditocracy have done over the past few days).

The fact of the matter is, the Communion is not united on the matter of the role of 1998 Resolution 1.10 in the life of the Communion. We may or may not ever be united, but we do need to find a way to discuss this point of difference and to try to understand why there are differences among us. 

Might 2022, despite this rocky cusp to the formal beginning of the Conference, bring some togetherness to our life together?

I have a few other thoughts!

1. Has the furore of the past few days been a talkfest of northern/western Anglican provinces focusing on “our” bit of Anglicanland to the exclusion of any real recognition that the majority of Anglicanland doesn’t think like we do? (In a “worst” case of one eyedness, in some expressions of intense concern it has seemed like some in the Church of England think the Lambeth Conference is another Church of England conference and how could ++Welby possibly … But, let’s get real: the Lambeth Conference is a gathering o bishops in which the majority of bishops are not bishops of northern/western Anglicanland!).

2. To the extent that the greatest intensity of concern comes from the liberal/progressive movement within global Anglicanism, just how is this movement doing “on the ground”? Numbers aren’t everything, but I was recently in a bastion of Anglican liberal lands and was shocked at the low numbers at worship. Then today, walking along a Cambridge, UK, street, I came across “Christ Church” church and paused to look at the noticeboard - a person came out of the church and we had a brief conversation. She told me that some 600-700 people worship there and it is a church plant of an inner city Cambridge CofE church. Do I need to tell you that this helpful woman also told me it is a certain kind of church? (Clue: not liberal/progressive).

3. That is, there are all sorts of issues at play here, including, most painfully, the anxiety and stress this late notice of the Human Dignity Call’s content is causing LGBTQI++ Anglicans. My interest going into the Conference is how we can find together a “both/and” outcome rather than an “either/or” one.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

The universe is made of stories, not atoms.

 I happened to come across the title heading yesterday:

The universe is made of stories, not atoms.

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

I have no idea who Muriel Rukeyser is but I like her style! (Actually, she was an American poet.)

Her quoted words are on a New York sidewalk as part of a series of New York Public Library plaques expressing humanity’s commitment to the written word. Or maybe just a commitment to words.

In a week when the universe has yielded yet more amazing information and illustrations about its “atoms” (e.g. here, with bonus about NZ swamps!), it is worth a little reflection on how the universe is just an “is” if there are no words. Even a universe with a planet with animals but no humans is an “is” with no history of or stories about the “is.” No knowing that we know things about the universe. No knowing that there is a universe to know things about. No knowing that there might be choices to be made about how we shall live. The universe is made of stories, not atoms.

The Judeo-Christian response to a universe of stories has always been to tell one story as the story which makes all other stories possible and to tell that story as the only story which all humanity should hear and live out as the story of their individual and communal lives. (And, yes, the Christian story has parted ways with the Judaic story, not least because Christians inherited from the Judaic story the singularity of the most important story to tell).

So, among comments to the previous post here, has been a discussion about the present state of, and possible demise of Protestant Christianity, and whether Anglicanism is likely to survive the 21st century, possibly if not probably because of its catholic features.

From a “story” perspective, Protestant Christianity has flowed out of a Reformation in which the then version of the Christian story was critiqued and corrected (rightly) with the corollary that Protestantism committed itself to telling and safeguarding the corrected story through much story retelling (sermons more important than liturgy). Five hundred years later the corrected story remains correct but the emphasis on the way the story is told is under severe pressure.

From a “story” perspective, Roman Catholic Christianity has flowed along with some correction via the Counter-Reformation and a significant correction via Vatican II - when the story’s main form of telling, the Mass, was permitted to be told in the language of the congregation and not the language of a once “universal” community (the evolving Roman Empire). It took Rome 450 years to learn one of the main lessons of the Reformation and some 50 years later some want to unlearn that lesson!

But 500 years after the Reformation, it is time (IMHO) for Protestant Christianity to sit at the footstool of the Mass and learn what it likely should never have forgotten, that the telling of the unique Christian story does not have one and only one form of telling.

Much of Anglicanism has not forgotten that there is more to Christian gatherings than the sermon. Yet what we do and say in sermon and in liturgy needs reflection as we Western Anglicans lose statistical ground (and as other stories permeate Western culture, e.g. here). The significance of the Mass is not purely its liturgical form, as though mere copying of the Mass is the way forward (most Anglican eucharistic services are, more or less, “copies” of the Mass) but its role in the Catholic telling of the Christian story. A role, for instance, which gives people not particularly minded to engage with doctrinal propositions, or depth analysis of biblical texts, a means of refreshing their living out of the Christian story week by week, if not day by day.

The renewal of Christianity in the 21st century must be about engaging people who know the universe is made of stories and are disinclined to elevate one of those stories above others. What do we need to do and say telling our story that one story matters?

Postscript: isn’t it critical to the “success” or “failure” of the Lambeth Conference 2022, that we renew our Anglican telling of the Christian story? What story, instead, will be heard if we either descend into the politics of sexuality, or end with a set of “calls” which are indistinguishable from the story the Green movement tells? Our Bible studies on 1 Peter will include reflection on what it means to give explanation for the hope which lies within us!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Will Resolution 1.10 (1998) be reaffirmed at the Lambeth Conference?

 My attention has been drawn to this video, a two minute message from the Archbishop of South Sudan and Chair of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA), Dr Justin Badi, in which, among other things, he calls for Lambeth 2022 to reaffirm Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

That raises at least two interesting questions in the run up to Lambeth 2022:

1. Will the GSFA be able to turn the current script of the Conference (to not have any resolutions) on its head, and to have the Conference shift into resolution mode?

2. If Yes to 1, for any such resolution mode to result in a reaffirmation of 1.10?

I don’t know the answer to 1, though I’d wager that if a majority of bishops want to change the script, the script will be under pressure to change.

If we are in resolution mode, would we reaffirm 1.10?

Again, I imagine a majority seeking to change the script, if responding to Dr Badi’s message, would be minded to reaffirm 1.10.

But I also imagine that a significant number of bishops would likely press for a reconstituted 1.10 to be affirmed rather than the 1998 version to be reaffirmed.

If we do have a discussion with an openness on the part of all to find as much common ground as possible across the Communion, then here are the elements of a revised resolution I would like to see.

A. An affirmation that when marriage is spoken of in the Bible it is marriage between a man and a woman.

B. An affirmation that the Bible also speaks about variations to the creation “ideal” of one man/one woman being one flesh permanently - as social contexts and other conditions change, there is polygamy, concubines are taken, Deuteronomy allows for woman taken captive through war to be forcibly married (and offers a way for them to be let go if unsatisfactory wives), and in the New Testament, between the gospel of Matthew and Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, the early church finds ways to support divorce in at least some circumstances. An affirmation, that is, that the biblical people of God experienced biblical marriage through time as complex and adaptable.

C. An affirmation of pastoral care for and listening to GLBTQ++ Anglicans, including an affirmation that these Anglican sisters and brothers are found in every Anglican province.

D. An affirmation that Anglican provinces across the Communion face differing circumstances and represent diverse cultures in respect of responses to human sexuality, including differing law codes, and that each Anglican province must determine what biblical faithfulness means, in their respective contextual circumstances, in the light of A, B and C above.

E. A resolve for provinces to both listen to each other in respect of each’s determination and to hold each other to account while maintaining a commitment to not separate. (Archbishop Badi’s video message makes the point that the GSFA is committed to not leaving the Communion.)

Since writing the above I have been reading a few things which some Western Anglicans have been deciding ,,, so their progressive directions are not my progressive directions, and I can see that Lambeth is going to be, er, challenging!

Monday, July 4, 2022

Heading to Lambeth 2022 - God's church for God's world

This may (or may not) be my last post for a while. Later this week we hop on a plane to the northern hemisphere for a mix of some holiday prior to and post the much anticipated - "14 years since 2008" - Lambeth Conference 2022, running 26 July to 8 August. As appropriate I will post from within the conference and there may be a thought or two in the run up to it, but holidays are holidays!

Lots of friends and acquaintances are asking whether I am excited about the Conference and I confess to some rising excitement (next paragraph) and some moderation of the rise (because it appears to be a highly scripted conference - will it be lovely but not era-defining?).

My rising excitement is about being there (should be fun), meeting people (the few I know personally, the few I have "met" online, the many I have heard of but never met and the bishops and spouses I've never heard of but will be exciting to meet and get to know), conference input (Bible studies, speakers) and conference worship.

The Conference seems pretty scripted to not make "line in the sand" resolutions (the shadow of 1998 looms large), preferring that we develop "calls" (which I understand to be motivating challenges/encouragements to be (as the Conference theme says) God's church for God's world. I saw a post the other day which implied that Global South bishops might seek to get the Conference making a resolution or two. Speculation? We'll find out soon enough!

I like the theme: God's church for God's world. It emphasises the servant character of the church - serving God, serving God's world. It conveys the importance of evangelism: the church has no good news for the world if that news is not that God is for rather than against the world; and the church is God's church when it is itself the message that God is for the world.

I also think the theme sheds light on that 1998 shadow I mentioned above. After 24 years, the story of the post 1998 Anglican Communion is convoluted (remember the Windsor Report, the attempt to secure agreement on the Covenant, etc?) and complex (see Venn diagram re Anglican Communion, GAFCON, Global South) but (as a then supporter of 1998 1.10, the thrust of the Windsor Report, and the Covenant), my present concern is whether we become a Communion defined by one issue and that issue is not the doctrine of God or the church.

To the extent that I see some talk on the interweb about either how terrible the Communion is for failing to follow through on 1998 1.10 or how good it would be if the majority had their way via a "resolution" Conference and re-affirmed 1998 1.10, I am happy that we are not focused on one issue (unless that issue is the doctrine of God or the doctrine of the church).

In particular, in "God's world", in which (as seen in the last few days, as post Covid freedoms are enjoyed) Pride marches take place, and many new, famous, popular people are "coming out," is "God's church for God's world" best served, most enhanced by either a great regret that 1998 1.10 has not had the force many Anglicans wish it had had, or by a re-affirmation of it in 2022?

This post - should you be tempted to comment - is not yet another re-run of how the Anglican church should believe or behave in relation to homosexuality. It is simply asking the question whether, from the lens of "God's church for God's world", we should be revivifying 1998 1.10. Is there another way for God's church to approach this aspect of God's world?

There is an alternative! For some years now the Roman Catholic Church, which has not changed one iota of its official, catechetical teaching on homosexuality, has enjoyed a "Franciscan imagination" in what it has messaged about the reality of homosexuality - an imagination which I personally find hard to find in talk of 1998 1.10.

Might the Conference spur some new Anglican imagination, some new light so the shadow of Lambeth 1998 is diminished?