Thursday, August 7, 2008

The post Lambeth challenge for conservatives

I see Lambeth 2008 as a triumph for the centre of the Anglican Communion. It gave no great traction to TEC, Gene Robinson, the plethora of GLBT activists. It offered 'intensification' of centre ground initiatives such as Windsor and the proposed Covenant. It offered gracious statements re GAFCON and missing bishops but did not seem beholden to their voices. It kept rather than dissolved the tension between pastoral care of homosexuals and theological affirmation of the teaching of Scripture - noting again the reaffirmation of Lambeth 1998 1.10. It has dared both TEC and GAFCON to remain at the table of discussion - notably with the promise of a meeting of the Primates in 2009. Will they all come? Finally, the conference, through the Windsor Continuation Group offered the possibility (however vague and dependent on the goodwill and flexibility of TEC) of re-inclusion of breakaway Anglican groups: the centre reaching out to the edges?

A challenge, perhaps 'the' challenge for conservatives, both 'moderate' and 'strong' (I am rejecting 'hard', 'extreme', and 'ultra' in favour of 'strong'!), is to consider ways and means of building alliances and associations with the centre, rather than disturbing or distancing the centre. The temptation for conservatives is to so emphasise conservative priorities that the centre is disturbed enough to consider the alternative vision for Anglicanism offered by 'liberalism' (albeit the moderate rather than strong version).

The centre, I suggest, likes Scripture and clear explanation of its content and meaning. Traditionally conservative preachers meet this need very well (a good example being a visiting English preacher, Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbes in Oxford, speaking at Latimer Fellowship and other events this week in Christchurch and Hamilton). But the centre does not like messages which diminish the personhood of women and homosexuals, being open to the ordination of women and to (limited) tolerance of homosexuals.* Conservative approaches to issues of the ordination of women and the pastoral needs and aspirations of homosexuals sometimes fail to understand the mood of the centre. Matching conservative clarity about Scripture with the centre's clarity about its sense of the mind of Anglicanism is an intriguing challenge in the days ahead!

Cohesion between conservatism and the centre is one key to Anglican unity. What resolve do we have to build that cohesion? What ability do we have to shape our language towards cohesion rather than dissonance?

*Its my understanding of the centre of Anglicanism, at least in the West, that it is ultimately limited in its tolerance of homosexuals. Its not averse to the general proposition of homosexuals in partnerships being ordained, but it gets a bit anxious when the next vicar being proposed is a homosexual (i.e. a NIMBY character is part of the centre ... in some instances we see this also happening on the ordination of women).

No comments: