Monday, July 14, 2008

Lambeth prospects: muddle, or puzzle solution?

If Lambeth is to be of use to the quest for conservative Anglicans for a Communion which is coherent with the Scripture-based theology which birthed the C of E, reformed it during the Reformation, and motivated the mission which led to the formation of the Anglican Communion, it has to solve the puzzle of the pastoral, theological, and political responses to homosexuality.

The pastoral response needs to lean a bit liberal (in the sense of open, welcoming, generous, life-affirming), while the theological response needs an unabashed conservative flavour (in the sense of conserving Anglican theology rather than revising it into something unAnglican). The political response needs to back off talk of ‘gay marriage’, ‘rights’, ‘empowerment’, ‘emission’ (cf. the PB of TEC’s response to GAFCON), ‘gay bishops’, and to engage with the relationship between gospel, mission, church, and the living body of Christ. It is no solution to politicise gay and lesbian ecclesial aspirations to the point where there are no heterosexuals left in the church (the wasteland towards which TEC is heading?).

Lambeth 1998 got the theological response right, but it misjudged the political machinations since, which have undermined the import of Resolution 1.10 for the theology of the Communion. It may have gotten the pastoral response wrong by asking only for a listening process.

GAFCON 2008 has the theological response mostly right, and it understands the political dimensions to the crisis, but it offers an inadequate pastoral response to homosexuality.

TEC and Canada think they have gotten the pastoral response correct, but its at the expense of a true catholic theology supporting that response. Ultimately it offers a political justification for its pastoral response. Essentially it gets all three responses wrong, for there can be no truth in a pastoral practice that is theologically unsound. Nor is there an authentic politics at work in the church which is not authorised by theology.

A Lambeth Conference which avoids its most predictable outcome, a continuing muddle, by solving the puzzle will not only please conservatives, but a whole lot of confused Anglicans who inhabit the centre ground. We all want the puzzle solved. Though perhaps we want too much: kindness to gays and lesbians, faithfulness to Scripture and Anglican doctrine, no power takeovers by radical elements. Can we have all three? Or just two? Or only one?

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