Tuesday, August 5, 2008

C’mon Conservative Anglicans: Cheer Up!

There are many different reactions to Lambeth running around the world. But conservative Anglicans should take huge heart from Lambeth, despite some hand-wringing, for these reasons:

(1) The Anglican Communion held together through GAFCON (which did not walk away) and Lambeth (which did not break apart). Conservatives have said we value the Communion and are committed to its future. If it does fall apart it looks less likely to be due to conservative action.

(2) Lambeth in various ways, not least through Archbishop Rowan Williams, reaffirmed that Lambeth 1998 1.10 is the ‘mind’ of the Communion. This is a significant advance. The detractors of 1.10, who argue that it is a non-binding resolution, now have to reckon with how they can be ‘anglican’ while denying the ‘anglican mind’. Legally nothing has changed, but psychologically a lot has. The claim that blessing of same-sex relationships is ‘prophetic’ (i.e. a justifiable innovation) now rings very hollow. Five years after the ordination of Gene Robinson and the New Westminster initiatives on same-sex relationship blessings, the Communion is saying, “Hmm, prophetic actions need testing, and this far they do not pass the test.”

(3) The Global South network grew in size and stature during Lambeth. Their role and influence vastly outweighed the - in the end - peripheral roles of Gene Robinson and the lobbyists of the Lambeth marketplace.

(4) TEC and ACCan asserted its right to self-determination on their prophetic actions (they have that right anyway) but did not receive Communion support for doing so. Instead the Communion called for moratoria in these matters. If the moratoria call is ignored then (a) TEC and ACCan’s reputation will be further damaged, and (b) the African interventionists scarcely need to heed the call the refrain from further intervention. The ball is in North America’s court!

(5) Burrow into the final reflections document. It has some great things to say about Scripture. Recall the huge role Scripture has played at this Lambeth (notwithstanding criticism of the content of the study questions). The Anglican Communion is a Scripture-based Communion. That is both hopeful for a conservative approach to Anglicanism in general, and reason to believe that, in the end, the Communion cannot follow the unscriptural pathway of North America.

The tragedy of conservative evangelicalism is its tendency, sometimes quite a militant tendency, to focus on what is wrong, on the empty portion of the glass, and on what could yet go wrong. But not this conservative evangelical! I am celebrating Lambeth 2008. Will you join me?

PS: To the liberals running round grizzling about scapegoats and sacrifices, there is also a lot of good re Anglican listening to the experiences of gays and lesbians. A uniform testimony across the indaba groups was that ‘listening’ took place! Bishops learned from each other.

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