Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lambeth will end in the mourning

Its getting time to draw the threads together of posts here, and numerous other posts sighted by me but not cited here.

I think Lambeth will end reasonably well. Its clear that lots of beneficial conversations have been held; people have actually, really, definitely listened and learnt from one another; and existing networks have been strengthened if not developed (e.g. Global South is going to get bigger). The closing statements may seem bland, even disappointing to those looking for strong "resolutions", but that will reflect the reality of different points of view present and well articulated across the smaller and larger groups. Likely there will be pointers re the Windsor Process and the Covenant Process of a Communion moving towards an affirmation of Anglican theology supportive of good pastoral practice re human sexuality and unsupportive of same sex blessings (since not able to be credibly grounded in Scripture by the majority of the Communion).

But the after party, the post Lambeth life of the Communion will not be happy, and thus this Lambeth will end in the mourning - it may even be the last Lambeth in the present form of inviting all bishops every ten years. It will not be happy because the signs within the present Conference are that (a) TEC and Canada do not have the will to resist internal forces propelling their governing bodies towards authorisation of same sex blessings, and, especially in TEC, towards further elections of bishops who live in relationships which are neither celibate nor the marriage of a man and a woman; and (b) African bishops, together with Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone of South America, will not desist from intervention in the jurisdictions of Canada and the United States of America.

Quite where this takes the Communion I am not sure. It could be that TEC and Canada quietly secede away from the Windsor and Covenant Processes, and the African provinces prone to interventionism, which have never quite moved closely towards those processes will remain at a distance. It may be that the Archbishop of Canterbury (i.e. Rowan and successors) feels his greatest sphere of influence is in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, and most of the Global South across Africa and Asia. There is bound to be a lot of time and energy required of the ABC simply holding England together.

What will emerge before 2018 will be (1) a greater awareness that the religion of TEC is not the Anglican Christianity of most other provinces (i.e. the current veil will fall from our eyes and we shall see this clearly) - that will make it easier to let TEC go its particular way, even to the point of becoming The Episcopal Communion, and (2) a series of great Anglican conferences: another GAFCON, two or three very large Global South gatherings, which will nail for the ACC and ACO that the Communion is conservative, and their energies should be clearly and unhesitatingly put into ensuring that it is moderate conservatism rather than hyper conservatism which predominates in the councils. Thus, if there is to be another Lambeth Conference of global dimensions in 2018 it will be as a gathering which comes to affirm the Covenant, including its Appendix of Discipline, because the will to do this has evolved through a kind of 'natural selection' in which one species of Anglican goes one way and the other(s) go another.

In another post, I shall attempt to spell out what this might mean for the complex life of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, with its Three Tikanga, and its theological polarities!

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