Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Winchester's Wisdom

Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt, outstanding Bishop of Winchester, has published this report on Lambeth, (printable form here) including these passages which I personally see as very instructive as we try to make sense of Lambeth and its aftermath:

"But on the final afternoon Archbishop Rowan decisively tipped the balance for the first time in the Conference. Affirming the uniqueness of Christ as the Way, the Truth and the life, he re-affirmed Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as the teaching of the Anglican Communion on sexual behaviour, and the Primates’ 2007 call for moratoria on blessings of same-sex relationships, on the consecration of any more priests in same-sex sexual relationships like Gene Robison, and on incursions by bishops into the dioceses of others; and he again backed work on the Anglican Communion Covenant as the most fruitful way for the Communion to manage its life together. “The onus of proof”, he said, “is on those who seek a new understanding.” And later: “The vision of a global Church of interdependent communities is not the vision of an ecclesiastical world empire - or even a colonial relic… The global horizon of the Church matters because churches without this are always in danger of slowly surrendering to the culture around them and losing sight of their calling to challenge that culture.” And then he went on to speak memorably of the Church’s “truthful Christian witness in situations of profound social corruption and disorder”, instancing Zimbabwe; and by implication of the imperative upon Christians to pray for and to stand with those everywhere who are the concern of the Millennium Development Goals."

"Notwithstanding Archbishop Rowan’s magnificent final Address, I continue to see a negotiated “orderly separation” as the best and most fruitful way forward for the Anglican Communion. The experience of this Lambeth Conference, underlined by that final Address, has again convinced me that the Anglican Communion cannot hold in tension convictions and practices that are incompatible, and so not patent of “reconciliation”, without continuing seriously to damage the life and witness of Anglican Churches as much in “the Global South” as in North America and in other provinces that have followed the lead of TEC. The experience of this Conference cannot have encouraged any participant to imagine that the latter are about to turn their backs on a generation or more of development in directions foreign to the life and convictions of the vast majority of Anglicans, let alone of other Christians, across the world. I cannot see that the members of an “international family of Churches” can thrive and grow and offer a clear witness to Jesus Christ as Lord while offering contradictory teaching, on a matter as central as the character of the Holy Life, in different parts of a world knit together by instantaneous e-communications."

"If this may be the future under God of the Anglican Communion - a large “orthodox” majority continuing to look to its historic roots (I pray and hope) in the See of Canterbury yet maintaining some defined relationship with a “separated” and more “liberal” Communion of Churches centred on TEC – much now depends on the GAFCON Primates and the rest of the “Global South” quickly mending the relationships between them that have been put at risk, and on all of them together reacting positively to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s stated intention to call a meeting of the Primates of the Communion early in 2009.

By then they, and the rest of us, may have a clear sense of how TEC and others are going to respond to Archbishop Rowan’s calls in his final Address on August 3rd; and the Archbishop may himself be in a position to judge whether there is a will for the Anglican Communion to go forward together in Our Lord’s service – or whether he faces the terrifyingly difficult decision between initiating negotiations that may make for “an orderly separation”, or watching a still more destructive separation take place around him."

Also in this report, Bishop Michael refers back to a statement he made on an earlier occasion, one which is closely in tune with my own thinking:

"I continue to judge that the Church of England’s House of Bishops was right in 1991, in Issues in Human Sexuality, to teach that although people who judge it appropriate as Christians to live in same-sex relationships should be made welcome in our parishes, the Church should not affirm their life-style, still less consider them for ordination into its sacramental and teaching ministries. In the same way, while we know that there are people in many of our churches who are living together but are not married, we do not accept such people as candidates for Reader ministry or for training for ordination. Issues… had, I believe, both ways of living in view in its paragraph 5.13: “the world will assume that all ways of living which an ordained person is allowed to adopt are in Christian eyes equally valid”.

I see no future for the Anglican Communion as we know it, or for the Church of England as we know it, if either deserts this teaching."

Hat-tip to Thinking Anglicans and Global South

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