Monday, August 29, 2022

Orthodox generosity?

Nota bene: the purpose of this post is to reflect a little on the general question of "generous orthodoxy." There is no intention in this post of continuing the past few posts re the Anglican Communion in the light of the Lambeth Conference 2022 - posts which, in a sense, have asked the question, how generous is the orthodoxy of the Anglican Communion. Commenters are free, of course, to make links to the state of the Communion, but I am not intending to generate further such discussion via this post.


Back in the day (2006), North American Christian theological thinker and influencer, Brian McLaren wrote A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, ... emergent, unfinished Christian which made quite an impact (including his being invited to speak at the Lambeth Conference 2008). 

I think it might be fair to say that many orthodox Christians responses and reviews could be summed up as, 

"Perhaps too generous." 

That is, too many views along too wide a range of Christian diversity got included in McLaren's generous understanding of orthodoxy for every reader's comfort.

This year at Lambeth Conference 2022 it was both good to meet up again with Bishop Graham Tomlin and to buy his latest book, Navigating a World of Grace: The Promise of Generous Orthodoxy (itself a companion book to a denser theological work, which Graham has edited with Nathan Eddy, called The Bond of Peace: Exploring Generous Orthodoxy, featuring essays by an array of distinguished theologians).

How might the present and future responses and reviews of +Graham's book be summed up? My prediction is something like this:

"Perhaps just the right amount of generosity."

I say that because the strength of this book is its resolute sticking to, and continuing affirmation of the Nicene Creed. Or, put another way, this book is an exposition of the Nicene Creed, not a deconstruction of it, and the exposition explores and highlights the ways in which the tight, disciplined statements in the creed actually express the boundless love of God, the wide and deep work of the Spirit throughout creation, and the fulfilling, fruitful implications of the Trinity for the spirituality and sociality of humanity.

It is worth noting, further, that this book, in a very clear, readable manner is an effective "systematic theology" in a relatively few pages (170), compared to the tomes of our friends, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Barth, Jenson and so on! 

Also worth citing is Tom Holland's (author of Dominion, not the Spiderman actor) observation in a promotional blurb on the back cover that,

"this is a book that achieves what even many Christians may find a startling feat: a demonstration that orthodoxy is far more radical and interesting a concept than heresy."

As Bishop Graham unpacks the words of the creed he opens up the generosity of the God detailed in the propositions of the creed. Our eyes are opened to the grace and love of God who has created us and redeemed us. By the end, our hearts are challenged to ourselves be generous people of God.

"The heart of orthodoxy is the overflowing generosity and grace of God and its goal is the formation of generous people." (p. 154)

I commend this book to ADU readers. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Reconfiguration of global Anglicanism (not "Reformation"?): And yet ...

Prelude re further Lambeth reflections

Many links at Thinking Anglicans.

James Hadley (including comment on Koch's "ecumenical emergency" and concise thoughts re authority).

Phil Groves on the complexity of the numbers involved in the GFSA/"global south"/"global north" axes.

Richard Peers (whom I met for the first time a week ago - I also met Phil Groves while in England).

News of the day - Anglicans Down Under

At the recent Australasian GAFCON conference the already announced, legally constituted (in Australian law) Diocese of the Southern Cross became an ecclesial reality with a congregation and a bishop: here, here and here. I note, incidentally, language in the reports about not being in communion with Canterbury.

Effectively, Australia now has an equivalent to the CCAANZ diocese based here in our islands. 

The Primate of ACA , ++Geoffrey Smith, has responded with this media statement, in which he says that a "new denomination" has been created.

Worth reading for a bit of wider background is this commentary.

Then, is this relevant? The Anxieties of Calvinism ...

But, maybe the best read is here, "The Anglican breakaway ‘cult’ – a swan that quacks like a duck must be a duck", by +George Browning, former Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn.

What historical season are we in (globally, locally, Anglicanly)?

I confess that an initial response to the Australian news is to be a bit ecclesiastically grumpy - to describe why this development is wrong, etc, unAnglican etc. To wonder - again - why Anglicans who love Jesus but understand Scripture differently from each other cannot have fellowship together. To bewail the weaponizing of the word "orthodox" so that a huge bunch of Anglican laity and clergy who believe every word of the creeds, faithfully break bread together and read Scripture thoroughly (i.e. according to the lectionary) are deemed "unorthodox" by another bunch of, well, self-appointed magisteria.

But, would that get us very far?

Perhaps another way to respond is to try to keep the big picture (or biggest pictures) in view.

Here goes.

There has been some talk these past two decades that Christianity (at its most general) is in the midst of a regular 500-yearly reformation (the last one being, of course, the Reformation / Counter-Reformation. (Obviously the 16th century was about the Western church and not the Eastern church; but the present one - if it be one - is a convulsion across the globe). 

Within that framing of Christian tectonic plate shifting it is easy to locate global Anglican turmoils (e.g. from Lambeth 1998) in a similar if smaller frame. The church in England through the English Reformation became the Church of England: governed no longer from Rome but from Windsor, its senior bishop in Canterbury and not the Vatican, its supreme synod Parliament and not the Cardinals, the Bible in English and not Latin, and its prayer books moving through 1549 and 1552 towards 1662 and a substantive re-forming of the Mass. Critically, the text of Scripture, re-read with Lutheran and other European reformers' eyes, exposed various gospel-sized deficiencies in the apparatus of medieval Christian devotion and penitential quest for cleansing from sin and guilt. The reforming of the church was a refinding of grace in a context which had yielded to works a value in assuaging guilt at odds with both Jesus and Paul.

Run forward approximately 500 years to the beginning of the third millennium and we have an Anglican global church or network of churches in a turmoil familiar from the beginning decades of the 16th century and the church in England becoming the Church of England. Why not propose that we are in a new "reformation"? A new reformation that is into a reforming of the church into (kinda, sorta) two Anglican churches:

- one claiming true inheritance of the English Reformation status (only we are faithful to Scripture, only we submit to the authority of Scripture like Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley of old) and 

- the other - depending on one's perspective - claiming true inheritance of the English Reformation status (only we are making the changes necessary when we see things have gone wrong, when works has triumphed over grace, when law [aka Lambeth 1998 1.10] has lost mercy) or, perhaps more accurately, claiming to be at the forefront of a needed adjustment of Anglicanism as part of a needed adjustment of all Christianity if it is to have relevance for a changing world (cf. John Spong's writings as particularly imaginative on this score).

A challenge, in my view, with thinking in this way - well, two challenges are:

- this is binary and many Anglicans (including myself) see themselves as somewhere between (say) Sydney/Nigeria and the progressive edges of TEC, rather than belong to one or other of the binary;

- is this really "reformational" in the sense of the text of Scripture striking a blow against a church gone terribly wrong in its misunderstanding of grace? Are we not talking about movements within churches, Anglican and others, strenuously working out a new future in a world which has reformed itself away from Christendom to secularism, or raised up aggressive forms of Islam and other world faiths at rate of change which has shocked us all and left us gasping for gospel breathe?

Thus I suggest it may be more helpful to think of a reconfiguration of global Christianity rather than a reformation. Whatever else is going on, Anglicans and other Christians are reconfiguring the space they call church. There are convulsions in Eastern Orthodoxy, culture wars in Catholicism, and rises and falls of new churches in the West and elsewhere which can be described as global Christianity (and global Anglicanism) reconfiguring itself.

If we are reconfiguring, then what?

Painful though this latest GAFCON move is - the announcement of the new Diocese of the Southern Cross being operational - it may be helpful to see this move less as a shattering blow to hopes and dreams for a united-in-our-differences local church (Australia) and global Communion and more a next step in an evolution being determined by forces well beyond the control of synods and the persuasive powers of social media pundits.

In evolutionary theory, the fruitfulness of a species depends on its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Historically Protestantism has been adaptive to changing circumstances via a variety of strategies, including splits and new church plants. Also historically Catholicism has been adaptive to changing circumstances via a variety of strategies, including formation of new movements within the communion of those submissive to the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Further, both Protestantism and Catholicism have understood the need to evangelise, or die.

Surely, if we accept what we would prefer not to accept, that global and local Anglicanism is reconfiguring, is evolving into two species of Anglicanism, then the question before us is whether either or both Anglicanisms will flourish. (By which I mean over the next century, not just who has more "bums on seats" right now.)

This article, featuring the research of David Goodhew, draws attention to the challenges of (a) surviving, let alone (b) growing, for some bishops/dioceses.

Let's proclaim the gospel, let's share the Bread of heaven with the hungry on earth, let's welcome into God's family the last, the lost and the least.

Let's see which Anglicanism is, over time, most faithful to the gracious God who blesses God's church, who places our feet in a broad room (as the psalmist said).

And yet ...

It is somewhat market economics (let's see who does best under the prevailing circumstance) as well as "Gamalielian" (Acts 5:33-39, if it is of God), to say nothing of a salute to evolutionary biology, to end on the note above; and from those perspectives, it might be a satisfactory conclusion to reach. And yet ... is that good enough? Is it resolutely faithful to Jesus Christ?

Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, in the statement linked to above, rightly observes,

"“It is always easier to gather with those we agree with. But in a tragically divided world, God’s call and therefore the church’s role includes showing how to live together with difference”"

The problem with yet another Protestant split is that it is yet another split in the church which Jesus (a) envisaged as "one", and (b) envisaged as being in its unity, a strong witness to the love of God for the world (John 17:20-23).

Not only that: we are in a Christian era in which the world is seeing a lot of Christians at loggerheads with one another. Binary polarisations abound. Here is a partial list:

Trumpian US evangelicals v evangelicals not wishing to be described with respect to any politician or political party;

The turmoil within the Southern Baptist Convention;

Conservative Catholics v "Franciscan" Catholics;

Eastern Orthodox split re allegiance to Ukraine or Russia.

Locally, here in Aotearoa New Zealand we have the prospect of some turmoil as Franklin Graham comes to our islands in November as part of his current worldwide evangelistic outreach.

We are also seeing considerable distress within one significant Pentecostal church - the saga of Arise and its treatment of interns, other congregants, and the funds at its disposal.

Then, Destiny Church won’t stop protesting about what it sees as unwarranted Government intrusion into our lives as the Government seeks to save us from the worst effects of the pandemic!

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do in the household of God!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Moving on but not away from Lambeth 2022

Since leaving #LambethConference2022, Teresa and I have been able to enjoy some annual leave - still in the heat of the mad English/European scorching summer. As this post is published, however, we are en route to Heathrow and the flights home. (Where NZ readers know it has been very cold - not quite a global warming winter this year!) What follows are bits and bobs of things which interest me, especially but not exclusively in relation to Lambeth.

First, some news: Christopher Wells has been appointed executive director for Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion. Some years back I corresponded with Christopher Wells, mostly in relation to The Living Church, an Anglican/Episcopalian magazine based in North America. This conference I met him in person. In my view, this is a very good appointment and I look forward to the continuing work of IASCUFO (the Communion task force charged with Unity, Faith and Order responsibilities, under the leadership of Bishop Graham Tomlin).

Then, also drawing on The Living Church, David Goodhew makes a number of pertinent observations re Anglican church decline and growth which, adroitly, could lead to similar questions being raised here in ACANZP. But one takeaway is, churches which decline can grow!

Back to Lambeth. Archbishop Foley Beach, in his capacity as Chair of GAFCON, has written an extraordinary piece on the Lambeth Conference signalling the Communion is “broken.” I say “extraordinary” because 

(i) it is written from the (disad)vantage point of view of not actually attending the conference, yet holds nothing back in its certainty of judgment; 

(ii) it manages to make the conference all about one issue, when the conference was about many issues, and even on that one issue, managed to reach a place which can only be reached if everyone is in the same location. 

The irony of ++Beach’s article is that the conference demonstrated that change in the Communion will only come via people meeting in the same place and not via boycotts.

But, in contrast to both the tone and the tenet of ++Beach’s proclamation, is this beautifully written reflection by Bishop Andrew Rumsey (CofE), which makes the point, in my words, that despite some not sharing in (eucharistic) communion, there was much communion in other ways through our conferring and praying together. Further, the very process of meeting together - plenaries, small groups, discussions, prayers, conversations over meals and when getting off/on buses/boats etc - has powerful effects, including, on Andrew Rumsey’s own confession, the minds and mindsets of bishops. Boycotts, less so.

In my own mind and mindset - whether it is changing may be a little early to tell :) - I take away from the conference a bunch of conversations, including with those holding to some quite conservative viewpoints, which I continue to reflect on and to digest as I return to my own diocese with its particular range of viewpoints, issues, concerns and questions. But what I am reflecting on is personal conversations “in the room,” not external to the room.

On another aspect of Anglican life, I was delighted to get to know various bishops at the conference, including bishop X. But this week, in a conversation with a person about life in their parish, there was a bemoaning of the direction the local bishop was trying to impose on the parish. Who is that bishop? It’s bishop X. … A salutary reminder that outside of the joys of conference life and the frisson of “issues” worked on in a globalist context, there are challenging questions about the future of the everyday church in the raw localism of “the parish of Y” where Y’s demographics, present congregational make up, historic character, etc run with (or rub against) aspirations - provincial, diocesan, parochial - for continuity and for change.

This paragraph without links - I’ll be honest, there are some Anglican commentators I prefer not to link to: I see some commentary of the kind “that was the last Lambeth Conference/the Anglican Communion is finished - there will be two global Anglicanisms and the bright future is with the one which won’t budge from traditional, orthodox teaching on sexuality.” It goes without saying that no one knows the future except our Father in heaven, so such commentary may prove correct. But there are two questions such commentary begs in the present:

(1) What is meant by Anglicanism? To take just one aspect of Anglicanism which the conference has reinforced for me - directly seeing the ABC in action, sitting in retreat and services in Canterbury Cathedral: to be Anglican is to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Can there be two meaningful versions of Anglicanism in which one version is not in communion with Canterbury? This does not mean - of course not - that a form of Christianity based on the historic teaching of the 16th century reformed Church of England but liturgically not using BCP services (or any other Anglican liturgies of churches still in commmunion with Canterbury) cannot be a growing, converting, flourishing, Bible-based Christian church or global network of churches. But may such a flourishing Christian movement lay claim to being “true Anglicanism”?

(2) Is there an intrinsic reason why two claimants to true Anglicanism could not deign to meet together in one conference? Again, at great risk of harping on about a point made often here at ADU, and already above in this post, the success of the conference lies in the fact that Anglicans with difference bothered to meet together, to be in one room of conversation and at one table of discussion. Other Anglicans (with pretty much the same convictions as many Anglicans at the conference) did not bother to show up. What is so special about them that they deserve to be deemed “true Anglicans” when they won’t talk to other Anglicans? Where in Anglicanism, even in the 16th century, do we find such spectacular exclusivist, separationist precedent? The great Anglican minds of the 16th century - Cranmer, Hooker, Elizabeth 1 - sought to hold the differences of the English Christians in one church - the Church of England. Not the Church of the True and Orthodox English. Sure: for some English Christians, the efforts of Cranmer, Hooker and Elizabeth 1 were inadequate - so fervent Catholics smuggled in their priests and the Puritans stood their “biblical” (if not in the Bible then not permissible) grounds - but they did not claim to be the broad Church of England. They made a pitch for a narrower understanding of English Christianity, based on Rome or Geneva, and the pitch did not yield strong sales.

Perhaps a question permeating this post is the question of accuracy! How might we describe each other with words that correspond to reality. A post mentioned above, which I refuse to link to, grandiloquently speaks of some wide ranging, slippery slope of moral decay which the “revisionist” provinces are cheerfully sliding down. This is inaccurate. The revision of Anglican understanding which is emerging and evolving through the post 1998 decades is a revision with respect to the nature of marriage. It is, actually, a pretty conservative revision because it is focused on permanent, faithful, stable, loving relationships between two people. Whether we agree with such revision or not, whether we think the arguments for such revision are sound theology or not, could we at least agree that no Anglican province is now or in the future about to canonically permit orgies, casual sexual liaisons, polyamory, and the like. Put another way, we all read 1 Peter at the conference and none were proposing that we ignore 4:3-4a.

Does this mean that, from an inside the conference tent perspective, all is actually well with Anglicanism as found in the attending provinces of the Anglican Communion? Not at all. We have work to do which, in my humble opinion, would help us to be better Christians, and therefore better Anglican Christians. For example, in one of our Bible studies, focusing on one theme in 1 Peter, we had a fine lead off from ++Justin, followed by a panel of contributors talking about what that theme means to them. I found these contributions to be overall unimpressive. This particular theological concept seemed to mean whatever the speaker wanted it to mean. I described this in my small group as very “plastic” - maybe “pliable” would be the better word. How could we grow in theological depth and precision as a Communion because we who lead (clergy, preachers, Bible study leaders) have done the hard yards of theological study, intent on not ending up with plastic/pliable notions of critical theological concepts?

A related matter, perhaps, is the question of worship in the life of the Communion. A fellow Kiwi, Christchurch blogger, Bosco Peters in a recent post has voiced concern that the conference managed to talk about Anglican Identity without talking about Anglican worship, in respect of our common history in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) or in respect of the general idea that Anglicans (most, most of our history) believe in praying together what we believe - binding ourselves to “common prayer.” Now, I put my hand up in the first instance as one who didn’t think about this when we discussed that Call paper. But perhaps I (and we bishops, theological advisors to the Communion, etc) need to ask, why didn’t we think about this aspect of Anglican identity? The answer (explanation/excuse/!?) lies - I am proposing for discussion - in two aspects of the situation. 

First, that we Anglicans take our worship together so much for granted that we do not notice when it is not part of (e.g.) a Call paper on Anglican Identity. 

Secondly, that we have some important ways of speaking about what constitutes Anglicanism which (for reasons I do not know) either do not reference worship or, at best, imply it obliquely. Two such ways were at the heart of the Call paper on Anglican Identity: the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Five Marks of Mission. How might we change this? (One possibility lies in talk at the conference of review of such things!)

Worship at the conference itself was significant - a prayerful retreat, grand opening service, intentionally less grand, a little bit informal closing service, conference morning eucharists and evening prayer services, and the chaplaincy team leading other services, including early morning prayer and night prayer - yet, we could have done more. Noting that daily eucharist and evening prayer services were “opt in” services, some around me observed that we didn’t actually worship when all together in plenary (e.g. Could we have sung a hymn at the beginning of each morning Bible study session?).

Incidentally, the morning eucharist services, led by a different province each day, provided in place of the sermon a short video presentation exemplifying the life of that province. Of the services I attended, the presentation by Pakistan was outstanding - you may be able to access it on the conference website.

So, a final paragraph for this post - written in the privilege of a short 24 hour stay in Oxford, most of it at Christ Church Oxford, including Evensong in the cathedral which is uniquely also the “house” chapel - pic below.* Isn’t Anglicanism amazing? Being at Canterbury, UK a few weeks ago, and now at a place particualrly connected to Canterbury, NZ and my own diocese, I have been reminded that from the small seed of Pope Gregory sending Augustine to Canterbury, and all the celtic missional endeavours before that, the faith shared by the English speaking peoples has advanced beyond Kent, Northumbria, etc into all the countries colonized by the British empire, and beyond those countries into place never coloured red on the map of the world. We are part of an amazing story of gospel growth. May it continue in the power of the Spirit of the God who has loved us in Jesus Christ.

*This photo of the east end of Christ Church cathedral, Oxford, captures work done in the 19th century, designed by renowned architect, Gilbert Scott … also architect for Christ Church cathedral, Christchurch, NZ.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Lambeth Conference 2022: the outstanding, unanswered questions maybe not what you think


In the background to what I write below, the following links may be helpful:

Global South Fellowship of Anglicans communique towards the end of the conference.

The Tablet report on Cardinal Koch’s address on Christian unity.

The Lambeth Conference website where all sorts of reports on the events and addresses of the conference are available.

A very helpful Church Times article on the course of events regarding sexuality at the conference in relation to the much talked about, twice edited, not voted on Call re Human Dignity.

Also worth bearing in mind as you read below re the future of the Anglican Communion is that while the Archbishop of Nigeria has not been to Lambeth, he has been able to travel recently to the USA dedicating new churches for the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity. This Diocese, in the territory of the USA, belongs to neither ACNA nor to TEC, it is an overseas Diocese of an Anglican church which is a member province of the Anglican Communion. That is, while the Anglican Communion has problems (see below), we live in a strange Anglican world in which a stern critic of the Communion, such as Nigeria’s Archbiship Ndukuba, cannot even trust GAFCON’s preferred alternative to TEC, i.e. ACNA, with the oversight and pastoral care of Nigerians in the USA. In passing, this looks like a culturally-attuned, highly contextual, locally-oriented solution to the care of Nigerian Anglicans in another jurisdiction! Apparently culture and context matter, even in GAFCON oriented churches.

Then, two analytical posts on the human sexuality debate at the conference by Andrew Goddard in the Psephizo blog run by Ian Paul*: Part One and Part Two.

*I happened to meet Ian, in person, for the first time, during the course of last week - a great pleasure!

The whole of Archbishop Welby’s final keynote address which is significant re Anglican missiology and ecclesiology.

The Anglican Communion This Week as #LambethConference2022 Concludes

Potentially there is a very, very large amount of things to say (for example reading the two posts noted above by Andrew Goddard on the Psephizo blog and commenting on them). There is also a lot to say about things which happened at the conference which were very interesting and worthwhile to me, but may not be to you, dear readers. Suffice to say, on that score, that I met a huge number of very lovely people who are very dedicated Anglicans in their respective parts of the Communion; that the conference discussed a range of topics and heard from a considerable number of speakers, so that there was no single issue which dominated the conference (whatever any external observer says otherwise); and that, if there is one takeaway from the conference it is this: no matter what the problems we can describe (see further above and below), the Anglican Communion is in good heart and will remain alive and lively for a very long time to come. It is not on its last legs. Even though some commenters I read appear to wish that into being so.

There could also be a lot to say trying to unravel the tangled knot of what we think we have done at the conference re human sexuality in the context of the Call paper on Human Dignity: have we managed (as I think we have) to formalise the fact that we are a Communion with a plurality of views on marriage? What does ‘plurality’ mean in this context? Is it the same as ‘adiaphora’ or indifference to the consequences of such views in relation to salvation and so forth. (I have had a bit of a go on that score via my Twitter feed @petercarrell if you care to chase that up). But lots is being said about such tthings (again, see, for instance, Andrew Goddard at the links above) and some conversations towards the end of the conference have got me thinking about some other problems the Communion has, which we haven’t really discussed.

If the Communion is in good heart at the end of this gathering of bishops from 39/42 provinces, as I think it is, that doesn’t mean that the heart of the Communion doesn’t need its valves tuned up or its blood supply lines refurbished!

Thus the outstanding, unanswered questions after #LambethConference2022 may not be what you think. They may not be whether the Communion can hold together or not, but what work is yet to be done on being a better Communion.

Incidentally, on the matter of holding together, I have come across this brilliant sentence in an article entitled, “Lambeth 2022: Justin Welby spoke and the great shadow faded”:

 Lambeth Conference 2022 will be remembered as a watershed when those in favour and those against same-sex relationships accepted they were not going to agree, but resolved to stay in the same Anglican Communion.

Authority: in a Communion Determined Not To have a Pope or Patriarch (or even resolutions!?), what is possible?

While we are somewhat self-congratulatory that we found a way through the sexuality issue at this Lambeth Conference with a good degree of love and forbearance as well as recognition of difference that has not gone away in 24 years since 1998 - as well as giving due credit to ++Justin for his leadership on the matter, especially on Tuesday last week - listening to conversations, reading some commentary, I see a need to work on the question of authority in the Communion, especially when we are keen on not having authority bound to an hierarchical structure which has a Pope or Patriarch at its apex. 

We weren’t even, this past week, keen on voting on resolutions. While that led us away from turmoil on sexuality, as someone pointed out in another context (re our ecumenical relationships) we have granted ourselves no mechanism as bishops-in-conference for saying anything distinctive or decisive in respect of ecumenical agreements which do need some kind of “mind of Communion” if they are to be agreed to, implemented, changed and so forth.

How do we get such mind of Communion on matters which (let’s assume, we are agreed) it would be good to have a mind of Communion on them?

On the one hand, I noticed here and there over the past few days some of the usual criticism of the Instruments of Communion: there is too much made of bishops since there is only one, the Anglican Consultative Council which includes clergy and laity as well as bishops. I find that a strange criticism since it presumes that bishops are incapable of bringing the mind of their dioceses with them to a Lambeth Conference.

On the other hand, we agreed this week that there should be a review of the Instruments of Communion, and that would be a good thing. Wherever that review leads, it would be good if an outcome were that we are committed to acknowledging the due authority of the New or Renewed Whatever in matters where we agree we need interdependence in governance. Such example would be ecumenical agreements between the Anglican Communion (on behalf of its member provinces) and other communions/churches.

On the third hand, do we also need to restate what it means for Scripture to be authoritative in our life as Anglicans? Much of this conference has demonstrated that we are committed to the authority of Scripture. That we heed its directions on matters of justice, of stewardship of the environment, of mission and evangelism, of offering the world the kingdom of God in place of other kingdoms. 

Further, the Bible studies, including the commentary on 1 Peter offered to the conference, have shown that there are challenges translating Scriptural injunction into aspects of life today. For example, 1 Peter 3 includes directions re women submitting to men that requires careful elucidation so that we understand its meaning for today in a different world to the first century AD and the dominating Roman Empire. Scripture is authoritative yet it also invites our engagement with it, so that we rightly divine it. Informally, there has been a low key “magisterium” - a commentary, a book of study notes for the small Bible study groups, the teaching of the ABC and the panel of people who contributed via video to his talks - helping us to land in a good place in respect of the authority of 1 Peter over us: how might that be explained in respect of questions of authority and the Communion?

Also worth some deep reflection on is the process of the Calls and their acceptance through this past few weeks (and, on beyond the conference, as feedback is received and reflected upon and possibly absorbed into new editions of the Call papers). Initially we were going to vote one way, then it was directed that we would vote another way, then we settled on no votes but opportunity to signal that collectively we demurred from rather than generally agreed with a paticular Call document. Frustrating though this might have been for those of us who delight in synodical process (moving amendments on the floor of synod, debating matters until such point of exhuastion that we put the motion to a vote, etc), this approach -a team working assiduously before the conference to draft a paper, small group discussion and feedback on the paper, and then subsequent work - has merits, not least in giving the Holy Spirit the chance to work in the cool of the days and weeks such process takes, and to speak through the voices of many making feedback, rather than being suppressed in the heat of the moment when a fiery rhetoricist moves a synod in a direction it later regrets. More simply: how might we discern the leading of the Holy Spirit for the Communion in such a manner that we accept the authority of that discernment as the voice of God for the church today?

Faith, Order and Unity: When Does Actual Ecumenical Change take Place

One theme through the conference has been the unity of the church - the unity of the Anglican Communion, the unity of the universal church of God as critical to the witness of God’s people to the reconciling love of God, the provisional nature of Anglicanism because God’s plan for the church is a plan for the catholic church, not just for the Anglican church or, indeed, for the Roman Catholic Church - all underlined by the delightful presence of ecumenical observers from  many churches. Very much, John 17 and Jesus’ high priestly concerns for unity and mission. 

Now, I am a little out of date with ecumenical moves on the global level, but apart from the obvious matter of the Anglican Communion not being united at this time, I learned that at the global level there is concern that, to use a technical expression, nothing much is happening. Some kind of ecumenical chill has set in, I gathered.

One of the points made - and, sorry, I cannot recall by whom - is that our reflections through the conference have highlighted the fact that unity is not an optional extra for the keener Christians, the ones who eccentrically think it good to add to their list of meetings by turning out for ecumenical meetings as well as their own local church meetings. It is not even that Christ prayed that we might be one so we jolly well ought to be. The point is that our gospel is a message of God’s reconciling love for the world inviting all into God’s house (God has only one home). To be divided is to undermine the gospel. To be separated is to fail to attest in our own being as church to the character of the gospel.

What is to be done?

Apart from continuing work on our own Anglican “house” at this time (which we will be doing), an unasnwered question from the Lambeth Conference 2022 is what the Anglican Communion might do to play its part in fostering real ecumenical change.

There are, dare I say it, some other questions - questions for the internal life of provinces - about the unity of each of our provinces. Table talk tells me that tribalism is a problem in some provinces, if not in many provinces.


There is, to be sure, a big question about how we go forward as a Communion with difference and intent to remain together in some form or other.

But the outstanding, unanswered questions from this Lambeth Conference may be more than that, and, dare I say it, more significant than that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Lambeth Conference and the Indignity of Anglican Humanity (updateable thru today)

This morning (as I write this paragraph - I’ll add to this post later today) we are preparing to look at a  Call paper this afternoon on Human Dignity.

This memo to my Diocese gives a sense of the issues at stake.

This Global South press release gives a sense of what turmoil we might be in at 2 pm.


An interesting afternoon. What happened?

1. Something I never actually saw was a physical copy of the GSFA resolution which they said would be distributed at 2 pm. Not saying it didn’t exist in physical form but I never saw it as I moved in and out of the meeting venue this afternoon. Whether through the online version or paper version, I think they will get a decent number of signatures and those signatures will underline the importance of Resolution 1.10 (1998) for many, many Anglicans in most provinces of the Communion.

2. Conversationally (here at the conference), the importance of that Resolution is that offers support for parishes/dioceses that want to know they belong to a Communion in which it is taught that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that sexual activity outside of such marriage is a sin. And for some such Anglican churches this is doubly important if they are not to be derided by Muslim opponents.

3. But, also conversationally (for me, mostly seen in social media comments), for many Anglicans, expecially in Scotland, Wales, Canada, TEC, ACANZP, the Resolution stinks and any sense that it is re-affirmed is excruciatingly painful.

4. So we had an intervention by Archbishop Welby - two actually. First, he sent a letter to all of us early afternoon, and then, in the session on Human Dignity, he spoke at length - in a brilliant speech in which he  attempted to steer the Communion-as-represented-by-the-bishops between 2 and 3 above. See here for the speech and for a link to the letter.

5. Most of the conferees gave ++Justin a standing ovation at the end of the speech. Perhaps you would have done so. Perhaps not.

6. We then (in our small groups) discussed the Human Dignity paper, with opportunity for notes made to be fed back to the conference organisers. Obviously what is said in such a group stays in the group, but the group I was in had an extraordinarily respectful discussion despite our differences in views.

7. We did not vote. We did not voice anything, not even (as per other Calls), selected groups giving two minutes of feedback. Instead we stood in silence and offered our discussions to God in prayer.

8. What has been decided? I would say (repeat, I would say) the following are the effective decisions or outcomes or situations out of today: letter, speech, response to the speech, discussion:

- Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) remains in existence as the most recent formal decision of an Instrument of Communion concerning marriage and human sexuality; and it remains a decision that any Anglican province can choose to point to as its standard for teaching and for behaviour, as, in fact, most Anglican provinces do.

- No province not conforming to 1.10 will be disciplined by the ABC (imagining, which he himself does not, that he had such power of discipline.

- Recognition has been given explicitly by the ABC as an Instrument of Communion (and tacitly by the Lambeth Conference as another Instrument) that social context is very important to provinces when deciding about marriage and human sexuality, not least because derision for a church can arise in a social context if a church is mismatched with that context. Although ++Justin Welby did not mention this passage, Titus 2:5b (Then the gospel will not be brought into disrepute) springs to my mind.

9. Is this the end of the matter? Almost certainly not. I would expect a response from the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans soon (but am not prepared to predict that response). I see signs in social media commentary of Anglicans unhappy with the situation we have ended in - speaking from both (or more) sides of the matter.

10. I think that liberal/progressive Anglicans have been reminded that the Communion they belong to is inherently conservative. 

11. Depending on 9 above: what happens by way of response or reaction to today, it is possible that today marks a moment in Communion history in which we have formally become a Communion with plural understandings on marriage and human sexuality.

Thus, out of a discussion on Human Dignity (which had many other important things to say not focused on human sexuality), we faced the “indignity” of Anglican humanity - that some of us are uncomfortable about differences in sexual identity, that some of us hold views others find difficult if not anathema, that despite our common humanity and common life in Christ, we cannot easily find common cause on these matters, that we have hurt one another even by having this discussion. Yet, is it possible that only through such indignity can we find a way to dignity as a Communion?