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?


Mark Murphy said...

Holding you in our prayers, tonight, Peter.

Mark Murphy said...

Yup, brilliant speech. Even, and also challenging, to both sides. And a deep reaffirmation of Anglicanism - what an Anglican Communion and Archbishop of Canterbury is and is not.

I'm delighted Archbishop Justin has stared this one straight in the eye and is so clear about the difficult blessing of being an Anglican - that our disagreement and difference is out in the open, not "behind locked doors".

Father Ron said...

To read your Letter, Bishop Peter, reminds of an advert for 'Hardy's Indigestion Tablets': "OH THE RELIEF!" - which is what I felt deep down after this paragraph of yours:

"- 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".

Thank you, also, Bishop Peter, for your contribution to this eirenic outcome. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Canterbury.

Anonymous said...

And awaiting your report with concern…

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for prayers.

Ron: While I appreciate your thanks, and I did try to be eirenic in my small group, here I am but a tiny pawn in a rather large body of massed bishops :)

Mark Murphy said...

That's humble and probably quite realistic of you, Peter. But you've been advocating for a wise, Anglican middle way on this issue for some time, and I've admired and appreciated that (speaking as someone who isn't so measured). Just holding that intention, that sort of 'prayer', influences the wider field I'm sure. It's a delight and relief to find the Archbishop of Canterbury is of a similar mind and can express that tersely and effectively. Anglicanism is alive.

Anonymous said...

What a bizzare state of affairs.
By writing a letter that simultaneously affirms opposites, Justin Welby has not only refuted Aristotle and the Law of Non-contradiction, but has also become a Pope, declaring doctrine for Anglicans?
Breathtaking! Even ardent Ultramontanists don't attribute to the Bishop of Rome such powers.
So now the moral status of homosexual relationships depends on geography: holy and pleasing to Almighty God in Scotland and the United States but sinful and disordered in Congo and Malaysia.
Utterly incoherent. You do not have a communion but a confusion.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Some other strange things I have learned about this "conference" where speaking seems to be very strictly controlled and votes are not allowed by the committee running it. The CCP could learn from this,
First, a third of the bishops of the Anglican world- chiefly from the Global South - have not come. Yet they represent about 75% of actual churchgoing Anglicans in the world,
Second, some of the dioceses and provinces that are present are very small in numbers. One Scottish diocese (Brechin?) has only 600 or so members! Six or seven bishops from Wales represent about 13,000 Anglicans. Some American dioceses (like Northern Michigan) number fewer than 1000. But then I hear that the Diocese of Singapore - not present - has about 100 000 in church on Sunday.
So if you are one of these tiny British or American dioceses with enough money (still) to have a bishop and to send that person to England, you can claim to "speak for Anglicanism" - except that actual speech is controlled tighter than Pravda's editorial policy. It seems that Justin Welby is determined not to allow the Global South bishops there to speak.
What is this other than Victorian colonialism and paternalism?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Yes, that was the whole point of the letter: to refute Aristotle and the law of contradiction!

The middle way is a deep puzzle to you, William. I rejoice in it, tonight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks I have seen it now. People are listening to God and to each other so there will always be possibilities for the Spirit to move. Blessings

Mark Murphy said...

William, I really wonder why you read and post on ADU as you seem determined to see the worst and take constant pot shots at Anglicanism. That's pretty pre-Vatican II TBH.

Yes we need critics and difference - and so I do welcome your presence here. I played the role of critic in my family for...oh I'm still doing it! I instinctively want to question and often try to move things forward by opposing. It's a part of me and how I often contribute, and gets activated when others are smug and together, but unbalanced I recognize that it can become quite obnoxious.

Father Ron said...

William, I cannot believe that you, a practising Roman Catholic, can really stand by what you appear to be saying here:

'By writing a letter that simultaneously affirms opposites, Justin Welby has not only refuted Aristotle and the Law of Non-contradiction, but has also become a Pope, declaring doctrine for Anglicans? Breathtaking! Even ardent Ultramontanists don't attribute to the Bishop of Rome such powers."

In the first place, there is no such animal as an 'Anglican Pope" (although some bishops in the GS/GAFCON axis might want to claim this title for themselves).

Secondly, I don't think any loyal Roman Catholic could claim there is no Doctrine of Papal Infallibility - which is even more strongly held by most R.C.s than is the (unofficial) 'doctrine of Lambeth 1:10' held by Anglican Con/Evos. (Mind you, it must be obvious that Anglicans have no regard for the 'papal infallibility' of Pope Leo's infamous self-invalidation of Anglican Orders). Each Anglican Province is an independent Church!

SO; papal infallibility apart; what our ABC is recognising is the fact that, though those Anglicans loyal to Canterbury have our own understanding of gender and sexuality (informed by up-to-date hermeneutical, social, and scientific observation), there are other social contexts in which Anglican do find it difficult to affirm that understanding of the human condition - with the repressive regimes of the governments in the countries they inhabit - and could be in danger of their lives by opposing the legal persecution of LGBTQ+ people.

Christianity is, above all, a force for the common good of ALL people, not only the 'Holy and Righteous' - some of whom were so incensed by the liberality of Jesus that they had him summarily executed!

When one thinks, in R.C. terms, of papal infallibility, one cannot but wonder how many Catholics disobey the edict of non-contraception? - a policy that even Pope Francis, on his journey from Canada, has suggested may be subject to 'revision'!

Anonymous said...

"People are listening to God and to each other so there will always be possibilities for the Spirit to move."

Yes, Moya.

And if there were no synods or Conferences-- the Convocation of Canterbury did not properly meet from 1717 to 1861-- people would still be listening to God and each other and the Holy Spirit would still be moving.


Anonymous said...

Fun Fact

The ancient Church of Sinai (St Catherine's Monastery), with less than 20 monks and some neighboring bedouin and fishermen, has the same say in world Orthodoxy as the Russian Orthodox Church with millions of members spanning a tenth of the earth's land mass.

Strictly representative self-government is a good system for civil states. But churches belong to another order of creation.



Anonymous said...

I see no reason why Justin should not be a pope like Tawadros II of Alexandria.

In fact, if we had a pope of our own, we would not waste so much screen-space and time yammering about Alexandria. We could afford to notice the existence of other great churches. Including our own.

Moreover, the two prelates have some fascinating similarities. To name only two, both live in palaces in their nations' capitals, not their see cities. And just as Tawadros II was selected from three names by a blindfolded boy, so Justin was selected from two names by the Queen.

However, if Justin wants more, if he wants to be the Chief District Superintendent of all the Methodist Sunday Schools, that would be, frankly, claiming too much authority.



Peter Carrell said...

In some ways, Bowman, this has been a “Bowman” moment for the Communion: no resolution, no formal attempt to determine with finality what the Spirit is saying to the church, but a willingness to continue to walk together in discernment …

Peter Carrell said...

Interestingly, quite visible among the ecumenical observers here are the Coptics!

Anonymous said...

Justin Welby's bizarre, lawyerly letter, depicting Lambeth 1.10 as "historical" and the decisions of liberal northern churches to ignore Lambeth 1.10 (in spite of the Windsor Report etc) as "scholarly" shows how utterly untheological and political liberal Anglicanism has become.
These are the death throes of a 450 year old experiment - though it must be painful for those who have invested their lives in it to admit this.
This incoherent mindset (which is frankly colonialist as well: 'Northerners with money are smarter than Africans who are afraid of Muslims') is exactly that which was discerned some years ago by Gavin Ashenden, and explains why he and Anglican bishops Michael Nazir-Ali and Peter Foster joined the Ordinariate.
Despite what Welby implies, changes in the doctrine of marriage brought in by the American, Canadian and Scottish Anglicans (all small, aging and failing churches) did *not occur after sustained, thoughtful and united reconsideration of doctrine (which no national church can do by itself if it wants to call itself "catholic"!) but through unilateral action defying Lambeth, Windsor, Dromantine etc etc, the absence of discipline, the splitting of churches and the expulsion (and defrocking in the US) of about 1000 ministers. Straight from the Bolshevist playbook.
The sad conclusion of this mess is that it is impossible for northern Anglicans to be countercultural. It is captive to the thinking of the liberal upper middle classes in an increasingly anti-Christian west and desires above all to be accepted and spoken well of. Is that what Peter means by his reference to Titus 2.5? I respectfully suggest that "maligning the word of God" is exactly what has happened in the abuse of Scripture here. A more apt text would be Luke 6.26: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets."

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter.

I also have some serious thoughts on this. But I am reluctant to post them when you are in a dialogue-- better, in a village!-- with other, less accessible minds.

Prayers here that you are making lots of valuable new friends. Under God, that's what it's about.

The year ahead will be an interesting one.


Father Ron said...

Dear William,

Have you read any of the Roman Catholic problems around the world, lately? sad tales for instance, from 'Mary's Dowry' in Ireland, where parishes are having to share priests because of the acute shortage of vocations? Also, Pope Francis is having problems with those (are you one of them?) who disagree with his understanding of radical inclusion in the Church Catholic. If you want to escape that unsettled environment, you could always join us.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William,
I can assure you that the Anglican Communion, after 450 years, is in very good heart. It may or may not be a bit confused and contradictory, but it is growing and fruitful. Even if (eg) Scotland, Wales, ACANZP, Canada, TEC were wiped off the face of the earth, or just ground to a halt, there is centuries of life left in the dear old girl, if not millennia … find out about growth in the Philippines, for example, if not in South Sudan; in Kenya as well as Melanesia. Etc!

You may find us a bit bizarre this week, but are there contradictions in other churches? Yours, for example, prevents priests from marrying and permits them to marry (depends a bit on which part of the compass they are in). And last time I checked people are refused communion if divorced but not annulled, but not if they disregard Humanae Vitae. I don’t want to take potshots at the RCC; why take potshots at us? (PS Am looking forward to the visit of Cardinal Tagle to the Conference tomorrow).

The key thing (amongs many things, am running out of time) re this week is not whether some provinces are giving into culture but whether it is reasonable, Scriptural and coherent with tradition that a way of being homosexual is to commit for life to another person. Even German prelates are entertaining the possibility that such a conservative state of domestic affairs might be blessed!

Anonymous said...

Peter - Thank you four hospitality in receiving my not always welcome observations; I hope you may receive them as the honesty of a friend, as I do strive to avoid triumphalism. You will find no sterner critic of the moral lapses of Catholicism than I. Thinking, for example, of the school in Dunedin that is changing its name because of its namesake's failings, I reflected with sadness that I knew some of the people caught up in that abuse. And you may know that the jouunalist English Damian Thompson has just written a stinging piece about Pope Francis and Zanchetta, a man he ordained bishop, now credibly accused of sexual abuse of seminarians.
At least you seem to agree with me that the centre of gravity of world Christianity has moved away from Europe and North America. Did you know, for example, that the Scottish Episcopal Church has announced a national atendance figure of 6800! And they have seven bishops with you in Canterbury. The Anglican church in Wales is tiny and aged as well, but no doubt the full complement of bishops is there with you. Money clearly talks, This is ridiculous and makes one think of the rotten boroughs of 19th century England like Old Sarum which elected an MP, while burgeoning cities like Manchester had no representation.
To be clear: it makes no sense to talk of being a Communion (koinonia) unless your ministry, sacraments and doctrine are all held in common (koinos). Justin Welby has now declared the doctrine of marriage and the discipline of sexual purity to be adiaphora - an indifferent matter that has no bearing on a Christian's spiritual life. You may not like that conclusion but it is the only logical one you can come to.
Seriously, Peter, do you think God is really "blessing" churches which have changed the doctrine of marriage (which is inextricably linked to the doctrine of Christian anthropology, being male and female, fathers and mothers)? If so, why are these churches aging and disappearing? It's an existential question we can't avoid.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

The growth mentioned is largely in uneducated countries.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Anonymous
I am only publishing your comment in order to refute it.
Growth is occurring in a variety of places across the Communion.
But to describe any of those places as “uneducated” is a slur.
It would be accurate to say that the greatest growth is occurring in places that are unsecularised.

Anonymous said...

If the north and south swapped a dozen recently retired bishops, would the two sets of translated bishops handle That Topic differently from mainstream bishops in their host countries? If not, the disagreement is about style rather than substance.

My suspicion is that the practical difference between north and south may only be that between TEC and the ACNA: the former's pastors put up rainbow banners to assure others that they are not homophobes whilst the latter's pastors hope that they will not have to deal with homosexuality as pastors. Forced to deal with say domestic violence in a lesbian couple, or an outbreak of gender dysphoria among teenaged girls one cannot predict how either would minister to that.

Style too matters. But it seems a stretch to say that those serving in a more secular state are themselves any less faithful for that, or that those with a mere inclination to avoidance of hard questions belong to some heroically faithful remnant.

It was very good for the Communion that the ABC rebuked three who failed in their duty to attend. In is in, out is out.

It would also help for the Communion, which is, after all, a discerning community in a changing world, to insist that pseudo-ecclesiological stunts cease altogether. And that proponents explain their current positions with field experience, theological depth, reasonable curiosity, and humble application.

The ABC hinted this in his reference to a "scholarly" rationale from one side. The report he presumably meant was mistaken in its conclusion, but remains the best that the Communion has yet produced. One should read it just for the craft.

But it was also speculative at the time, unperceptive about tradition, and cursory in its treatment of science. It served its church in a moment-- recent but so different from our present-- but nobody should rely on it today.

Today, happy warriors weaken the Communion, not with a credible threat to its unity, but with corruption of the process of discernment. Militant minds cannot cognitively help getting stuck in their trenches, babbling on like old soldiers fighting past wars in their nursing beds. In the ongoing life of the world, trying the spirits to see whether they be of God requires industrious curiosity and patient charity.


Father Ron said...

Sometimes, one needs to consider the ethos of other parts of the Body of Christ, where even the Pope understands that there are difficulties and differences in the understanding of our faith journey - less in the Roman Catholic strand than in our own. Here is today's wisdom"


“If we look to Christ, the Good Shepherd, before looking to ourselves, we will discover that we are ourselves “tended” with merciful love; we will feel the closeness of God. This is the source of the joy of ministry and above all the joy of faith. It is not about all the things that we can accomplish, but about knowing that God is ever close to us, that he loved us first, and that he accompanies us every day of our lives. This, brothers and sisters, is our joy. Nor is it a cheap joy, like the one that the world sometimes proposes, dazzling us with fireworks. This joy is not about wealth, comfort and security. It does not even try to persuade us that life will always be good, without crosses and problems.”
Pope Francis

As the Beatles so poignantly expressed it: "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE"