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?