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Archbishop’s warning to conservatives: CEN 12.21.07 p 7. December 19, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Ecclesiology, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Lambeth 2008.

rowan-williams-portrait.jpgThe 2008 Lambeth Conference will craft an Anglican Covenant that will set the boundaries of Anglican Church order and discipline, the Archbishop of Canterbury has stated in his Advent letter to the Primates.

But these parameters will not include gay bishops or blessings, Dr. Rowan Williams wrote on Dec 14 in a 4500 word theological tome/political manifesto outlining the ordering of Anglicanism.

The Advent letter will satisfy neither wing of the Communion, as liberals will be outraged at his rejection of the “prophetic” gay agenda, while conservatives will take umbrage that while he acknowledges the problems created by the gay agenda, Dr. Williams will not take action to correct it, preaching continued dialogue and conversation.

Dr. Williams told the primates there was “no consensus” on the merits of the American Church’s response to the Windsor Report and the Primates’ communiqués. The call for clarification had not been met, and had resulted in further questions about the Episcopal Church’s understanding of the nature of the episcopate and its views of its place within the wider catholic church.

The Episcopal Church, as part of the Anglican Communion, was not free to push forward with the innovations of gay bishops and blessings, as the current consensus was “not in favour of change in our discipline or our interpretation of the Bible” on this point.

The 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution on sexuality “is the only point of reference clearly agreed by the overwhelming majority of the Communion. This is the point where our common reading of Scripture stands, along with the common reading of the majority within the Christian churches worldwide and through the centuries,” Dr. Williams wrote.

However, the Global South response of consecrating bishops to oversee North American traditionalists opposed to these innovations was not the way forward either. Dr. Williams objected to the creation of new ecclesial structures formed in response to the American crisis, but supported the “radical” response of San Joaquin and other traditionalist dioceses.

African-consecrated American bishops and structures create “a seriously anomalous position” but those existing dioceses that had “looked for more radical solutions” had not gone too far.

“If their faith and practice are recognised by other churches in the Communion as representing the common mind of the Anglican Church, they are clearly in fellowship with the Communion.”

The way forward was to go to Lambeth, which he described as “a meeting of the chief pastors and teachers of the Communion, seeking an authoritative common voice.”  Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire and the African-American bishops would not be seated but all others would be, he said.

Dr. Williams conceded that some invited to Lambeth espoused heterodox theological positions in relation to the Church’s common core teachings. An invitation was not a “certificate of orthodoxy” but an invitation to participate in an authoritative conversation that would shape the future of the church.

However, those accepted the invitation to Lambeth must be willing “to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant,” he said.

Not coming to Lambeth would be a “refusal of the cross – and so of the resurrection. We are being asked to see our handling of conflict and potential division as part of our maturing both as pastors and as disciples,” he said.

Dr. Williams said he would “pursue some professionally facilitated conversations” in the run up to Lambeth, and would convene a “small group of primates and others” to work on the “unanswered questions arising from the inconclusive evaluation of the primates to New Orleans and to take certain issues forward to Lambeth.”

Dr. Williams urged the Primates to hold fast, and not prejudge his attempts a failure. It was wrong to think that a resolution of the “current deadlock” was impossible or that “division is unavoidable and that any such division represents so radical a difference in fundamental faith that no recognition and future co-operation can be imagined.”

“I cannot accept these assumptions, and I do not believe that as Christians we should see them as beyond challenge,” Dr. Williams said.


1. robroy - December 20, 2007

No consensus? Why? Because Rowan Williams does not want consensus. The vote at DeS was unanimous. RW has managed, with his very flawed polling process, taken this consensus and muddled it. Fully 1/3 of primates and 2/3 of ACC members did not even respond to the sham. Evaluating the HoB response is easy. Ask four questions:
1) Did they agree to stop ordaining practicing homosexuals as bishop? Yes (albeit the answer was couched in terms of resolution B033 and when that is repealed in 2009, the answer will be “No”).
2) Did they agree to not bless same sex unions? No.
3) Did they agree to the very specific alternative oversight plan of DeS? No.
4) Did they agree to halt the lawsuits? No
Ask these questions and one will get overwhelming consensus that the HoB, once again, thumbed their noses at the rest of the communion.

2. Mary Miserable - December 20, 2007

As an older Episcopalian, I think the most serious issue facing the American church is not so much its ministry to its gay members but rather its ministry to women. This was made painfully clear when a former Presiding Bishop signed an Interfaith Letter urging the members of Congress to sustain President Clinton’s veto of the proposal to ban the partial-birth abortion procedure. Coincidentally on the same date, the former Bishop of Newark appeared before a House Subcommittee and made a forceful appeal for legalizaing “assisted suicide.”

It is late in the day to raise this strange coincidence of events – and it is possible that given the complex system of governance in the American church many members may not be aware of it . But what message is the Church intending to send to women, often the caregivers but always the mothers?

In other words, Marge Simpson is in jail, and she wants out.

3. Fr Mark - December 21, 2007

Mary: the illiberal Anglican churches are also invariably the ones who exclude women from leadership too. Ecclesiastical misogyny and homophobia go hand in hand.

4. Ben Wiebe - December 21, 2007

Fr Mark,

Why make these misleading generalizations? The first order of business in making any advance on these tough issues is to tell the truth. I know for a fact that over the last decades in our church setting we have worked hard to clarify and then to give full place to women in the church. But we are not simply falling for this line that anyone (in accord with scripture and historic Christain teaching) standing for the Biblical teaching on marriage is “homophobic.”

Ben W

5. Ginny - December 22, 2007

“Fully 1/3 of primates and 2/3 of ACC members did not even respond to the sham.”

Robroy, you cannot read the true intentions of any who chose to not respond. Perhaps some were uncertain on right path for the issues, some felt their opinions were not a reflection of thier (independent) churches as a whole, perhaps fear of government reprisal, or perhaps anything.

Ben W – it is true that many of the conservative groups that broke away from the U.S. Episcopal Church have been very inclusive of female clergy. However – the foreign groups they have aligned with are not so inclined. That does put a new spin on things – particularly since ordained priests and bishops have sworn their loyalty to the Archbishops of those foreign churches.

6. Alice C. Linsley - December 24, 2007

If you want to minister more effectively to women, stop telling women that they can be priests and start affirming the work that women do by nature better than men. Most women don’t really want to be priests (it isn’t natural, if you really understand what the priesthood is). The problem is the lack of clarity among post-Reformation churches about female leaders in ministry.

7. Mary Miserable - December 24, 2007

Fr. Mark, I realize there are many difficulties facing the worldwide Church, but I gather the focus is on the American Church at this time.

If we are to seriously consider the role of women and openly gay persons in the life of the American Church, I don’t believe it will be complete without taking into consideration the two events I wrote about before. We have a situation in which the modern Episcopal Church has lobbied publicly for abortion-on-demand and assisted suicide in one remarkable day, and has done so – as far as I can tell – without the full knowledge of the person in the pew, much less affording an opportunity for reflection.

It is true I have not been active in Church affairs for many years and perhaps this kind of public advocacy is understood and accepted by the majority of Episcopalians. If this is the case, then the Episcopal Church should speak clearly about its commitment to abortion-on-demand and assisted suicide as part of its agenda to bring peace and justice, both at home and abroad.

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