Essentially, this is what +Rowan wanted. It kicks schism down the road; allows the Anglican Communion to die of a thousand cuts and no one bears actual responsibility. +Rowan likely wants to be seen by history as a reconciler – whether reconciliation succeeds or not.
No one is particularly happy, based on what I am reading.
The requests for moratoria are, in short, a ridiculous suggestion at this point. If, after four years of requesting moratoria, someone thinks just because Lambeth kinda sorta endorses the same means these things will happen, that person is crazy.
In short, there is no discipline in the Anglican Communion, and perhaps there never was. However, there is no longer collegiality that bears anything on forbearance of action, which means the collegiality is non-existent. All we have is the dead letter of what +Rowan calls “gracious restraint” that we ought to have but don’t.
Our hope as Anglicans must rest on Jesus Christ, not on gracious restraint. Truly, I tell you, that hope is being manifested. The resounding success of GAFCON compared to the Lambeth Conference will continue to resonate, and that it is far more productive for the church to agree on the basic truths of the scriptures and the person of Christ than it is to disagree; maintaining a traditional breadth of Anglicanism being the middle way between Catholicism and Protestantism, rather than becoming a middle way between the earth and Mars theologically speaking.
Moreover, in my own parish, our two new priests, both relatively new from seminary, are decidedly Anglo-Catholic in their theology, and their sermons reflect that and it is wonderful. Fr. Michael preached a sermon today that talked of people as supposedly smart and educated as Episcopalians simplifying our faith, grasping onto the faith that we either had or should have had as children in Jesus Christ, while preaching on the miracle of the loaves and fishes, which indeed did happen, but more importantly points us to how Jesus Christ provides for us spiritually, as he provided redemption for us on the Cross. While this sermon’s delivery was not fiery, or emotional (which I tend to like), it was counter-cultural and probably outright demanding in asking for what Jesus Christ wants of us. It was probably one of the best sermons I have ever heard preached at St. James in my lifetime of membership there. Moreover, Fr. Michael is absolutely right in his assertion that it does the Gospel far more good for people whom society supposes great intellect to tell society that they believe in the Gospel, indeed, believe in Jesus’ miracles and his birth from a virgin, than to deny these things but say it is alright to come to church anyway. Even +Rowan said that once to Bishop Spong about the Virgin Birth, but then he turned around one Epiphany and said the three wise men coming to visit Jesus, well, that didn’t matter if that didn’t happen.
Many people have told me that Bishop Spong, Crossan, Borg, and theologians of that ilk have done great work in bringing members of what are called the church alumni society (ie those who quit the church because they didn’t believe) back to church. I think then about what Archbishop Deng of Sudan said at his press conference regarding the Church not bringing non-believers into church to testify why or what they don’t believe. If the Church is to be about the Gospel, salvation through Jesus Christ and bringing the Kingdom of God into being through the increase in justice and mercy in the world, then having people who just don’t believe that to teach in it, much less to lead it, is just plain counter-productive. It is stupid. If people can’t believe in such things as the Virgin birth or the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then how are they to perform the greater miracles that Jesus promised?
I am all for bringing non-believers into the Church. I’ve worked for that on numerous occasions. However, I think the Church and indeed individual believers have a right to expect that people who actually commit to the Church also believe.
Now, I don’t want my particular church running around with an inquisition on their hands. If someone says they believe in what the creeds say, I can take that at face value and then leave the matter up to God, as He is the one to judge faith, not me. But, when people just plain out and out deny and indeed publish books that say they don’t believe things in the creeds, we just need to say, look, you obviously aren’t a believer, and I will not be in fellowship with you. No hard feelings, but that is that.
It is a shame that sexual morality became the real watershed event in Anglicans coming to their senses about these things. These things should have happened when Bishop Pike wasn’t defrocked, and Bishop Spong wasn’t even tried and Archbishop George Carey invited him to Lambeth 1998.
Moreover, if sexual immorality is a sin, and I believe even most liberal Anglicans think it is, then you can’t just change the definition of the same that has been around since the Noahide laws that apply to all mankind. At least, not without some pretty severe scientific, theological and historical documentation. However, homosexuality is a losing argument on the historical end, in that the statement that the ancients just didn’t understand the loving nature of a same sex relationship basically ignores the literature and history of the ancient times. They knew full well about homosexuality; it is no different from today’s understanding.
What is even more ridiculous is that the Church would listen to tortured arguments such as the sin of Sodom being inhospitality. When I hear this I think I am on crazy pills here. Why don’t they just say that the sin of Sodom was rape, not consensual homosexuality (even though that has some serious logical and theological problems as well)? That, at least, makes some kind of sense, yet at the Lambeth conference they were listening to and even trotted out at the press conference an Australian theologian who said precisely that.
Largely, I think the problem with the boundary crossings is that they don’t happen much in San Francisco (Diocese of California) or Newark (although the Dioceses of San Diego, Los Angeles and Virginia were precisely where they needed to be) as much as they happen in South Carolina, Central Florida, Mississippi, Dallas, and other Dioceses that have bishops and synods that have not denied the faith nor undertaken any action to undermine it.
So, what is correct about what GAFCON is doing? They are going about the business of the Gospel, despite, instead of because, of the Anglican Communion. If the Communion Partners initiative is to succeed, it must do the same. It will mean the same things that happen now – redirection of funds away from 815, showing up at meetings but not taking Communion from people who outright deny the faith, and creating partnerships (in the mere sense of a joining of people together) to further the work of the Gospel.
If the Gospel is being furthered, then the Lord Jesus will bless this and it will thrive. It will ultimately dwarf the broken institution that will not and cannot thrive.
What does this mean in practical terms as far as other interactions with the problematic structures of the institutional church? Well, you have to pray and discern about where it is profitable or worthwhile for the Gospel to go to this meeting or that. While politics can’t be ignored in our reality, it mustn’t control a Christian’s Christ centered reality. In a strange way, we need to take a lesson from the liberal contingent within Anglicanism. They show up at the meetings, they often ignore what the meetings say and expect that politics will eventually catch up to them because they are sure they are right. Certainly, people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the authority of his Word can do the same.
This week I will be taking part in a prison ministry conference, and I can definitely say that I will be doing some further reflecting on what has gone on at Lambeth and what the future holds for Anglicanism, but I will mostly be focusing on prison ministry – bringing incarcerated men and women to Christ – which is what I am supposed to be doing anyway.