Anglicans in Agony

The Lambeth Conference is approaching. This is the once-a-decade meeting of all the Bishops of the Anglican communion. At least it is supposed to be all the bishops. Instead many bishops are boycotting the conference because of the continuing fisticuffs over homosexuality.

The conservatives from the developing world are having an alternative conference in Jerusalem. There is geographical symbolism here. Lambeth is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s London residence. The conference actually takes place in Canterbury. The developing world bishops seem to be saying, “You can keep the English-ness you love so much. We’re going back to the roots. We’re meeting in Jerusalem.” The photograph above shows the Anglican bishops in their regalia at the Mount of Olives this week.
The conference is called Gafcon (Global Anglican Future Conference) You can check it out here. There is much there about the need for Scriptural authority. The problem with this is that the homosexualists also claim that Scripture is on their side. Here is how their argument goes: The problem with Sodom was not sodomy, but inhospitality. The men of Sodom were nasty to visitors. That was the problem–not that they raped them. The prohibitions in the Old Testament? You can’t take those seriously–otherwise your women would not be able to wear pantsuits, you couldn’t have pork barbecue sandwiches or lobster and you’d have to have those curly bits on your head like Orthodox Jews wear. New Testament prohibitions? That was not against ‘loving homosexual relationships’ but against depravity, decadence and fornication so common in the ancient world. Besides St Paul was probably homophobic and we know more about human sexuality now than they did.
I’m not defending this position of course–just pointing out that the homosexualists also read Scripture and have their Bible scholars lined up, their psychologists, their theologians, their linguistic experts etc. etc. etc. Therefore when the admirable Gafcon bishops admirably maintain the need for Scriptural authority they are sadly beating a dead horse. Scriptural authority on its own isn’t good enough for who is to say who interprets the Scriptures? Who is to say that Gafcon’s interpretation is the right one and the homosexualists’ is the wrong one?
In the meantime, other Anglicans are jumping off the leaky boat and swimming for the lifeboats. Some are heading for the more than 100 Anglican schism groups, some dioceses and parishes are forming new alliances with African bishops they consider orthodox (problem there is what happens when that bishop retires and they don’t like his successor?) Still others are turning again to the Roman option. Among them are Anglo-Catholics who are holding out for some sort of Anglican Use option within Catholicism
My own word on this is to ask Anglicans who want some sort of Anglican Church within the Catholic Church  is to re-count a conversation between then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster with Anglican bishop of London Graham Leonard. Cardinal Hume asked Bishop Leonard what it was that he wished to retain from Anglicanism that he could not already have within Catholicism.
Was it the 39 Articles of Religion? As an Anglo Catholic Leonard had no love for that Protestant document anyway. Was it the 1662 prayer book? As an AC Leonard already used the Roman Missal. Was it the beautiful music? While not common in the Catholic Church, it was not banned. Was it beautiful liturgy? That is possible within Catholicism. Was it choral evensong? Catholics have choral solemn Vespers.
In fact there was nothing specific within Anglicanism that was not already available within Catholicism. If, however Rome allows more leeway in the Anglican Use, and this provides a bridge for more Anglicans to come over, praise be. Meanwhile Damian Thompson reports that at least one, if not more Church of England bishops are preparing to announce their plans to be received into the Catholic Church and rumors are circulating that Rome has prepared a way for the Traditional Anglican Communion to be received, and that they are just waiting for the Lambeth Conference to conclude before going public. This may just be speculation.
But either way, this summer is going to be ecclesiologically exciting.
UPDATE: Charles Moore–convert former editor of the Daily Telegraph writes eloquently about the problems of the Anglican Church here.

UPDATE: Read more here about developments within Anglicanism. Gafcon have not started a separate church, but plan to remain within as an alternative hierarchy.
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  • Before crossing the Tiber I had some experiecne with the third on the list, the Anglican Catholic Church, or ACC. They are strongest in the midwest and southeastern USA, with some churches in Australia and the UK as well. At least in the parishes I worshipped in I felt their liturgy was very beautiful and I would love to see them come home to Rome. For their part their ‘metropolitan’ once told me that they had reached out to Cardinal Kasper but that he has not responded. I don’t know if I would disbelieve them, but I don’t know if they tried very hard.1-Priestly marriage is a huge barrier between continuing Anglicans and Rome.2-People raised as protestants are told reasons why they are not catholic growing up. They’re not bigots, but they do have some prejudices. Chief among them is the prejudice that Romans don’t ‘think for themselves’ which is somewhat accurate since obedience does entail submission to authority.3-Their bishops own their own churches and are free of obedience to Rome. Just like SSPX or any other splinter group, once a group has their own property it is difficult for them to free themselves from the temptation to go off on their own, sheep going their separate ways.Those are three very good reasons why every catholic needs to say a prayer of thanksgiving that the TAC is coming home to Rome. It is difficult for an individual, much less an entire church, to swim the Tiber like this.

  • If this turns out to be about the coming home of schismatic Christians, it’s all due to B16 continuing JPII’s true ecumenical work: bringing back stray brothers and sisters to the Holy Mother Church.Praised be God!

  • A dissenting Catholic told me this week the Catholic Church should condone homosexual acts for the following reasons:Genesis and Corinthians did not outright dispute same sex partners acting as married persons,and Church authority is fickle. If the Church could outright condemn homosexuals and later accept them as persons with disordered affections, then they could approve such acts as good and meaningful. He agreed Dogmas could develop, but only when they suit his lifestyle–as if life in Christ is pleasurable. The Church should be more democratic like the Episcopalians; they are truly led by the Holy Spirit, he said, they allow gay men and women priests. (Gotta love the way people appeal to the Holy Spirit as if this divine person approves all our hopes and wishes).I think at this point I stopped talking.

  • You seem to be doing some selective reading of GAFCON’s statement, sir.See point 2 of the Jerusalem Declaration: “We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

  • that’s exactly my point: the liberals think also believe they are reading the Scriptures plainly and ‘with respect’ the church’s historical consensus.’Why should their reading be right and Gafcon’s be wrong?

  • If they honestly believe they were reading the Scriptures historically and canonically, they wouldn’t make such frequent citation of the “progress” of their thought and how they “know more now than previous generations,” that they are “enlightened” now. Their entire approach to the matter, despite what rhetoric they might employ to temper it, belies a belief in ignoring and subverting the traditional teaching of Scripture.

  • They take the story from the Acts of the Apostles about Peter being commanded to break from tradition and ‘eat the unclean thing’ as one of their foundation interpretive principles, and therefore believe the Bible and base their views on Scripture just as much as the conservative Protestant Biblicist.See they think it is part of the tradition to break with tradition. They also like the bit in the gospel where Jesus says we must overturn the traditions of men for the sake of the Truth.

  • “See they think it is part of the tradition to break with tradition. They also like the bit in the gospel where Jesus says we must overturn the traditions of men for the sake of the Truth.”Father, herein lies the self-contradiction which dooms all protestantism. In our origin lies our destiny.On the second part of your comment, it does need to be stated repeatedly, it seems: never take selected portions of Scripture from their context. Christ told his disciples, “Do as they say, not as they do.” He did not command that Jews leave Judaism and form a new faith. The forming of Christianity as a separate religion was post-resurrection and a direct consequence of persecution from the Jewish establishment. We don’t say much about this, true, but that’s because we don’t want to fall into the anti-semitism that was so un-Christian of us in earlier ages. We focus instead on Christ himself as the cornerstone of our faith. There are a large number of Jews who hold their Jewish identity while embracing Christianity. We can never divorce historical Christianity from theological Christianity. That path is fraught with dangers to the Church.

  • With all due respect, Fr., you’re completely ignoring my point. I’m not contesting that they claim to be following scripture. I’m pointing out that they never claim to follow the Church’s historical interpretation of scripture, i.e., they refuse to interpret it as it has been in the past, by the Church Fathers. This, however, is what the Anglicans at GAFCON do in fact wish to support.

  • Dear Mark, I believe I have addressed your point. The liberals do understand the historic church’s point of view, but they also believe that the Holy Spirit leads the church to make radical breaks with the past from time to time, (as illustrated by the story of Peter with the sheet of unclean things)They also see Jesus making a radical break with the traditions and interpretations of the past, and they see that this prophetic role is often done by the great saints. This radical, prophetic role requires risk and a new departure from the set and assumed traditions and interpretations. They therefore believe their method of radical revisionism is one that is led by the Holy Spirit, and is Biblical and in keeping with the wider traditions of the church.Why should they necessarily be wrong and Gafcon right? It was this question which eventually led me to the Catholic faith. I came to realize that there was only one church which was both faithful to the historic interpretations of the Scripture down through the ages, and yet was able to be flexible, radical and prophetic when it needed to be.That is the Catholic Church.

  • But that wasn’t what I was addressing.You wrote: Therefore when the admirable Gafcon bishops admirably maintain the need for Scriptural authority they are sadly beating a dead horse. Scriptural authority on its own isn’t good enough for who is to say who interprets the Scriptures? Who is to say that Gafcon’s interpretation is the right one and the homosexualists’ is the wrong one?I was pointing out that GAFCON is clearly siding with the canonical, apostolic, traditional interpretation as handed down through the Church Fathers and the early church. The revisionists seek to alter this interpretation by claiming some new revelation. GAFCON does not. It’s really quite simple.And on a related note, what would you make of the Orthodox Church regarding your claim of Rome’s singular ability to be “both faithful to the historic interpretations of the Scripture down through the ages, and yet was able to be flexible, radical and prophetic when it needed to be”?

  • Dear Mark, I was explaining the revisionists’ own claims to be following Scripture. They sincerely believe their interpretation is a new insight from the Holy Spirit–just like the one Peter had when the Holy Spirit told him to ‘kill and eat’ the unclean thing.Your argument is a red herring. Of course they don’t pretend their argument is traditional. They believe their revisionist method of interpretation is what is Scriptural and faithful to the real intent of Jesus and the spirit of the gospel.There is much I admire and love about the Eastern Orthodox Church, but I believe their liturgy and traditions have ossified and become culturally bound because they do not have the necessary authority structure to implement the right kind of change.Only the Catholic Church has the authority system which both preserves the tradition and adapts it as necessary.

  • Mark,The GAFCON Statement only upholds the first 4 ecumenical councils, and upholds the 39 Articles, which state that the councils are infallible. The Church Fathers would never have agreed with such statements.

  • Dear Mark,Two simple questions: why just the first four ecumenical councils? If they were inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, why not the others? Also, (assuming you are an Evangelical Anglican) why do you ascribe to the first four ecumenical councils of the undivided Church, and yet repudiate with your Protestant beliefs doctrines and traditions of the church which were universally held by those who attended the first four ecumenical councils?Secondly, how can you sign up to the 39 Articles which specifically repudiate things which the Christians of the time of the first four councils held universally?My point is that the good and worthy men of Gafcon have made up their own version of Christianity–picking and choosing from the historic church what suits them. Why should they have a problem when the liberals do the same?

  • in previous post, I wrote “infallible”. I meant “fallible”.