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.