LAMBETH: Anglican Communion faces Historic Moment. "We are a Wounded Community," says Archbishop
Buddhist Chant Echoes throughout Cathedral.Absence of Evangelicals is the Elephant in the Sacristy.
By David W. Virtue in Canterbury
The Anglican Communion is deeply wounded. Some of us are not here, and that is an indication that all is not well, said the Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, to a packed Canterbury Cathedral. More than 650 bishops processed through the cathedral to the accompaniment of choirs, drums and orchestra.
Speaking at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop said the crisis is complex. "It is not a conflict that can be resolved instantly. The journey ahead is a long and arduous one, that will demand our prayers and faithfulness our mutual trust in each other and of course our trust in God who makes reconciliation possible."
The service included representatives of several Christian denominations and other "living faiths". The bishop said, "To recognize our vulnerability makes growth possible in Christian discipleship."
Highlighting the conflict in the Communion and how it is playing out at the local level, the Colombo bishop said bishops are expected to bring their dioceses with them to the Lambeth conference. "Bishops whose dioceses strive to be faithful through the challenges that come through God's word will bring along with their dioceses the pains injustices, struggle, evil, and hostility that men and women encounter in today's world." He said that the world Anglican Communion must always give the highest priority to participate with Christ in transforming God's world. "We must bring healing, peace, justice, reconciliation and abundant life where there is oppression hostility, and strife. " "We must "grow together", and "there must be no uprooting, simply because if we attempt this game of uprooting the unrighteous, none of us will remain. We are all a mix of the wheat and the weeds. The wisdom of these words suggests that we stay together because we have grown from a common soil, tradition, and heritage."
This echoes the same criticism by the Archbishop of Canterbury of GAFCON. The GAFCON primates have responded that they are not seeking a sinless church, but are rejecting teaching that encourages sin. What they are seeing is love without judgment; forgiveness without repentance and inclusiveness without transformation, according to an orthodox UK bishop.
De Chickera said transformation must come from within. "The church is called to be an inclusive communion where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of color, gender, sexual orientation, ability. Unity in diversity is a cherished Anglican tradition, a spirituality which we must reinforce in all humility for the sake of Christ and Christ's gospel.
"There are three challenges to leave with us as we address the objectives of this Lambeth Conference: To strengthen our Anglican identity, and to enable bishops to be leaders in God's mission. "First, our communion must return to the discipline and practice of self-scrutiny. We have a rich tradition that supports this discipline: the retreat, the quiet time, contemplation, spiritual counselors.
"In the parable of the plank and the speck of dust, Christ calls us to be hard on ourselves and calls us to consider him only as our measure and our standard. "It is not that bishop who is giving you trouble or archdeacon whose theology always irritates you. Self- scrutiny is possible in the Christian journey, as we stand naked before Jesus the Christ. The challenge is one of unity in diversity. "Unity in diversity is a cherished Anglican tradition a spirituality which we must reinforce in all humility for the sake of Christ and Christ's gospel."
The third challenge is that of the prophetic book. "The prophetic voice has two strands, and it is imperative that these two strands are held together. First, the prophetic voice is the voice of the voiceless. There are those who for political, cultural, economic, and military reasons cannot speak for themselves. The Anglican Communion must speak on their behalf, whether it be on the crisis in Sri Lanka, in Zimbabwe, in Sudan, or Afghanistan, or Iran. The voiceless must be given a voice through the leadership of the Anglican Communion. We speak for justice and order in God's world and we speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves."
Referencing the sermon's mention of the Wheat and the Tares, the Rt. Rev. Nceba Bethlehem Nopece, Bishop of Port Elizabeth in South Africa said the parable is about an unknown enemy. "We are facing a known enemy whom we must resist. They must be confronted by the gospel in love. If we let everything grow together, we are not carrying out our Christian service. Inclusion must entail transformation."
At the end of the sermon and before Eucharist, the Colombo bishop sang a Buddhist chant, which he said "connected us to the Eucharist." An orthodox bishop's wife told VOL that Duleep de Chickera had told them over dinner that he wanted to meet Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson.
A senior English bishop, commenting on the sermon, described it as "dreadful". An Indian Bishop commented, "They are always saying that this is going to be a long journey, but will it ever come to a successful end?."
At a press conference following the Sunday morning Eucharist, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, spokesman for the Anglican Communion bishops and press liaison officer, said there would be no attempt to divert attention from hot button issues in the "Indaba" small group discussions. He said there would be "honesty and openness" in the process, as well as "robust debate." Aspinall said this Lambeth would not be a "debating chamber" like Lambeth 1998. There will be no motions or propositions, but he also said that conflict would not be avoided. He said the Indaba group approach (16 Indaba groups with 80 Bible studies) formed the basis of all the discussions. "It is designed to engage conflict in a quite different way in the hope that this method would be constructive."
Asked what he felt about the absence of the Evangelical Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen, Aspinall he was "greatly saddened" by his absence. "For Archbishop Jensen not to come is a loss of the evangelical tradition. That perspective weakens and we are much the poorer and it will delay us." But one conservative commentator noted that his statement fits in to the liberal mind that every position must be represented, but on their terms, so the question is: would Archbishop Jensen be given a plenary session on evangelism and growing the church in Sydney?
Asked by VOL about a report by leading world ecumenical leaders (http://tinyurl.com/6eocnr) heavily critical of the Anglican Communion's drift into pan-sexuality and the ordination of both homosexuals and women to the episcopacy, Aspinall said that while he had not read the report, it was no secret that these issues represented an "obstacle in ecumenical relationships." He said that both ARCIC and IARCUM talks had not ceased and ecumenical representatives present were partners and not simply guests and observers.
The Vatican sent one observer and Dr. Williams has invited two more to attend. It is being said that the Pope's message to the Anglican Communion is one of "unity" and not schism. While some 75 representatives are here from various denominations around the world, there are no representatives of multiple orthodox Anglican jurisdictions, which led Dr. Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream to observe, "what theology of diversity and inclusion is it that welcomes ecumenical participants (not observers) and fails to acknowledge the existence of Anglican entities whose reasons for a separate existence lie long in the past" for example The Church of England in South Africa and the reformed Episcopal Church in the USA?
Asked by a "New York Times" reporter if this conference was on the brink of schism over sexuality issues, Aspinall replied that Williams and his fellow primates and bishops were committed to the life of the Communion. "The Communion is alive and vital. I am confident a way will be found to move forward. I am confident that that way is there. We need to discern where it is and how we follow it."
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