LAMBETH: Bishops Tackle Homosexuality in Bid to Avert Schism
By David W. Virtue
Bishops of the Anglican Communion threw in the towel today finally admitting that they could not "avoid homosexual/lesbian relations" in their Indaba groups, and that there was no way forward on such a communion-breaking issue. They hoped against hope that their inability to find answers would not split the Anglican Communion.
Bishops here are pinning their hopes on a Covenant that protracted talks could take years to agree upon, and that may keep the communion glued together.
GAFCON leaders, already chaffing at the bit over the intransigence of homosexual acceptance in The Episcopal Church, will get no joy or relief from the indecision by these Lambeth bishops. Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone held out little hope that the Communion will now hold together. He foresees an eventual split.
Some Episcopal Church bishops today apologized to members of their Indaba groups saying they had no idea that their action in consecrating the homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire had caused such a negative impact in many parts of the communion, despite the fact that the consecration of Gene Robinson occurred more than five years ago.
It is disingenuous for liberal and revisionist bishops to suddenly say they did not know the harm they had caused by consecrating Robinson. The Internet weekly explodes with reports of the behavior of American liberal and revisionist bishops who have blessed same-sex unions, hired openly partnered same-sex priests, inhibited and deposed orthodox priests and much more.
The bishops said that while there is a desire to end the spiral of chaos around this issue, "there appears to be no desire to be so decisive at this stage." The bishops are looking for a "no win, no lose" scenario to hold the communion together. The bishops said there was a need to "develop further trust" if the Anglican Communion was going to survive.
That now appears unlikely.
The bishops said it was important not to make "judgments" because both sides have done careful Bible study. They said both sides need to repent of positions that have "damaged the dignity of homosexual/lesbian people" but did not call upon pansexualists to repent of their behavior.
They acknowledged that in some parts of the communion homosexual/lesbian relations are "taboo" in others it is a "justice" issue. The bishops cannot agree whether it is a first or second order issue.
The bishops also admitted that this is not a "single act", but is something that will happen again. They also admitted that any unilateral action by any province without consulting the Communion would "profoundly disrupt the church."
The bishops said the impact on the Anglican Communion has resulted in "lost and damaged partnerships", and that in some places the church is ridiculed as the "gay church" resulting in lost membership. In other places, it is seen as a betrayal of the teaching of missionaries who brought the faith and is viewed as a "new form of colonization".
The bishops further admitted that the whole issue of homosexuality diverts attention from the communion's "primary focus", lead to "sexual license", affected "ecumenical and interfaith relationships" and bishops cannot be a symbol of unity when the consecration of Robinson divided the church. "The unique focus of catholicity in the Communion is lost," they said. "In some regions the issue has become a test of orthodoxy and a basis for hostile actions."
Reviewing their options, the bishops said they "keep walking, keep talking", and let God be God and allow Him to transform the attitude and behavior of people, exercise more "listening", "patience", "reaffirm Lambeth 1:10 resolution" and accept that it was a mistake to ignore it, and, above all, cease cross provincial and diocesan borders to "create space for creative responses."
There can be little doubt that the Lambeth Conference is now fully polarized and could split into multiple networks. GAFCON bishops are committed to the Anglican Communion, but not in its present form or necessarily with Rowan Williams as its head. Archbishop Henry Orombi made that very clear in a recent letter from Uganda. Loyalty to Holy Scripture does not mean continued loyalty to the Queen as the Governor of the Church of England or to Rowan as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Global South is committed to Holy Scripture as its primary authority. They have rejected the Instruments of Unity and might well enthrone Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola as the titular head of a new reinvigorated Anglican Communion with the Great Commission as its primary mission thrust and the 1662 Prayer Book as its primary book for worship.
GAFCON currently represents 75% of the Anglican Communion (40 out of 55 million church-going Anglicans) and after this week that figure could rise significantly. Moderate or "open" evangelicals like Fulcrum, Global South Associates, Anglican Communion Institute and bishops like Tom Wright, (Durham) John W. Howe (Central Florida) will be forced to make a decision. Fence sitting is finished. The 2009 Episcopal General Convention will be a triumph of pansexual behavior in The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is incapable of reversing itself.
It is clear that the Lambeth Conference, one of the four Instruments of Unity, is in total disarray. Many of the bishops believe it is breaking up. A number believe it will be the last Lambeth. They may well be right.
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