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LAMBETH: All But Unmentioned - Fr. Warren Tanghe

LAMBETH: All But Unmentioned
An American perspective

By Fr Warren Tanghe
Forward in Faith Int. News
July 26, 2008

The Lambeth Conference 1998 famously adopted a resolution on human sexuality, resolution I.10. The failure of the American and Canadian churches to honor that resolution are at the center of the conflict which overshadows Lambeth 2008. The Lambeth Conference 1998 also adopted a resolution, numbered III.2 calling on Provinces "to make such provision, including appropriate episcopal ministry", as will enable those who dissent from and those who assent to the ordination of women to live "in the highest degree of Communion possible". The patent failure of the American and Canadian churches to honor this resolution has gone all but unmentioned at Lambeth 2008.

The Conference opened against the background of the July 7th decision by the General Synod of the Church of England to craft legislation for the ordination of women as bishops with a "statutory code of practice". The Synod voted down amendments intended to provide the structural provisions which those who uphold the traditional shape of the ministry deemed necessary to preserve the theological and ecclesiological integrity of their position.

Because this action occurred so soon before Lambeth convened, the issue was very much on the minds of the English bishops present. Given the clarity with which they made their position known, the Synod's decision seemed to tell Forward in Faith and those who agree with it that, if the legislation were adopted in its present form, there would be no place for them in the Church of England. The processes of the General Synod are convoluted. It will be 2014 at the earliest before a definitive vote, requiring a 2/3 majority in each house, can be taken, at which point the legislation would take effect.

It is still possible to alter the legislation, and a number of Church of England leaders seem to be having second thoughts about their recent action. Forward in Faith in the United Kingdom, while unwilling to be complicit in creating what it considers an inadequate provision for those who uphold the Apostolic ministry, will continue to pursue its goals through the Synodical process. At the same time, it must inevitably plan against the eventuality that its efforts will not succeed, and the legislation arising from this month's Synod resolution will be approved.

Given that this took place immediately before the Lambeth Conference convened - and its significance in light of Cardinal Kasper's challenge to the Communion to decide if it is a church of the Apostolic era or a church of the Reformation - the almost complete silence of Lambeth 2008 on the treatment of those who dissent from the ordination of women seems rife with meaning.

There are still many Provinces which do not ordain women, and seem unlikely to do so. Even in the Provinces which do, there are not a few bishops who do not. But sometimes their reasons seem practical rather than theological, a matter of culture and missionary strategy rather than a matter of Order. One might like to think that conservatives have chosen to focus on a single issue, and have chosen one on which they are of one mind. But resolution III.2 deals, not with ordination of women as such, but with the just treatment of those who hold a position opposite to that of the Province of which they are part. There is no reason why they should be divided over that.

The reality - a depressing reality for those who stand with Forward in Faith - is that how people of our "integrity" are treated simply isn't on the bishops' radar screen at this Lambeth Conference. And one cannot avoid the even more depressing thought that the way we're treated isn't an issue, because, while ordaining women may be an issue in one or another Province, it no longer seems an issue for the Communion as a whole.


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