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LAMBETH: Archbishop of Canterbury Acknowledges Pain in Anglican Communion

LAMBETH: Archbishop of Canterbury Acknowledges Pain in Anglican Communion
Lambeth Opens Amidst Tight Security. One Third of Anglican Bishops Snub Lambeth

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The Archbishop of Canterbury told some 600 bishops in his opening address that there is pain in the Anglican Communion. He likened it to the wounds of Christ inflicted by the new Centurions. He told them to stop their backstabbing and in-fighting, if they were not to "weaken the body of Christ".

More than 600 bishops of the Anglican Communion are gathered here at the University of Kent in a once-in-ten years meeting of Anglican bishops called by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a time when the Anglican Communion is in turmoil over pan-sexuality and the ordination of homosexuals and women to the episcopacy.

Dr. Rowan Williams opened the Lambeth Conference to the sounds of South African "Alleluias" and prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In his first plenary session of the Lambeth Conference, he stressed that the Conference has a very strong emphasis on drawing together around the Bible, and designed as a place "in which every voice can be heard and in which we build Christian relationship".

He said that his own prayer and hope for the Conference "is not that after two weeks, we will find a solution to all our problems, but we shall, as I have written more than once, in some sense find the trust in God and one another that will give us the energy to change in the way God wants us to change. That is the most important thing we can pray for, the energy to change as God wants us to change individually and as a Communion."

Williams acknowledged this fact, "I think it's important I should say that it's a great grief that many of our brothers and sisters in the Communion have not felt able to be with us for these weeks, a grief because we need their voice and they need ours in learning Christ together."

Williams said that - as he had written to many people in recent months - "I respect and accept the decisions that have been made, but together we need in prayer to acknowledge the wound that that makes in our fellowship" and, "that we still have to mend relations that have been hurt. I hope that in these weeks we shall daily be remembering those who are not with us upholding them in our prayers, in our respect and love.

"I don't imagine that simply building relationships solves our problems, but the nature of our calling as Christians is such that we dare not, and I say very strongly, dare not pretend that we can meet and discuss without attention to this quality of relation with each other even if we disagree or find ourselves going in different directions. The Lord of the Church commands that we must love one another in the process and there is no alternative to that. I trust that you are here in that confidence, in that willingness to love one another."

A background paper, distributed to 650 bishops and archbishops attending the ten-yearly conference in Canterbury, told them to remember that their relationships with one another are "fragile and tainted by sin".

Williams aimed his biggest guns at orthodox Anglicans, more than 230 of them from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, the Southern Cone and Sydney, Australia who have boycotted the event because the ABC has refused to discipline The Episcopal Church for its heretical statements and the in-your-face ordination of an avowed homosexual to the episcopacy.

A paper written by the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, commissioned by Dr. Williams, made it clear that bishops who have transgressed diocesan and provincial boundaries in search of "orthodox" primacy are considered guilty of undermining collegiality. An even worse sin, it suggested, was boycotting the conference.

His Lambeth strategy has been to produce a non-confrontational agenda at Lambeth designed to avoid both controversy and further splits and to draw deeply from the well of theology (John's Gospel is the theological template the ABC is using in Bible studies at Canterbury cathedral) to avoid further splits.

Orthodox bishops are fighting back. Bolivian Bishop Frank Lyons (who declined to attend Lambeth) wrote to the ABC saying he had lost confidence in any of the "Instruments of Unity". Each Instrument in turn has "supported" those who maintain traditional Anglican teaching in word only, while at the same time, quietly distancing themselves, he wrote to Williams.

"On the other hand, those who redefine all our terms and all our relationships to suit their fancy are supported in action because they have political and monetary power. Nor can I sit idly by while the US church wreaks their havoc of vengeance and death on those who disagree. Their behavior is not that of Christian fellowship or communion."

Dr Chris Sugden, executive secretary of the Anglican Mainstream lobby group, told the "London Times" that the paper commissioned by Williams was inadequate. He said,: "This is incomplete in its presentation of the New Testament teaching of what bishops should do in the case of continual, systematic teaching of false doctrine."

Tight Security

A seven-foot high wire security fence, manned by professional security guards, surrounds the main entrances into the University of Kent. No one knows why the guards are necessary, as no threats have been made against any bishop. Gene Robinson is not allowed into the plenary sessions and has yet to arrive on campus to do his dog and pony show over the joys of sodomy. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola is not here and neither is Rochester Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. Both have received death threats and needed personal security in Israel. England, it is said, is either a police state or a nanny state. It is true. Cameras watch everyone on every street corner in England. Throughout the country, there are an estimated five million CCTV cameras; causing the "New Statesman" magazine to opine that England has totally lost its way with the concept of freedom.

The question here is: what are the bishops scared of? These same bishops have no compunction about yelling at the Israelis to take down the wall around Bethlehem. Yet, they stand for high wire security here that is more exclusive than inclusive!

Getting online was also a nightmare for the first 24 hours, with more firewalls, and codes needed to get to the Internet than one would experience in the U.S. Ten years ago, it was a much simpler matter, (plug-n-play). Today it is all about security and the fear of terrorism. It was easier to get online near the Israeli-Jordanian border recently than it is here.

Will He or Won't He?

There is enormous newspaper speculation over whether Pope Benedict will offer a safe harbor in Rome for fleeing Anglo-Catholics. A recent decision by the General Synod of the Church of England to ordain women to the episcopacy has set off theological and ecclesiastical alarm bells over the future of Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England. Damian Thompson, editor of "Catholic World" and a columnist for "The Telegraph" writes that The Catholic Church will expand its provision of "Anglican Use" parishes in the United States in order to allow whole communities of traditionalist Anglicans to enter the Roman fold.

He is supported in this contention by the Most Rev. John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark and Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, who told a conference of ex-Anglicans on Friday that "we are working on expanding the mandate of the Pastoral Provision [of Catholic parishes using Anglican-inspired services] to include those clergy and faithful of 'continuing Anglican communities'.

"We are striving to increase awareness of our apostolate to Anglican Christians who desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. We have experienced the wonder of several Episcopal bishops entering into full communion with the Catholic Church and we continue to receive requests from priests and laity about the Pastoral Provision."

This is big news, and makes nonsense of the claim that Pope Benedict wants to dissuade Anglo-Catholics from converting. The obvious interpretation of the Archbishop's words is that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a "continuing church", which has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide (though few in the UK), will eventually be given its own Catholic parishes which use a Eucharistic Prayer incorporating Cranmerian language.

The "Independent" Newspaper, on the other hand, had a screaming front page headline, "Pope rides to Rowan's Rescue" and says that the Vatican shuns defectors and backs calls for Anglican unity. The Pope is leading an unprecedented drive by the Roman Catholic Church to prevent the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Pope has sent three cardinals to the conference in Canterbury, including one of his top aides from the Vatican, to act as personal intermediaries between the two churches. He also wants it to be known that he does not support the defection of conservatives Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishops warned off Press

In a replay of 1998, Australian Archbishop Philip Aspinall, spokesman for the Bishops, warned them at a meeting yesterday just who in the press press at Lambeth were good guys and who were bad guys. He told them that press wearing red straps around their necks were the "good guys" (and therefore could be trusted) while those wearing blue straps were "local guys" and the bishops should not feel under any obligation to speak to them. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

How stupid of Aspinall to say this. This is a repeat of what happened ten years ago. We still got the story out. Does he honestly think that we are so dumb that we don't have our contacts and won't get the story? The liberal archbishop should know better. Stirring up this kind of suspicion only backfires in the end. Aspinall will chair a daily press conference during the Lambeth Conference.

The Future

The real question will be, once Lambeth is over, will the North American churches, aided and abetted by the churches in Wales and Ireland, continue to move forward with same-sex blessings, and more ordinations and consecrations of homogenital priests and bishops, without fear of presentment?

The Episcopal Church's Anglo-Catholic wing is all but gone. Once the Dioceses of Quincy and Ft. Worth leave TEC, it will be the end of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church in North America. This will certainly be good news to revisionists like Jefferts Schori and a whole host of liberal bishops. The question then will be what becomes of the church's evangelicals? Said one liberal bishop, their day will come. Indeed it will.

Ultimately, there will be no place for anyone orthodox at the Episcopal table. Someone here is going to have to address the elephant in the sanctuary -– GAFCON. Until they do, this might very well be the last Lambeth Conference.

For the moment, the bishops here are clearly valuing the focus on worship, Bible study and spiritual input in a historic cathedral setting. This is obviously a very good place to start. But where is it all going?

On the Kent University campus, where the bishops meet, there are no Christian symbols, no crosses, and no projection of Christian symbols in the main auditorium where the bishops gather in plenary session. This is precisely a replay of what happened at GC2006 where the TEC ran up 16 flags of cooperating dioceses, but had no Christian symbols to indicate that the Episcopal Church was even remotely, well, Christian. Will TEC stand for The Episcopal Communion in time?

By contrast, GAFCON had 303 bishops representing 75% of the Anglican Communions' 55 million members with Christian symbols (in the face of orthodox Jewish hostility) present in abundance.

The 600 plus bishops here represent a mere 15 million Anglicans worldwide. England, the US and Canada have the most bishops present - and the most liberal - representing only 4% of the Anglican Communion!

Here in Canterbury, Rowan Williams is playing a high wire act, hoping and praying that the Communion will not fall apart on his watch. He is trying to pull a Houdini act that many believe will fail. He is trying to find the right Hegelian (synthesis) mix.

As one wag observed, Williams can say Jesus is Lord, while revisionists like Mrs. Jefferts Schori say Jesus is not Lord (the language is too patriarchal). For his sins, Williams is hoping that he can get away with saying, Jesus is occasionally Lord.



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