Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Some Good Straws to Grasp At

Maybe I've been drinking the water at the Hillary Clinton School of Optimism, but I find myself encouraged by today's news that the Ordinary and the Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh have announced that they will be attending the Lambeth Conference. This comes on top of slightly less recent news that the Bishop of Fort Worth and the Presiding Bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone will also be heading north after GAFCON before going home.

In the cavalcade of events since the 2003 General Convention lit a match to the tinder-dry Anglican forest, the worst-case-scenario-sum-of-all-fears for me and for many others has been the prospect of a monumental schism that cuts to the core of Anglicanism, with a larger chunk, mostly "Global South", spinning off into a theologically orthodox (in an Evangelical sense, with tolerance for some Catholics in their midst) but non-Canterburian post-Anglican body, leaving behind a smaller chunk, mostly European and North American, in a radically downsized but Canterbury-centered Anglicanism dominated by "progressive" theology, with some degree of tolerance for Catholics and Evangelicals who remain with them.

This nightmare scenario remains a clear and present danger. If I were a betting man (which I am so not), I would hedge my bet, but my main money would go with the split. I have long prayed for, and advocated for, an end to the ill-advised boycott of the Lambeth Conference by the Global South bishops and their allies. With a strong united front, it is still possible to consolidate the gains made in 1998 (the statement on sexuality known as Lambeth I.10) and dig a foundation for a strong Anglican Covenant, one that will enable Anglican Christianity to finally come of age for the first time in history. This Lambeth Conference had the potential to be of watershed significance. I think that potential may have been squandered by a series of rash and impatient moves (GAFCON among them) on the part of orthodox Anglicans. But the news that some key voices of mainstream Anglicanism from North America will be at the table in Canterbury this summer is welcome.


Malcolm+ said...

You and I are pretty much on opposite sides of "the" issue, but I agree with your tactical analysis.

The decision of so many Global South bishops to boycott Lambeth was tactically idiotic. The liberals come out ahead as the ones who were faithful when the "conservatives" took their bats and balls and went home.

But this wasn't the only tactical foul-up under Akinola's leadership. The decision to impose themselves uninvited on the Bishop in Jerusalem only served t alienate many of their potential allies. Akinola's dismissive comments after his meeting with Dawani made Dawani look more of a victim and Akinola more of a bully.

In many respects, Akinola has been very effective at communicating in the digital age. Yet at other times he seems to have a tin ear. Hiding from reporters in Virginia, his famously stupid "no comment" when asked about an atrocity against Muslims in Nigeria - things like this have diminished him and diminished whatever moral authority he had been garnering.

(Note, my argument here is that his "no comment" is a huge problem - regardless of whatever culpability he may or may not have about Yelna. See my blog post - )

I don't understand what motivates leaving the table when you appear to be winning, or alienating potential allies, or using a phrase that any half-way competent communications advisor would tell you is suicidal.

From that perspective, the conduct of the Lambeth boycotters has been an interesting case study.

JamesW said...

Dan and Malcolm: I would disagree with both of your analyses in many important respects.

1. Dan, I don't think that the GAFCON faction ever intended to be a per se non-Canterburian Communion. That is way too simple an analysis. What they have said is a) that they will remain a part of the Anglican Communion; b) that they have lost confidence in the current Communion structures; and c) that they intend to create a new Communion inside of what they consider to be a now de-facto Federation. They will not seperate from Canterbury, rather they will re-create the Communion around him.

2. As regards the Lambeth boycott, I actually think that it has been a success strategically. Let me outline some stipulations here.
a) I think that the Anglican Covenant is a non-starter. It will never be firm enough for the GS but never weak enough for TEC. As such, it will never come to pass UNTIL the TEC situation is dealt with.
b) The GS realized that the ABC had determined that nothing of substance would be achieved at Lambeth other then informal lobbying. The GS correctly believed that the liberals would be out in force playing the pity card for VGR. They also correctly believed that if they attended they would be attacked.
c) The ABC and the ACO (who control the Lambeth Conference) deep-sixed the DES Communique, thus suggesting that the GS would be coming out of numerical strength but serious political weakness to Lambeth.
Accordingly, it really made no sense for the GS to attend Lambeth. Nothing would be accomplished positively for the conservatives, but they stood to lose a great deal. By boycotting, they were able to send a very clear and public message to the ABC that it is not "business as usual", to undermine the credibility of the Lambeth Conference, and to avoid being present as a target for the liberal attack machine. And I think that it has worked.

3. So why the recent decisions for Venables, Iker and Pittsburgh to attend? Well, they have just come into some serious political capital. I believe that the PB's recent abuse of the canonical process has been a windfall to Venables, Iker, etc. Suddenly, they can present themselves to the moderate bishops at Lambeth as the real victims. While VGR is out in the marketplace doing his thing, Venables, Iker and Duncan can quietly point to the well-reasoned and very convincing accounts demonstrating the PB's canonical abuse and persecution. Their sudden decision to attend Lambeth comes out of a new-found position of strength. Don't doubt it.

Now fit my point #3 in with point #1. The two go hand-in-glove with each other. This was a decision made out of perceived strengthening of the conservative hand. I don't believe that it represents any shift at all from the overall strategy I outlined in point #1.

frcartercroft said...

JamesW I Have been following your comments here and elsewhere, and I respect and agree with your analysis.

Fred Schwartz said...

jamesw: Your analysis is quite interesting, with some significant issues to ponder and under point 1 to leave would greatly shrink the stage on which they are allowed to play. By following point 1 the stage remains fully international and with a significant portion in the industrialized world. These guys love the stage and the adulation and the press that follows all their shenanigans.

Anonymous said...

RE: "With a strong united front, it is still possible to consolidate the gains made in 1998 (the statement on sexuality known as Lambeth I.10) and dig a foundation for a strong Anglican Covenant, one that will enable Anglican Christianity to finally come of age for the first time in history."

I disagree with this assessment.

1) I'm not certain what "consolidation" of Lambeth 1.10 would look like. Passing a resolution that says "we really really mean it this time"? Wouldn't matter. We could vote on Lambeth 1.10 every 10 years, and win it by overwhelming majorities, and TEC would continue to do as it pleases with no Communion consequences.

2) The Covenant would have to morph into something entirely unlike what now exists in order to "dig a foundation" for much of anything. I don't see it as at all likely that the Covenant will suddenly completely change and become meaningful.

3) I'm not certain why the Lambeth meeting could accomplish anything meaningful when RW has made it crystal clear that only "listening" together will occur at Lambeth, with no real decisions.

Malcolm+ said...


There is this interesting mythology being touted in some "conservative" circles that Lambeth resolutions are and have always been binding on the Communion. That would create a rather strange curiosity, since that would make binding those resolutions where previous Lambeths have expressly and repeatedly rejected such authority.

Lambeth resolutions have no authority other than the collective moral authority of the bishops who voted for the resolution.

That moral authority is certainly more than nothing. But it still does not make the resolutions binding on anyone - including any of the autocephalous provinces of the Communion.

Of course, if Lambeth resolutions WERE binding, then Nigeria and some other provinces would be in a pickle since 1998 1.10 also called for provinces to undertake a deliberate process of listening to the experiences of homosexual persons. The Anglican Communion Office has published a summary of provincial responses, and several provinces have, for a variety of reasons, failed to comply with this aspect of 1.10 - though Nigeria's response was unique in it's defiant refusal to listen.

Rather an odd position to take if one's demands for discipline to be meted out are based on other provinces' perceived failure to comply with other clauses of the same resolution.

robroy said...

I, too, agree with JamesW. We might as well start calling the present structure the Anglican Federation. Recognition of priestly vocations was one of the major glues that held the Communion together, and that is gone. I am friends with Jim and Jim is friends with Mary but Mary and I can't stand each other.

What is also obvious is that we have degenerated into two immiscible factions. Efforts of reconciliation are futile.

I like the idea of the core communion within a federation. And with the numbers decline of the liberals, I envision the federation aspect will again be a communion in fairly short order.

The real issue is that there will necessarily need to be two federation structures in the U.S. and Canada, one in the core communion and one without.

Phil said...

I don’t think Nigeria is in much of a pickle, since the “listening process” called for by Lambeth in 1998 and the process of the same name touted by revisionists aren’t the same thing. Revisionists think the process is to involve groveling before sympathetic gay individuals and, presumably, realizing what a travesty is being visited on their sexual freedom by Christianity.

The real thing is quite different. “Listening process” must be read in the context of Lambeth 1.10’s clear reaffirmation of Christian moral teaching. Note what comes immediately before mention of listening:

recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ; [emphasis mine]

Clearly, what is recognized is that, while we are all sinners, many exhibiting this particular sin are so deeply dedicated to and invested in it that special thought is necessary as to how to provide them pastoral care. The purpose of that care, as the above section makes clear, is to transform their lives and order their relationships as God wishes, the latter of which is clearly set out in the rest of the resolution.

There is no foundation in Lambeth 1.10 for the fanciful notion that we’ll talk this all out until everybody agrees with the Episcopalians.

James W. said...


Phil has responded to your "listening process" comment very well. The kind of "listening process" you suggest is most certainly not that which was envisioned by Lambeth I.10. There never was any intention in the Lambeth I.10 statement for a "listening process" to revisit the core Anglican doctrine on sexuality. Rather I.10 made it clear that homosexual practice was wrong - period end of story - and the "listening process" was supposed to focus on pastoral care for folks who were caught up in a sinful lifestyle, but for whom the Church had sympathy. TEC's actions have prevented this sort of listening process from going forward because it has insisted on refighting the issue which the Communion had settled in I.10.

Regarding the Lambeth resolutions and their force, your very comments, Malcolm, demonstrate that you don't understand what being in "communion" is all about. The conciliar Anglican Church made a decision to re-affirm the catholic doctrine on sexuality. To go all lawyer-like in response and say "ah, yes, but nobody has the legal right to force us to do this" is silly. Well guess what, Malcolm - nobody has the legal right to tell the Global South to stop intervening either.

A group of independent national churches that are free to ignore the wider Church on essential matters of doctrine is not a Communion, it is a Federation. And that, Malcolm, is exactly why the GS is doing what it is doing. They are trying to reforge a "Communion" in the heart of what is now a de-facto Federation.

The Anglican Covenant has the same goal - to forge a new Communion. The problem with the Anglican Covenant is that TEC has broken the last Anglican covenental understanding (bonds of affection and all that) and there has been no resolution to that, so the GS is unwilling to create a new Covenant unless it can be shown to be stronger then the last Covenant. The alternative (which they are pursuing) is to engage in Covenant-making with those Provinces that can, in good faith, enter into a Communion covenant.

Malcolm+ said...

The great objection to the original Lambeth Conference was the concern that it would set up a structure which delimited the autonomy of the provinces. Thus the Archbishop of Canterbury made it very plain that the conference would not have such authority.

Nonetheless, the first several Lambeth's saw resolutions which sought to impose such structures. And every single one of these attempts went down in flames.

You may believe that the Lambeth Conference has binding authority. I'll even concede that there is an argument to be made (whether I agree with it or not) that this would be a good thing.

But your wishing, gentlemen, does not make it so.

Lambeth resolutions carry no juridical or canonical authority - only the collective moral authority of those bishops who supported the said resolution. All the flailing in the world does not change that fact.

On the matter of the listening process - I have never claimed that the purpose of the listening process was solely to bring the rest of the world into agreement with the Episcopalians. You slander me - though that is no surprise.

But I do believe that the Nigerian position - essentially we will only listen to your experience if you begin by telling us that we are right - is hardly what any honest reader of the resolution could claim was the intention either.

And I certainly don't think that there can be any credible listening in Nigeria when the Primate of Nigeria is actively campaigning for legislation to imprison anyone who believes that homosexuals acts should not be criminalized.

Phil said...


I agree with you on the ultimate authority of Lambeth resolutions, but, at the same time, I hope you can see the crucial point James is making with regard to the catholicity of the Communion. Many of us, maybe you included, would like to see Anglicanism recover its sense, not as cheap rhetoric, but in practice, of belonging to the Catholic Tradition. That Tradition involves a submission to conciliarity as a means of making doctrinal decisions, a submission which can be to us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, no less real for lack of being written in a legal document somewhere.

And come off it with the “slander” stuff, already. While I obviously keyed off your earlier comment, I didn’t even mention your name in my reply, let alone attribute the view in the last sentence to you. It was a general statement, and I don’t think it’s really credible to say it isn’t true of most of the activists. It would certainly be a first, in my experience, if you could show me any that have no problem with the possibility of even their version of the listening process concluding with a reaffirmation that their acts are sinful.

James W. said...

Malcolm: Nobody is claiming that Lambeth resolutions have binding legal authority over the Anglican Provinces. However, being "in Communion" means that important doctrinal decisions made by the conciliar Church bodies will be respected and adhered to. Not because it is legally required, but because that is what Communion partners do. The difference between being a Communion and being a Federation is largley one of attitude, not legality.

As I have stated, the listening process called for by Lambeth I.10 cannot start on a Communion-wide basis until the basic issue is settled. It is not settled because TEC and its allies continue to fight the resolution.

An analogy: there is a crosswalk in front of a school. Some commuters complain and say that this causes a traffic jam making them late for work and that they should get to ignore the crosswalk. There is a community meeting and it is decided that in the interests of student safety, the crosswalk will remain in place. It is further decided that meetings will begin with the commuters to see if a solution can be found for them to get to work on time.

Then after the meeting, the commuters begin to call again for the crosswalk to be eliminated and they turn all the subsequent meetings into strategy sessions for eliminating the crosswalk. The school administrators then decline to participate in any further meetings.

It is impossible to hold listening process meetings if a significant player (TEC and its liberal allies) are seeking to undermine the very structure in which the listening process is to take place, and indeed, the very core rationale for the listening process.

Malcolm, you also speak to Akinola's apparent support of legislation prohibiting homosexual displays of affection in public. This is actually a good example to cut against your overall point. If TEC had actually decided to follow Lambeth I.10, then the Communion as a whole would be involved in the listening process right now, and the Communion as a whole could look at the Nigerian legislation and decide on whether that violated the spirit of Lambeth I.10 or not. But TEC, by undermining I.10, has prevented that from happening.

Anonymous said...

This is actually a good example to cut against your overall point. If TEC had actually decided to follow "Lambeth I.10, then the Communion as a whole would be involved in the listening process right now, and the Communion as a whole could look at the Nigerian legislation and decide on whether that violated the spirit of Lambeth I.10 or not. But TEC, by undermining I.10, has prevented that from happening."
Exactly! Nothing like cutting your own nose off to spite your own face!
JamesW always speaks words of wisdom! thank you JamesW!
One Day Closer

Anonymous said...

Of course, if Lambeth resolutions WERE binding, then Nigeria and some other provinces would be in a pickle since 1998 1.10 also called for provinces to undertake a deliberate process of listening to the experiences of homosexual persons.

No, it didn't. It stated one thing entirely different: "We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons . . . "

And in fact, ABC Carey led a series of listening times amongst provinces.

Mission accomplished. They listened . . . and they didn't change their minds.


Anonymous said...

Either we are a Communion in which case TEC has a case to make about "incursions" - which of course aren't breaking and Communion wide Canon Law and are only prohibited by Lambeth Resolutions which have no canonical force.


We aren't a Communion and each Provine is entirely free to do as it sees fit. Thus TEC pursues its own "distinctive" path and affirms that Nigeria and Rwanda can do just as they see fit too, including setting up churches where ever they fancy.

You can't have it both ways.

A. S. Haley said...

Anonymous (#15), you have set up a false dichotomy. Your choice is between a Communion in which all partners except two respect the recommendations of the majority at Lambeth, and no Communion, in which nobody respects them. The problem of the Communion, as I have attempted to explain (at greater length) here, is that it works only so long as its members are willing to abide by its (non-binding) recommendations. TEC and the ACC (Canada) were not willing to do that, and were willing to "tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level," so now we are working through the consequences of their deciding to do that at the expense of the Communion.

Malcolm+ said...

Phil, James (and I think ASH is making a similar argument),

It is a unique balancing act to say that Lambeth resolutions are not binding, but that everyone should abide by them anyway - which is what you seem to be saying. The danger is, of course, that the majority of a collection of bishops is not always right. You would all (I suspect) argue that this is the case with the American House of Bishops. Athanasius certainly found majority decisions of bishops to be problematical. And those majorities actually do have canonical authority - a canonical authority Lambeth does not have, has never claimed, and has specifically rejected several times.

You will find, I think, that there have been any number of liberals who have taken an institutionally conservative position on the question - one example being at least two Canadian bishops who "outed themselves" as having voted against the General Synod resolution to authorize dioceses to proceed with blessing same sex unions on the grounds that the advocates had not done their theological homework.

I can certainly respect (and indeed, have some sympathy with) the argument that the Canadians and Americans "should" have acceded to the Lambeth resolution while conceding that they were not obligated to do so.

This does lead me back to my initial comment on this thread. Arguably, the tactics that Akinola, Venables et al have pursued have been counterproductive in moving the Canadian and American Churches to refrain from eating this metaphorical meat.

Sharon, if the Listening Process was already completed, then why did both the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Meeting in Dromantine ask for it to begin?

(Windsor - ". . . [W]e recommend that the Instruments of Unity, through the Joint Standing Committee, find practical ways in which the ‘listening’ process commended by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 may be taken forward, . . .")

(Dromantine - ". . . [W]e pledge ourselves afresh to that resolution in its entirety, and request the Anglican Consultative Council in June 2005 to take positive steps to initiate the listening and study process . . .")

Anonymous said...

RE: "Sharon, if the Listening Process was already completed, then why did both the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Meeting in Dromantine ask for it to begin?"

There was no "Listening Process" to "complete" Malcolm. All the 1998 resolution indicated was that they would "listen".

The Windsor Report desired to put together a "process" . . . and that's perfectly fine.

The end result will, of course, be the same as both sides are committed to their respective and mutually opposing gospels.


James W. said...

Malcolm: Communion is communion. Either it is or it isn't. There is no legally binding requirement that TEC accept a Lambeth Resolution on sexuality, just as there is no legally binding prohibition against Nigeria from founding churches in the U.S. if TEC chooses to ignore it. If TEC wants a "pick and choose" Federation, then they should stop whining about the consequences.

Yes, bishops can be wrong. But consider the bigger picture. On the one side of the debate is the overwhelming majority of Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox bishops from across time and cultures. On the other side is a tiny majority of culturally captive bishops who also typically have other heretical opinions (I use the term quite specifically Malcolm - meaning TEC's bishops don't just differ from other Christians on just sexuality, but on other, deeper issues). It would be like having a Global Warming Conference and having the scientists that work for the auto makers all argue that car emissions don't affect global warming, but with everyone else saying car emissions do. Yeah, scientists might be wrong, but use some common sense here.

As to the listening process, I both agree and disagree with Sarah. I do not believe that Resolution I.10 envisioned a specific "process" that would later be checked off. I think the intent was to say "in light of our decision to say that homosexuality is not appropriate, we will listen to homosexuals in coming up with an approriate pastoral response." It was meant to be an ongoing listening.

But I also don't think this "listening" has really started because TEC has undermined the premise on which it was to be based (as I have pointed out above). TEC is the main obstacle to any "listening process" from moving forward.

Malcolm+ said...

James, I'm really trying to follow you here.

You have conceded that Lambeth resolutions are not binding. It is entirely coherent to argue that 'twere better the American and Canadian Churches had acceded to that specific clause of 1.10 even though they were not obliged to do so.

But your claim that "Communion is Communion. Either it is or it isn't" see,s, at least rhetorically, to move beyond a "'twere better" back to an "obligation."

At the point when the Christian Church - over some time and with no small controversy - changed its position on usury, it was turning its back on what was believed by "overwhelming majority of . . . bishops from across time and cultures." This is not the only example of the Church (hopefully under the guidance of the Spirit) changing her mind. Such changes do not occur with everyone waking u0p one morning agreeing to a new thing.

(This point, of course, does not argue that the Americans and Canadians are right on the substantive points of same sex blessings and ordained homosexuals, but merely that the Church has the capacity to re-examine issues - even those which previously seemed clear and unalterable.)

You are quite correct that there is no formula in place to "force" the Nigerians or the pseudo-Argentinians to refrain from border crossing. That does not preclude the right of Jefferts-Schori and Hiltz to condemn the intrusions as wrong headed. Just as no one has questioned the right of Akinola, Venables et al to criticize the North American events as wrong headed.

Where the question gets interesting, of course, is in the issue of property. Even conservatives like Howe of Central Florida argue against the geographical revisionism of the boundary crossers.

Finally, on the issue of the listening process. It is curious that both Sarah and (to a lesser extent) you have supposed to delimit the listening process in a manner that neither Akinola nor Venables have tried to do. And there is no basis in the resolution to assume that "listening" means only listening for repentance.

I suggest that the man on the Chatham omnibus would take "listening" to mean a process of listening as part of seeking to understand. Listening to understand often has the surprising effect of changing everyone involved.

JamesW. said...

Malcolm: Regarding the "binidng" quality of Lambeth resolutions, there is a difference between something that is "morally binding" and something that is "legally binding." Lambeth resolutions fall into the former, but clearly not the latter category. There is no legal mechanism one can turn to to force TEC's GC to accept I.10. But as a member of the Anglican Communion, it is morally bound to do so.

An analogy - suppose that I am a Neighborhood Watch advocate, loudly calling for neighbors to keep a watch out for criminal activity in the neighborhood. Then one day I come home and see a moving truck parked in front of my neighbor's house when I know they are on vacation with suspicious looking characters all around. I do nothing. Was I legally bound to call the police? No, I was not. Was I morally bound to call the police if I claim that I want to live in a Neighborhood Watch community? Yes, I was.

I do not recall any Great Schisms on the question of usury, Malcolm. If TEC thinks that the rest of Christendom is all wrong about homosexuality, then the proper chanel is to make its case. But TEC made its case, the case was rejected, and TEC made its changes anyway. That is certainly one option, but don't try to claim catholicity or that you are part of a Communion while doing so.

Regarding property, I argue that the same rules that apply to everyone else should apply to the churches. Namely, "who is on the title?" and "was an irrevocable trust ever created for the national church?"

Regarding the Lambeth listening process, I have never said the listening is just for repentance. What I am saying is that Lambeth was faced with two issues: the first was "is homosexual behavior an acceptable thing for Christians to engage in?" The answer was no. The second issue then became "how does the Church respond pastorally to those who are currently homosexuals?" The answer to that was "in light of our resolution to the first issue, listen to their experiences and their needs." I don't really see the difficulty in understanding this. But note that the listening process for the second issue requires all parties to accept the resolution to the first.

Malcolm+ said...

Certainly I have never argued that Lambeth resolutions are meaningless bits of paper. I agree that they do have some moral authority. You and I clearly disagree on the application of that moral authority. Particularly in a case where support for the resolution was divided.

Certainly 1.10 obtained a significant majority - but would that majority have been such if the clause at the crux of it had stood on its own? The entire resolution was more nuanced than the one clause. Would it have obtained the same minority if someone had clearly stated that "listening" meant that the substantive debate was to be closed forever?

Previous Lambeth resolutions regarding contraception, regarding inter-racial relationships passes by substantive margins - and had not been overturned by subsequent Lambeths prior to the practice on the ground being changed. (In fact, I don't believe the resolution counselling against inter-racial relationships has ever actually been set aside.)

To a certain degree, however, that's a sideshow. The larger issue has to do with the obligations - legal or moral - of the member churches regarding Lambeth resolutions.

You have conceded that there is no legal authority (a position many conservatives flatly refuse to acknowledge). But your subsequent position seems to be that we are bound by them anyway, regardless.

I can't agree with you here. Communion and interdependence do not mean a surrender of all autonomy. Lambeth resolutions should be given serious and sincere consideration. Their conclusions and recommendations should not be set aside lightly. But if they are not binding they are not binding.

Some African churches sought the advice of previous Lambeths regarding the treatment of polygamous converts. Lambeth concurred in what the African churches proposed to do. But what if Lambeth had not? Would the African churches have been obliged to set aside their pastoral plan - with the resultant disruption both to mission and to the well-being of polygamists wives?

The property debate does become interesting. If we had followed your position in the 1540s, I rather suspect there'd be no Anglicanism at all. We are an heirarchical body, not a congregational body. To date, I gather, the court rulings in both Canada and the US have tended to support this position - as have several conservatives like Howe.

Finally, listening with conditions is not really listening. Lambeth 1.10 didn't call for the Church to listen to parts of the experience of homosexual persons, but to listen to them in their whole humanity. At the end of the day this does not oblige the Church to change its view. But it does, I think, oblige the Church to lsten without conditions, without limitations and without walls.

I remember once being part of a dispute where the one party proposed mediation. But before mediation, we would have had to agree to certain conditions. Thing was, if we agreed to the preconditions, there was nothing left to mediate. Your approach to the listening process, in which the possibility of conversion seems to exist only for the other, reminds me of this.

JamesW. said...

Malcolm: Being in communion means that if a theological point has been settled by the wider Church, that settlement is accepted. I.10 was passed by the Lambeth Conference and has been reaffirmed many times since by other Anglican Communion bodies. If you say "well, that's fine, but in my version of the Anglican Communion, it really doesn't matter", then your vision of the AC is a Federation and not a Communion. It is entirely your choice to advocate for that, but please call it by what it is. And if you believe that TEC has the right to set aside Communion decisions, then don't be surprised if others do so also.

Regarding the Lambeth listening process, it was not called for in a vacuum Malcolm. You might wish for the Anglican Communion to hold a listening process with the hoped for goal of overturning the Anglican, Christian and Biblical doctrine on sexuality. But that is not what Lambeth called for. Listening processes always exist for a purpose. The purpose of the Lambeth listening process was how to address the pastoral needs of persons living in a sinful lifestyle. To change the purpose, as you are trying to do, is to undermine the Lambeth listening process. Again, it is your choice to so advocate, but don't pretend you are trying to honor Lambeth I.10 by doing so.

Malcolm+ said...

It might well have been better that the Anglican Communion had been called the Anglican Federation. But it isn't. However, the claim that the constituent churches are obliged (be that obligation canonical or moral) to submit to resolutions is unprecedented and explicitly rejected by Lambeth after Lambeth. The obligation of the constituent churches is to give prayerful considerations to the items (be they resolutions, pastoral letters, whatever) issuing forth.

While the American and Canadian primates have issued letters criticizing the boundary crossers, I've seen nothing from either of them claiming that the boundary-crossers should be thrown out of the Communion, or asserting some sort of quasi-excommunication (impaired communion).

Complaining about an action is not quite the same as demanding sanctions. But if one chooses to demand sanctions - or to impose them vigilante style like the boundary crossers - for one set of violations are hypocritical if they persist in their own set of violations.

Finally, I've spoken to several bishops who were at Lambeth 1998, including at least one who voted for 1.10. All of them were clear that the call for listening was never presented in the limited way you propose - and the one who voted for the resolution was clear that it was the listening clause - and a much broader interpretation of it than yours - which tipped the balance.

Personally, I wouldn't have voted for 1.10 had any diocese been foolish enough to make me a bishop. But I would expect those demanding that one clause be enforced to be equally demanding about the other clauses as well.

JamesW said...

Malcolm: Lambeth I.10 represents core Anglican doctrine. It is much more then just a Lambeth resolution. You are acting like a lawyer dancing around the edges and trying to draw lines of what can be required or not. The Anglican Communion has held as its two principles mutual accountablity and provincial autonomy. These two principles had always worked together until 2003. It is quite clear (and was clear in 2003) that sexuality doctrine is considered by the Communion not to be an area that permits differences in practice. A decision on such a core decision by the Lambeth Conference is a conciliar communion decision. If TEC chooses not to abide by the conciliar communion decisions, then it should not be surprised that those that want an Anglican Communion (instead of a Federation) will work to those ends.

I have said all along that the Global South/GAFCON folks are building a Communion within the Federation and that is exactly what they are doing. That is what the "interventions" are about. TEC was warned about this and chose to ignore it.

Regarding the listening process - a basic concept of legislative interpretation is that you take a clause in its overall context. The call in Resolution I.10 was made in the context of the rest of the resolution. Anecdotal evidence about what some bishops who voted for it might want you to think they intended to vote for really is beside the point.

Malcolm+ said...

My wife the lawyer dances quite nicely, thanks. But I'm not dancing around anything. Lambeth resolutions are not binding - and 1998 1.10 is no more binding than any other Lambeth resolution. There is no basis for any claim that 1.10 has a unique status. Indeed, James, it is so far-fetched that no conservative to my knowledge has ever offered up this extraordinary bit of revisionism before.

Lambeths are not conciliar. The invitation to the first Lambeths made it clear they were not conciliar. Attempts to raise their status have consistently failed.

1998 1.10 is the majority opinion of a group of bishops who met in 1998 at a university campus in Kent. C'est tout.

If a group of bishops send me a note, I will read the note and consider what it says. (Heck, if one bishop sends me a note.) But I am not bound by the contents of that correspondence, unless the bishop in question is one to whom I owe canonical obedience.

1998 1.10 is not conciliar.

1998 1.10 is not doctrine, but rather a meeting's opinion on doctrine.

1998 1.10 is not canonically binding on anyone, anywhere, ever.

1998 1.10 is not morally binding on anyone, anywhere, ever. The moral weight of its collective supporters earns it the right to be duly, respectfully and prayerfully considered. It does not command anyone's obedience.

One may wish that Lambeth Conferences had the status of Councils. Wishing does not make it so.

So, James, at the end of the day we come down to a fundamental disagreement about the facts.

Phil said...

Malcolm+, your last post is crystal clear. I understand your position, and, in some ways, I sympathize with it. We're trying to draw a bright line where one hasn't been necessary in the past. But, for goodness' sake, we're not talking about an edict that we all wear yellow in church. Lambeth 1.10 only restates the uninterrupted, undivided, unquestioned moral view of the Church since its founding and by its Founder - and beyond. Doesn't that count for anything to you? If ECUSA isn't to show forbearance in this case, the case where it will doesn't exist.

James W. said...

Malcolm: You make a very good argument for why the Anglican cluster of churches should be considered to be a Federation and not a Communion.

My point, is, then don't complain when others return your favor. That will mean that those who want a Communion will work to create a Communion, and will therefore, necessarily, exclude those who only desire a Federation.

You always revert to the specific legal status of Lambeth resolutions. Then you make the ridiculous claim that Lambeth resolutions have always been seen as "take it or leave it" yet TEC's heirarchy always use the Lambeth resolutions they LIKE as absolute rules (i.e. diocesan turf is sacrosanct). The point is:
1) Provinces of the Anglican Communion have always been "mutually accountable" to each other. That has always been understood to mean - don't take unilateral action on fundamental doctrinal questions.
2) The West wanted the Communion to address the sexuality question (remember that George Carey warned Spong on this prior to the 1998 Conference).
3) The Lambeth Conference, made up of all Anglican bishops, affirmed the long-standing, universally held, catholic Christian position on sexuality.
4) This position has since been upheld repeatedly by the Anglican Instruments of Unity.
5) Despite this, TEC has insisted on going its own way.

By the way Malcolm - please tell me exactly WHY foreign interventions are wrong? Remember, you can't appeal to Lambeth resolutions or ancient catholic teachings. Same rules as you apply to the conservatives.

Malcolm+ said...


At the end of the day, the foreign prelates are free to do what they will - and the Canadian and American primates are free to write letters criticizing them for doing it. Just as the foreign prelates are free to write letters ticking off the Canadian and American primates for the actions of their respective provinces.

The hypocrisy, it seems to me, is in the double standard of the conservative position. If Peter of Abuja and Greg of Buenos Aries want to argue that Lambeth resolutions are sancrosant, they can't just argue it for the resolutions they like and ignore it for the ones they don't. In this regard, it is the conservative position that is inconsistent.


This isn't the first time that parts of the Church have departed from long established practice, nor will it be the last. There were departures over usury, slavery, the role of women and divorce, just to name a few. (Of those, the last is the only one on which we actually have a recorded dominical comment, btw.)

The Holy Spirit (see, a definite article and everything) did not die after the Council of Ephesus. It is possible that she is not finished leading us into all truth. (Which is not, of course, evidence that the present actions are or are not an example of that, but merely raise the possibility that they could be.)

Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley broke with the long established religious order. As did Peter and Paul. As, for that matter, did Jesus.

It is entirely possible that the Canadians and the Americans are a wrong as wrong can be. Can you not acknowledge even the notional possibility that they are not?

Phil said...

Malcolm+ - Yes: I can acknowledge the possibility the ACC and ECUSA are right, though I wouldn't want to understate how vanishing a probability I attach to that, nor how foundational I would consider such a reversal to be.

However, I can't really bring myself to entertain the notion that this is adiaphoron in such a way that ACC/ECUSA ought to go down this path in contravention of nearly the entire rest of Christendom. As such, I think they ought to be honest enough to admit the magnitude of this change and restrained enough to forgo putting it into practice absent the consent of at least their own Communion. If it were up to me, I’d uphold an even higher standard, that Rome and Orthodoxy ought to also agree – but, in that, I’m only being consistent with Anglicanism’s own self-identity as a “branch” of the Church Catholic. Put simply, Anglicanism doesn’t have, and has never claimed for itself, the authority to unilaterally alter a historic teaching of the Faith.

We’re frequently told that “gays have always been part of the church.” No doubt they have, including, by definition, during most of the time when it would have been unthinkable for Christianity to accept their behavior as moral, let alone bless it. But, if that’s true, I see no reason – especially given the laissez-faire attitude given to these things by today’s society – why a change has to be rammed through right now, especially when the fallout is going to be a mortal wound to yet one more of the shrinking areas of unity in Christ’s Body.

James W. said...

Malcolm: There is no hypocrisy in the conservative position. They see the Anglican Communion as a communion and expect member provinces to act like they are in a communion. If an individual member province decides - by word or deed - that it doesn't want to live as a communion, they will be treated as such.

There is nothing magical about Lambeth resolutions. But, since you are so fixated on them, let me explain to you that there is rationale behind them. Respecting diocesan boundaries is something that is useful in a COMMUNION because it promotes the effective and efficient administration of the Church. Respecting core Christian and Anglican doctrine is something that is ESSENTIAL in a COOMUNION because it goes to the very heart of the Communion - communicating the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

It's sort of like, Malcolm, a door marked "Authorized Personnel Only." Ordinarily, unauthorized folks should not use that door. But let's say there is a crazed gunman, or a fire. Then unauthorized folk can certainly use that door, even if they aren't authorized to do so. Because there is a heirarchy of rules.

So, conservatives certainly do recognize that ordinarily, diocesan boundaries ought not to be violated. But is TEC decides - openly and unrepentantly - to grossly violate the catholic Chrisitan faith - then an emergency situation has been created. TEC's decision to violate Lambeth I.10 (dealing with a core doctrine of faith) is of a higher level then a decision to violate the Lambeth resolution on diocesan boundaries (dealing with the efficient running of the Church).

There is no hypocrisy at all, Malcolm. Just a well thought out response to liberal communion-breaking.

Malcolm - regarding your comment that perhaps the vast majority of Christians might be wrong about sexuality. Perhaps they might be. But y'all haven't even begun to make a convincing case. I could just as easily declare that the Bible was written by Martians who declared that I should become the Pope in 2008. And if you object I could say, "well, folks have been wrong before."

Your job Malcolm is not to cause schism and breakup in the Church by ignoring conciliar decisions because of some half-baked ideas from a culturally-captivated small denomination. Your job is to uphold the catholic faith while making your alternative arguments. If they hold water, they will be adopted.

Malcolm+ said...

Phil, this is essentially the same process followed regarding the ordination of women. And the ordination of women was at least as great a departure.

James, you keep saying that Lambeth 1998 1.10 was a conciliar decision. There is no way to claim that except by completely rewriting the history of Lambeth. Lambeth is not a council. It is a meeting.

James W. said...

Malcolm: The Anglican Communion is "episcopal", that is to say, "ruled by bishops." That means that bishops are the guardians of the faith. All of the assembled Anglican bishops get together at Lambeth (or did until this year). That means that - whether you like it or not - that Lambeth speaks with a conciliar voice for the Anglican Communion (or did until this year).

You simply can't get more representative of all Anglican bishops then a meeting of all Anglican bishops.

Malcolm+ said...

The invitation to the first Lambeth made it clear the meeting woulod not have the status of a council. Subsequent statements and resolutions restate the same point. Various attempts to turn it into a council or an Anglican Supreme Court consistently failed.

With respect, I cannot see a single hitorical or logical argument for your position, It depends on the outright denial of history.

No council, Lambeth.

(On a side point, the United States is a Republic and Canada a monarchy. Imagine what would happen if the President of the United States or the Queen of Canada decided to act as though they governed on their own.)

James W. said...

Malcolm: Except that TEC always cites Lambeth resolutions to support its argument against border crossing.

And that the Windsor Report and the Anglican Instruments of Unity cite Lambeth Resolution I.10 as representing Anglican teaching on the subject.

For resolutions that have no status, they sure seem to be bandied about a lot to support other propositions. Kind of like lawyers cite case law.

Things that aren't laid out in black-and-white legalese, but which have become precedential and expected to be followed, is a very British way to do things. And the "Anglican" Communion is nothing if not English in origin.

But, as Forrest Gump said "that's all I have to say about that."

Malcolm+ said...

Since the border crossings to date have all been a punitive reaction to the "violation" of a Lambeth resolution, pointing to how border crossings violate other Lambeth resolutions merely highlights the inconsistency (or the selective consistency) of the conservatives.

I have no doubt that 1.10 - all of 1.10, not just that one clause on it's own - represents something close to the general opinion of Anglicans world wide. That isn't in dispute. What is in dispute is whether the minority are obliged to submit.

If you want to refer to British (and Commonwealth) precedents, I direct your attention to Bagehot, who said that the monarch has the right to be consulted, to advise and to warn. A rather better analogy. Lambeth was consulted, and they warned that they collectively thought it was a bad idea.

I expect that HM (and her vice-regal representatives in the Dominions) occasionally do warn their ministers that such and so course of action is problematical. Sometimes, doubtless, the minister is persuaded. Doubtless sometimes not. To my knowledge, no first minister has been dismissed by HM or her viceroys since the King-Byng Thing in Canada in 1926.