Walking Lambeth Statements?
From what can be read or heard thus far, it has been an impactful gathering where the bishops were taken through the spiritual exercises of worship, prayer, biblical reflections and heart to heart conversations. This Lambeth was not primarily designed for observers but the participants. The impact and influence of this conference will be felt - not through statements in print - but through these 600 over bishops as they walked away, equipped and encouraged to uphold faith and order in the Church.
The Indaba Reflections contains a wealth of material, deserving a careful read. Those looking for dates, time-line and decisions on the crisis are not left to wonder either as the way forward was spelt out through the various addresses by ++Rowans and others. If this attitude of prayer, faith, devotion and a return to basic Christian sensibilities can be carried back to each diocese, this can only augurs well for the future of Communion.
What the Archbishop of Canterbury has said as a theologian in the past and how he is discharging his duties since his appointment is of course not news to those who are aware. We can recalled at the 2005 Global South conference at Red Sea, that this was one of the first questions asked of him during the Q & A: “...do you believe that same-sex sex can be holy and blessed? If so, on what authority do you base this belief?” His reply was:
“I have in the past raised questions about this. I was a theological teacher for 17 years and along with other theological teachers raised this issue and discussed it. I have advanced ideas on this in the past, but the fact remains that the church is not persuaded, and the church is not William’s personal political parties, or any particular persons. I am loyal to the Church which has asked me to serve, and I myself hold if I am asked about doctrine and discipline, this is what the Church upholds. So, the authority that I accept has to be the authority of the whole body and that part of the body which is the Church of England and the Anglican Communion has made its determination.”
When he last spoke in a 2007 public gathering in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore, he was asked again during the Q&A: “In your opinion, what is the Bible’s view on homosexuality?” His lengthier reply went this way:
“I’m surprised there’s only one question on this subject! The Bible tells us 3 significant things here, I think. First of all, the Bible begins by setting out a model of human relationship, human sexual relationship between man and woman in the Garden of Eden and that seems to be the model from which everything else is understood and seen as the Scripture unfolds. Second, in the law code of the Old Testament intercourse between man and man is described as something which is like ritually untouchable, it’s something that pagans do and Jews, the covenant people, don’t do it. Third, in the first chapter of Romans we have Paul taking for granted the argument that this is an example of human unfaithfulness to the order of nature. But I think those taken together explains why the Christian church has historically, thought as it has thought, reacted as it has reacted, to homosexuality. In the last 30 years or so, some Christians have raised the question of whether what we now see as the phenomenal of homosexuality in the world is exactly what the Bible has in view when it makes these prohibitions and these comments. And that is a debate that is by no means at an end yet. As you know, the position of the Anglican church is that corporately the Anglican church has not been persuaded let’s say to change the traditional view on this and that’s where our church stands. That I think is how the biblical view unfolds and I do want say in fairness to those who have raised questions in the last 30 years or so, not all of them want to overturn the authority of the Bible but are simply asking, “Have we got it right? Have we understood it right?” But it’s a long, painful discussion and you won’t need me to say to you at this juncture that some of us in position of leadership in the Anglican church feels the force of the debate very powerfully but also the importance of not rushing into a change that will divide us, that will increase our difficulties in ecumenical interfaith discussion.”
Still, the release of the Pitts letters will be a shock to some, especially to those outside UK. As to whether they will derail the good work of the recent Lambeth, much will depend on these 600 over bishops. Disappointed as some may be over Canterbury’s leadership of the crisis, we ask for Christian discernment in the way we respond. (If you care to read them, don’t miss Dr Pitt’s brilliant reply.)
We has just witnessed the Olympics multi-billion dollar extravaganza in Beijing. We trust the five millions spent on gathering the leaders of the church will be worth every cent. And our prayers to Canterbury as he search for the last one to pay the bills.