The Road to Lambeth

THE ROAD TO LAMBETH

The following draft report was commissioned by the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) in February 2006; it was received with gratitude by the CAPA Primates on 19 September 2006 and commended for study and response to the churches of the provinces in Africa.

The Anglican Communion is at a crossroads. The idea of a crossroads – a meeting and parting of two ways – is woven into the fabric of Scripture. The people of Israel is confronted with the choice of ways – the way of the Covenant or the way of idolatry – and more often than not choose the latter (Jeremiah 6:16). So too Jesus describes a narrow road that leads to life and a broad avenue to perdition (Matthew 7:13). Hence the church must choose to walk in the light and turn from the darkness of sin and error (1 John 1:6-7).

The Church in Africa and the Anglican Communion

We are the voice of the Anglican churches in Africa. We are grateful for our Anglican heritage,  brought to us by missionaries committed to the Scriptures and inspired by our Lord’s Great Commission to evangelize the nations. We are equally grateful to be sons and daughters of Africa, whose ancient cultures prepared a rich spiritual soil for the Gospel to blossom. We hope these two inheritances can be kept together, but events of the past decade have called this hope into question.

Although the Anglican Communion came into being at a time of theological and ecclesiastical crisis – the so-called Colenso case – the Lambeth Conference of bishops has by and large managed to avoid doctrinal disputes and disciplinary cases that might have led to controversy and even disunity. Instead the Communion has functioned under the broad umbrella of biblical faith, historic order and Anglican worship, as summarized in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Although there have been tensions from time to time, e.g., over the ordination of women, most Anglican churches have been content to live with what seemed to be secondary differences. Until now.

At the same time, huge shifts have occurred in the constituency of the Communion and the Lambeth Conference in the past half century. What began as a colonial council of expatriate bishops has become at least in theory a parliament of equals. Its members’ complexion has changed from all-white and Anglo to largely non-white, Latino, African and Asian. Its Provinces have become self-governing. And its evangelical and spiritual dynamism is centred in what is now called the Global South or the majority world. While these changes have affected the demography of the Communion, they have not been reflected in its governance, which has stayed put or even gone in the opposite direction. In particular, the advent of the Anglican Communion Office has concentrated power in the hands of those who “pay the piper.” It is remarkable,  for example, how few Global South church leaders are appointed to positions of real authority in the Communion.

The growth of the global Communion has spawned a number of alternative structures. The foremost of these is the Primates’ meeting, which has emerged in the past twenty years as the senate of the Communion. In addition, regional associations and gatherings, such as CAPA, CAPAC and the South-South Encounters are bringing together majority-world Anglicans to address their particular needs. The Current Crisis

The opposing trends noted above – the growth of the churches of the Global South and the tight control of power by the Anglo-American bloc –  came to a head at the Lambeth Conference in 1998. The presenting cause was the acceptance of homosexuality in the Western societies and churches. Despite a determined effort by the Communion bureaucracy to blunt the issue, the Global South bishops managed to get a Resolution to the floor which stated that homosexual practice is “contrary to Scripture” and “cannot be advised.” Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality was approved by the Conference by an overwhelming majority.

The importance of this Resolution cannot be overstated. By using the phrase “contrary to Scripture,” the bishops indicated that homosexual practice violates the first principle of the Communion’s Quadrilateral and indeed the fundamental basis of Anglican Christianity (as expressed in Articles VI and XX). They were saying: “Here is an issue on which we cannot compromise without losing our identity as a Christian body.” Such was the understanding of the Global South bishops, and hence they were taken aback when Resolution 1.10 was immediately ignored and denounced by bishops of the Episcopal Church.

In the subsequent Primates’ meetings, the Global South bishops have repeatedly called on the Episcopal Church USA and now the Anglican Church of Canada to repent and bring their practice in line with Scripture and with the mind of the Lambeth Conference. The African attitude toward the actions of the North American churches has been consistent throughout this crisis. It is based on several assumptions:

     
  • the     supreme authority of Scripture as the ultimate standard of faith and life     (C-LQ 1);
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  • the     clarity of the Church’s teaching on “the unchangeable Christian standard”    of marriage between one man and one woman (Lambeth Resolution 66 [1920]);
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  • the     practice of homosexuality as a sign of fallenness and a sin separating one     from salvation (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:3-5);
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  • the     need for repentance by individuals who sin, even more so for those who     teach sin as blessing (Matthew 5:19; 18:6); and
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  • the     requirement that believers not associate with openly immoral church     members (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).

The crisis reached fever pitch in 2003 when the Diocese of New Hampshire (USA) elected an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church confirmed him as Bishop, and the Presiding Bishop presided at his consecration. The Episcopal Church could not have sent a clearer signal that it was going its own way, and nothing would stop it.

After the Robinson election, many provinces chose the only instrument of discipline available: declaration of impaired or broken Communion. In February 2004, thirteen Global South Primates, including eight from Africa, denounced the actions of the Episcopal Church as a “direct repudiation of the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures, historic faith and order of the church.” In April 2004, the CAPA bishops pledged to reject donations from pro-gay American diocese.

A Word to the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury

The principal body through which the churches of the Global South have expressed their distress over these events has been the Primates’  Meeting, where they are well-represented. The Primates of the Global South have not simply denounced the agenda of the North American churches. They have also sought to find a way forward. In 2002, two Primates proposed a careful scheme of inner-Communion discipline (To Mend the Net). The ecclesiastical politicians, seeking to avoid such discipline,  managed to get this proposal sidelined.

They could not, however, avoid the storm of protest that followed the Robinson election. In response to this crisis, the Archbishop of Canterbury called an emergency Primates’ meeting in London in October 2003. Many Global South Primates were ready at that point to excommunicate the violators, but in the end they agreed to Archbishop Williams’s plan to form a Commission and receive a Report one year later. From the point of view of the African bishops, the Windsor Report was considered a vehicle by which the offending churches might realize the enormity of their actions and turn back. It was never seen by us as a process that would preempt the decisions of the Lambeth Conference or the Primates. And the Report, while restricted in its scope and cautious in its language, did present a thorough exposé of the ways in which the Episcopal Church arrogated to itself unilaterally a practice condemned in Scripture, tradition and the Resolutions of this Communion.

The churches in Africa,  while grateful for the overall judgement of the Windsor Report, felt that it often did not go far enough in spelling out the needed steps of repentance and return. In various responses to the Windsor Report, member churches made the following points:

     
  • That     full repentance in word and action is called for by those who have     violated God’s holy will in Scripture;
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  • That this     repentance would include the resignation or removal from office of Gene     Robinson and the passage of legislation which would bar any similar     ordinations of priests and consecrations of bishops;
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  • That     this repentance would include a reaffirmation of the biblical standard of     marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman and the exclusion     of all other configurations as a violation of that standard;
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  • That     responses from our provinces to requests for alternative oversight from     churches in North America are of an emergency order and not to be compared     to the full and blatant violations of biblical morality by the churches of     North America.

We in CAPA want to say clearly and unequivocally to the rest of the Communion: the time has come for the North American churches to repent or depart. We in the Global South have always made repentance the starting point for any reconciliation and resumption of fellowship in the Communion. We shall not accept cleverly worded excuses but rather a clear acknowledgement by these churches that they have erred and “intend to lead a new life” in the Communion (2 Corinthians 4:2). Along with this open statement of repentance must come “fruits befitting repentance” (Luke 3:8). They must reverse their policies and prune their personnel.  It is clear from the actions of the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA, including electing a Presiding Bishop whose stated position on sexuality – not to mention other controversial views – is in direct contradiction of Scripture and Lambeth 1.10, that that Province has refused to repent. Accordingly, we commend those churches and dioceses in the USA that have renounced the actions of the Convention and sought alternative oversight.

The current situation is a twofold crisis for the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith, as is supposed by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality.

It grieves us to mention that the crisis is not limited to North America. The passage of the Civil Partnerships Act in England and the uncertain trumpet sounded by the English House of Bishops have made it unclear whether the mother Church of the Communion is fully committed to upholding the historic Christian norm. We note, for instance, that it appears that clergy in the Church of England are obliged legally and without canonical protection to recognize the immoral unions of active homosexual church members and may soon be forced by law to bless homosexual “marriages.”  Recently, the British media reported that a senior clergyman, supported by his bishop, “married” his same-sex partner, also a clergyman.. So far as we can see, the Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate of All England has failed to oppose this compromising position and hence cannot speak clearly to and for the whole Communion.

In light of the above, we have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened. There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity. We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.

We are frankly disappointed that the announced plans of the Lambeth Design Team avoid discussion of Communion order and discipline, which have been clearly strained to the breaking point. We are disappointed that the central issue of an Anglican Communion Covenant is not front-and-centre on the agenda of the Conference. If any group should be expected to consult on these most important issues, it should be the assembled bishops of the Communion.

To add to our reservations about the 2008 Lambeth Conference, we note the huge expense of such an event. Our African churches are asked to divert funds from much needed work of evangelization and charity to a 3-week meeting which has no authority and which is blatantly ignored by “autonomous” member churches. In some cases, poorer provinces are “assisted” by donors from the West who have a deliberate agenda of buying silence from these churches. We conclude that if a regular all-bishops’ conference is to continue in the Anglican Communion, it should be held in the Global South, where the costs are much less and the local economy can benefit; that it be shorter in duration; and that every church be required to pay its own way (we in CAPA will take care of our own genuinely needy members).

A Word to Fellow Churches and Leaders in Africa

At the outset of our Lord’s ministry, he began preaching:  “The time (kairos) is fulfilled; the Kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15). A kairos moment is a special time when God rotates the hinge of history in a new direction. It may also be called a “crisis” time (krisis), exposing the difference of light and darkness (John 3:19). We believe that such a kairos moment and krisis time have come to the Anglican Communion.

The Church in Africa is also at a crossroads. We are no longer colonial appendages. We say we have come of age. It is for this reason that the first Resolution of the African Anglican Bishops Conference in 2004 states:

that the Church in Africa needs to become self-reliant, just as the Church has been self-governing and self-propagating; through economic self-empowerment, that compels a new orientation and thinking in the area of investment and economic activities.

We the members of CAPA must take forward this Resolution with a unity and seriousness of purpose. Otherwise we shall be continually tempted by those outside our borders who dangle money in return for silence on controversial issues, such as has occurred recently in several of our provinces.

We recognize the strategy employed by Episcopal Church and certain Communion bodies to substitute talk of Millennium Development Goals for the truth of Scripture. These choices are false alternatives: it is the Christ of Scripture who compels us to care for the poor and afflicted. But we must take the initiative in these areas and not accept the patronizing of those who are rich in endowments but who are not rich toward God. Even among the churches on this continent, there are differences in economic resources, in political stability and in religious maturity. It is time for the stronger among us to empathize with and come to the help of the weaker, and not always be looking overseas for help.

It is also a time for reflection and repentance for our churches as well. Our churches must not be unwilling to “listen” and learn to understand better the phenomenon of homosexual attraction. We do not deny that such practices occur in our culture, even that such tendencies will increase as our countries modernize and Western media influences us. We acknowledge our own failures in promoting strong marriage relationships in a traditional culture which allows for polygamy and dehumanizing treatment of women and children.  What we are not prepared to do is to suspend the unchangeable standard of God as a part of this conversation. Let the Western churches first affirm God’s plan for the sexes, then let us dialogue.

Conclusion: The Way Forward

We call on our fellow African Anglican leaders to work together in unity to revive our beloved Anglican Communion. We believe that the initiative for the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant should rest with the Global South churches. We do not have confidence that a Covenant produced by those churches that have caused or condoned the theological crisis will reflect the strong biblical and theological core that a reformed Communion needs. In particular, we call on our African churches to lead in sponsoring a Covenant Assembly for the Global South leaders where we may gather and seek God’s guidance for the future of the Communion.

We Anglicans stand at a crossroads. One road, the road of compromise of biblical truth, leads to destruction and disunity. The other road has its own obstacles because it requires changes in the way the Communion has been governed and it challenges our churches to live up to and into their full maturity in Christ. But surely the second road is God’s way forward. It is our sincere hope that this road may pass through Lambeth, our historical mother. But above all it must be the road of the Cross that leads to life through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

16 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Rev. Christohper Pierce Says:

    Christian truth spoken plainly is always refreshing for those who love truth.  The Global South Primates have spoken very clearly.  Now we will see who is willing to count the cost of following Jesus and pick up their Cross and deny themselves that He might be glorified.

  2. Bara Brown Says:

    The truth, they say is always bitter ( Nigerian Proverb ). I think, anyone that profess to be a Christain, should speak the truth now. It is only the truth, that can save this beautiful communion. Who is on the Lord side ? if we are on the Lord side, lets say No to Homosexuality, abortion,wars, oppression etc.
    May God be merciful unto us.

  3. Paul Harvie Says:

    I am getting fed up with these so called Christians in Africa telling me that I am a sinner because I am a homosexual.  I worship God, I believe, and there is no way a bunch of hypocrits are going to tell me that I cannot be an Anglican.  They are judging and the only judge is God, not a bunch of men.  Any woman or man can be a Bishop or Primatem, get with the times and grow up.

    I must say that the Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered and Bisexuals are willing to dialogue, but those narrow minded Archbishoops and Bishops refuse to dialogue, kick us, LIKE HELL I WILL BE KICKED OUT OF MY CHURCH,, I am a cradle Anglican.

    Paul Harvie

  4. James Bagley Says:

    To CAPA:
      Thank you,it is about time,somebody stopped talking and got on with the true work of the Church in Christ’s name.

  5. Toewalker Says:

    Rest easy, Paul.  There are plenty of people who feel the way you do.  Come find us at http://episcopalmajorityonline.org

  6. mccabe Says:

    From the above article:

    “the English House of Bishops have made it unclear whether the mother Church of the Communion is fully committed to upholding the historic Christian norm. We note, for instance, that it appears that clergy in the Church of England are obliged legally and without canonical protection to recognize the immoral unions of active homosexual church members and may soon be forced by law to bless homosexual “marriages.””

    Wouldn’t it be entertaining if the Church of England was not an ‘established’ state church paid for by British taxes.

    What would happen if the Bishops, clergy and parishes had to support themselves without tax assistance. Would the Archbishop of Canterbury be able to offer his services to the world without tax assistance? Would the inability to use the luxury of the Lambeth Palace change the nature of the Anglican Communion if British citizen no longer supported the place?

  7. Jeremy King Says:

    To McCabe,
    Just tot set the record right regarding the Church of England

    Although it is true that the Church of England is an established church and has statuatory exemption from charitable registration as a charity whilst benefiting from the tax breaks accorded to charities it is not paid for by taxation unlike all churches in Germany for example and the buildings unless they have state duties (Westminster Abbey) receieve no assistance in maintainance.

    The clergy are paid directly or indirectly by the parishes and receive no state assistance (Church Commissioners pay for Bishops and make some pension contributions from investment income on an historical property portfolio).

    Lambeth Palace has a reputation of being cold and windy.  It may not be the sort of palace you are thinking of and is a working environment for the ABC and his staff.

  8. Jack Parkes Says:

    Schism? Bring it on!

  9. Duncan Rutter Says:

    Why is it that CAPA and those who share it’s literal view of the bible focus on the issue of homosexuality.  Paul had a few choice things to say about women, yet we hear little from the evangelicals about that particular hot potato - perhaps they’re next in the firing line.  CAPA is just as guilty of choosing which bits of the bible to subscribe to as everyone else.  The only explanation for its focus on homosexuality is bigotry. It is time we recognised the evangelical movement for what it is - the new fascism.

  10. Clare Says:

    It saddens me to read that for the writers of this letter at least this issue of homosexuality amoung christians has become bound up with desires for true independence following colonial rule.

    I support them wholeheartedly in their desire for true equality.  However does not the very nature of Communion suggest that we should all be dependent on oneanother, in a loving and supportive way, not a restrictive one.

    I will pray for the anger and resent you feel.

  11. Guy Says:

    When the majority of the issues faced by a significant number of their member churches of the Global South lie around diesease (AIDS), world trade imbalances, poverty and hunger, inequality in the way that their citizens are treated and in some places corruption in both organisations and goverment.

    What a lost opportunity to bring to the worlds attention the good work, and pressing issues in their own cultures to which they are bringing God’s light through the message of Jesus.

    I am sure that so much good work is going on through the Anglican communion at the grass roots, in many areas to bring God’s kingdom to bear - but this is not the impression that this type of communication creates.

    I pray for the leaders of the Global South that you will be able to put as much efforts into addressing the needs of the people that you serve, as you are able to put into criticising the work of follow Christians around the world.

    May God bless you all.

  12. SmellsFishy Says:

    It is interesting that for all the talk in Road to Lambeth about the Global South coming to age, and not having to rely on the West anymore, that an American is one of the main architects (if not the primary author) of this statement.

  13. Dr. Jackie Keenan Says:

    How sad it is that a church has become so caught up with encouraging homosexual behavior by blessing it.  It is fortunate that the Africans are willing to protect our children from the dangers of ECUSA’s stance.  In the last 15 years homosexuality has tripled in our youth and recently AIDS has greatly increased in gay men, many of whom are quite young.  In fact in Massachusetts only a small percentage of homosexuals have married, so all that has been accomplished is to greatly increase this behavior and put our children at risk.  Sadly, To Set Our Hope on Christ included a scientific bibliography more than 10 years old and pointed to discredited genetics studies.  They also missed all of the work on women and the fact that 4 years after the 1973 vote of the APA, 69% of psychiatrists said that they thought homosexuality was “usually a pathalogic adaptation.” For those, who have kept up, the ignorance on this subject in ECUSA is apalling, and our children are paying for it.

  14. Doorman-priest Says:

    Dr. Jackie Keenan is guilty of perpetuating the mistake (or misinformation) that homosexuality is some form of lifestyle choice. I doubt that the incidence of homosexual orientation has tripled in her youth group. What may well have tripled is the preparedness to be open about sexual orientation. There have always been gay Christians in the closet, and some of those have engaged in furtive and often dangerous sexual practices in their secret world: dangerous to their own sexual health, to that of their partners, unborn children and wider society. Is it not better for strategic health planning that people are now open about what most were privately doing anyway? It is also a gross misunderstanding to talk about the church “encouraging” homosexuality and therefore “putting our children at risk”. (Shades of the erroneous link between homosexuality and paedophilia - more deliberate disinformation?) Correct me if I am wrong, but the church discouraging homosexuality seems to have made no discernable impact beyond some very unhappy gay Christians and a lot of risky sex.

  15. Jackie Keenan Says:

    The Washington Post reported that social scientists have reported an increase in homosexuality in youth to 5-7%, and it is verifiable.  There is no evidence that the previous prevalence studies counted people with homosexual thoughts as heterosexual.  Lisa Diamond, a gay researcher, and others have shown that homosexuality in women is not fixed, not early, related to positive relationships with women, and women are more open to homosexual relationships.  Also, studies have shown that most young people revert to heterosexual behavior (Laumann et al.).  There is a lot more information that brings into question the dogma in the media, but there is not space here to present all of the information.  It is not that I have all of the answers.  No one does.  Since there is a normal phase in development when young people are more interested in their own sex, we should be careful about being dogmatic about a behavior that is still being characterized.

  16. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) Says:

    It might help if we step back and examine the challenges and problems at a different order of magnitude. Males in general have an orientation towards promiscuity—maximising our “genetic success” and all that. If we do not suppress that inborn orientation the results are genarally not good: adultery, polygamy, serial ‘monogamy’, prostitution, pornography, etc. ad nauseum.

    David even took it so far as a “hit job” on the husband of the object of his affections. Talk about SIN! Yet in the face of a truly repentant heart, look what God was able to do in redeeming that tremendously sinful situation arising out of David’s inborn orientation towards promiscuity.

    Therin lies the essence of this entire debate. Scripture is remarkably and repeatedly clear about FORNICATION ... of which homosexual activities are but one form.

    A refusal to repent, especially if driven to the point of presenting the sin as something actually good—“one form of God’s wonderful gift of sexuality” and all such pig piffle—is a rejection of Christ’s transforming power through the Holy Spirit. It matters not whether the sin is gossip, gluttony, greed, or some sort of fornication.

    A refusal to repent amounts to blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

    That this would occur at the level of an entire national church structure is nothing short of astounding. We must understand, however, that in America (at least) homosexuals, in the name of “inclusiveness”, have become the favoured exhibit in the petting zoo of post-Modern political correctness. And the Episcopal church clings to it like a 4-year-old and his worn-out Teddy Bear.

    I am a 16th-generation Anglican, and being a “cradle Anglican” gives you no justification for continuing to act like a baby when you don’t get your way ... whether you are an individual or a national church.

    The essence of this entire dispute is: “If you love me, you’ll let me do what I want”, which is the mental model of a toddler.