Saturday, June 28, 2008

GAFCON, Lambeth, and the Bishop of Rochester

Cranmer has been silent hitherto on this matter, not least because the Jerusalem side-show is something of a distraction from Lambeth, which will itself be as carefully stage-managed as any party political conference. Whether one is batting for the GAFCON team, or fielding for Lambeth, or spectating in the hope of somehow supporting both, the reality is that the Anglican Communion is in terminal decline. Even if the schism is not formally declared, the geographic distance between Jerusalem and London is symbolic of the epistemic distance between the bishops on both sides, and there is no hope of reconciliation when the need for it is not even acknowledged.

There is, however, one particular element of this saga which Cranmer does wish to talk about, and that is the position of The Bishop of Rochester, who will be the only English Bishop* not to attend the Lambeth Conference. He explains his predicament with commendable clarity and brevity, in stark contrast to the reams of verbiage and unintelligible waffle which emanates from certain others. He says: "I agree with the Windsor Report’s recommendation that those who have gone against the Church’s teaching should not attend representative Anglican gatherings."

It is a curious isolation, given the Church’s previous acceptance of the Windsor Report - a document which merits reading at this time.

The Report’s authors attempted to address the difficulties of potential schism with a nuanced approach which avoided any attempt to close the debate whilst making clear that those who had precipitated the crisis - by the election of Gene Robinson and the blessing of same sex unions - ought not to place the Communion in greater peril by attending meetings of the wider Communion unless they had first offered signs of reconciliation.

These were summarised at para 134: ‘Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events, and yet also of the imperatives of communion - the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ - we have debated long and hard how all sides may be brought together. We recommend that:

The Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion;

Pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We urge this in order to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion. We advise that in the formation of their consciences, those involved consider the common good of the Anglican Communion, and seek advice through their primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge all members of the Communion to accord appropriate respect to such conscientious decisions.

If Windsor stands as the last agreed position within the Communion, then the attendance of those to whom these calming appeals were directed would seem to represent a deliberate and provocative rejection of that wisdom. Their invitation, participation and warm welcome are indeed significant.

The setting aside of the Windsor approach which is implicit in the silence of the Archbishop of Canterbury is equally telling. Doing nothing about the attendance of those who have placed, and continue to place, the Communion in this difficult position is not a neutral stance. The Communion needed time and space and Windsor offered that opportunity. The American and Canadian churches could have adopted a self-denying Ordinance. But their rejection of the temperate is an embrace of the contentious, and they damage the Church in the process.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali may be forgiven if he worries about the ability of the Communion to hold fast to its historic texts when it cannot sustain adherence to one of its own documents for a few short years.

His isolation is shameful, and his voice must not be lost to the Communion.

*There are also possibly two or three others, but attendance may be determined at the gathering itself.


Anonymous edward tattysyrup said...

So Nazir-Ali says "I agree with the Windsor Report’s recommendation that those who have gone against the Church’s teaching should not attend representative Anglican gatherings."

So he's not attending...

I see.

Come on - fess up - he's just an ambitious git.

28 June 2008 at 10:59  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Critics of Nazir-Ali try to present his stance as homophobia. That impression is not even close. The problem is wholesale departure from the Word of God. The homsexuality issue is trivial next to the outright syncretism of the liberal bishops. This is a perennial problem in both Testaments. There is only one way to God and that is through the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jews, Moslems and Hindus deny this. A Christian pastor has a responsibility to evangelise these as much as he has to evangelise pagans and atheists. Those who think there are other ways (which include many ECUSA bishops) also need evangelising, not inviting to share communion.

28 June 2008 at 14:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have great respect for Nazir-Ali, but I fear he has been caught up in a web of bishops whose motives are debatable.

28 June 2008 at 14:41  
Anonymous WannabeAnglican said...

Actually I think there are at least two other CofE bishops who are not going to Lambeth.

28 June 2008 at 14:58  
Anonymous The Recusant said...

The Bishop of Rochester is not alone in staying away from Lambeth, the Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn and the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden are also boycotting the proceedings.

28 June 2008 at 15:00  
Anonymous martin sewell said...


I am not clear how much kudos will be earned by ploughing the lonely furrow chosen by Bishop Michael. Disagree if you will but please be slow to impugn motive.

Your point is not well made. The presence of those who Windsor asked to consider staying away surely had the inevitable outcome that some with deeply held conviction would in consequence themselves feel unable to attend.

The first cause lay with the North American Church. Initiatives by African Bishops have added complexity. Windsor offered a cooling off period. Sadly the Communion has been denied that.

28 June 2008 at 16:03  
Anonymous Voyager said...

What is the purpose of Bishops ?

Are they in any way linked to the priests in Leviticus who are supposedly devoted to God and supported in their worldly needs by the congregation ?

Is there by chance any notion that they are devoted to God and somehow have to propagate His Word to the congregation and supervise and appoint priests to minister unto the congregation ?

I thought this was what Leviticus indicated and why the Roman Catholic Church and its spin-off the Anglican Church had dioceses and parishes and a complete structure of authority and doctrine.

The Dissenters went for presbyterianism and no bishops, or congregationalism and no diocese or parish. There is scope for the Anglican Church to splinter along congregationalist lines or even along presbyterian lines; but if it is to retain bishops as full-time paid officers of the Church surely we should know whether they are devoted to God or simply men with an administrative job like any other.

Currently it seems the Church is obsessed with personnel issues and employment law. It seems to be very secular and very much less godly. Perhaps this is what happens when those who have lost faith continue to occupy posts that require faith to be upheld and expounded.

It is almost as if God is fitted into a mosaic of cultural practices and made a puppet to dance to whatever tune is currently in vogue. This is remarkably similar to making Man superior to God which leads to all the heretical positions that have assailed the Church throughout its history.

What we see is simply heretics in surplices attempting to create a synthetic cult with a pastiche of religious observances rather as Freemasonry has done with Yahbulon or simply Syncretism.

If Christianity is really a religion predicated upon the death and resurrection of an Orthodox Jew versed in Torah and midrash then it seems unlikely that what is being passed off as "Christianity" in much of the West today is akin to the message that Jesus actually preached nor that for which he was crucified.

28 June 2008 at 16:07  
Blogger Scott said...

"If Christianity is really a religion predicated upon the death and resurrection of an Orthodox Jew versed in Torah and midrash then it seems unlikely that what is being passed off as "Christianity" in much of the West today is akin to the message that Jesus actually preached nor that for which he was crucified."

I don't know quite what you're peddling here, but if you are suggesting that orthodox Christianity is not related to Christ or his preaching or crucifixion - which is instead somehow to be found in something which only you or a few others know about - then you are totally bonkers. All of that is in the Bible; and the Bible is the heart of the orthodox Christian faith. I won't hear any insidious New Ageism trying to deck itself in historical veracity.

As for your grotty congregationalism I believe you may have won the Civil War battles, but we won the war. There is nothing unbiblical or wrong or unChristian about authority, hierarchy and bishops. The powers that be are ordained of God, and even pastors need - guess what - pastors. Shepherds need shepherds. They do not need sheep who are as eager as Lenin to overthrow and rebuild.

The problem we have is not with bishops per se. It is with authority at every level. The system works fine so long as the individuals within it - in this case senior bishops - do their part as well.

The loss of nerve on their part is now to blame.

28 June 2008 at 17:56  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

I'm beginning to appreciate John Calvin now. You can't go wrong with Calvinists. They are like the immovable heavy infantry of Christianity.

28 June 2008 at 19:33  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Scott would do well to learn some verbal comprehension...his understanding seems restricted by his inability to cogitate.

Perhaps a familiarity with The Old Testament would facilitate an understanding of Jesus Christ rather than treating the four gospels as a novela....Jesus was Jewish and Christianity is anchored in Jewish tradition not New Ageism or suburban notions of comfort blankets. It is far more ascetic than seems to be the belief in many quarters, and the texts are more midrash than modern versions of The Bible convey

I recommend Articles XIX and XX to you Scott

28 June 2008 at 19:52  
Anonymous Very simple said...

Your Grace

I am new to these arguments, and had not even not even recognised the possibility of a religio-politico agenda before I started reading your blog.

It seems to me that the marriage service is explicitly concerned with the reproduction of society. It is natural that the state should take an interest in this (as it does through the provision of education,) and that any church should take an interest also. The Anglican church expresses this interest by sanctifying marriage through the marriage ceremony.

Sexual fulfilment is found through many practices (mutual masturbation, and bondage come to mind). Only one form of sexual practice however has the potential to reproduce society. That is vaginal intercourse; which is necessarily heterosexual.

Homosexuals seem to be asking that they be the only group whose sexual practices do not have the potential to reproduce society yet whose relationship should be sanctified by the Church.

Could you or perhaps someone else please explain to me why homosexuals expect to be given special status within the Anglican communion.

28 June 2008 at 22:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Simple;
It's, er, very simple, and the answer is two-fold. First, they've had their expectations raised because homosexuality is no longer illegal, and indeed it is illegal to treat someone less favourably because of their sexual preference. This has led to the misunderstanding that homosexual sexual relationships must be treated as being acceptable, which the law does not require anyone to admit (this is similar to the unintelligent thinking that the human rights act gives them the absolute right to behave as they please, when in fact it does not). Secondly, possibly as a result of many things: the Anglican penchant for blessing the legal union of two divorcees; the point made in part one; the social acceptance even within Church circles of non-married couples living together and reproducing, often with the intention of getting married but just 'testing the water' first, homosexuals have seen themselves as being no different nor behaving any better or worse. And indeed, to a large extent, they are right, since Christ taught us that no sin is lesser or greater than any other.

For example, the RC Church fought hard to try get an exception to the new laws which mean that homosexuals must not be denied the 'right' to adopt. Their stance was, and is, that children should be brought up in a loving married relationship, preferably of course by Christians. They would've stood more chance if they didn't already adopt out to non-religious people, those of other faiths, and singles too. Honing in on homosexuals as the only group they wouldn't adopt out to was unfair discrimination, and I say that even though I agree that they shouldn't be allowed to adopt as couples.

28 June 2008 at 23:42  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Gramscian agenda is to smash Christianity - any issue serves. The infiltration of media, politics, and education by the '68ers is what is instrumental plus the fact that it was possible to get into University for theology very easily in the 1960s and the Gramscian values were spawned inside the Anglican Church itself.

The issue is no homosexuality per-se that is the red-herring. The issue is whether The Church bends to political currents or whether it has a higher purpose.

The destruction of orthodox Christian Faith is the goal, the issues are simply the battering ram to tear down the altar

29 June 2008 at 07:09  
Anonymous Stonemason said...

voyager .....

"Gramsci believed in what he called a "long march through the culture." He suggested that a relatively small number of people could achieve the Marxist goal of national and world domination if they infiltrated, undermined and hijacked cultural institutions like schools, universities, churches and the media, while simultaneously anaesthetizing the people. Of course, the process operates much more smoothly if it is done so covertly that average citizens will barely notice the changes. To that end, the Gramscian Marxists ensure that citizens remain preoccupied with entertainment, sport, battles fought in false dialectics, and other distractions."

Well voyager, who is doing the infiltration into the Anglican Church, Marxists? Liberals, Perverts even? The Jesuits could also be a candidate from the circle of christianity, could it be that Gramsci was not particularly original, he just adopted or hijacked his philosophy from the Jesuit, and does Opus Dei have an agenda here ?

29 June 2008 at 07:47  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Well Stonemason that would imply that Opus Dei was very influential in 1968 and that BBC output, Government politics, and bien pensant PC opinion are all furthering goals of Escriva; and somehow I cannot reconcile the facts on the ground with the forces you suggest.

I shall stick to Gramsci and the infection of the Labour Party, BBC and its related organs in Education - the "commanding heights" of Teacher Training Colleges, DES, BBC, Labour Party, and the assorted Fabianism of Anglican bishopry

29 June 2008 at 08:53  
Blogger wyclif said...

To get back on topic, I actually think that Bp. Nazir-Ali's position is admirable, given the current decrepit theology and morals in the CofE. And it is refreshing to hear that sort of clarity.

I think the Windsor bishops were tolerant in allowing those that differed time. But clearly that interregnum has passed and now it is time for the hard realities of moving on to uphold those promises that those who have torn the fabric of the Communion should express their regret, and then leave to join the Unitarian Universalists or some other, more honest profession of faith.

2 July 2008 at 06:02  
Anonymous Marcus said...

Archbishop Cranmer, I fear you, and Bishop Nazir Ali, have failed to take into account the fact that the Episcopal Church did apologise for their actions and this apology was accepted unanimously by the Primates at Dar es Salaam.

To quote the relevant passage from the Communiqué:

"The Primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the Primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made..."

They then demanded clarification on other matters, but these matters were not issues over which the Windsor Report recommended the American church be excluded from Lambeth.

2 July 2008 at 14:55  

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