Monday, January 07, 2008

Archbishop Peter Jensen defends the Anglican Conference in Israel ,June 2008

A Response from Peter Toon.

First the text of Dr Jensen’s statement and after it the Response:

Archbishop Peter Jensen 27 December 2007

A Global Anglican Future Conference is planned for June 2008. The aim of the Conference is to discuss the future of mission and relationships within the churches of Anglican Communion. Those who wish to retain biblical standards especially in the area of sexual ethics have spent much time and effort in negotiations on these issues in the last five years. They want to move on together with the gospel of Christ’s Lordship, a gospel which challenges us and changes lives. Israel is planned as a venue because it symbolises the biblical roots of our faith as Anglicans. I want those in the fellowship of our Diocese to know what this is about and why I am involved.

In 1998, the Lambeth Conference made it clear that the leaders of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans world-wide maintained the biblical view of sexual ethics – that sexual relationships are reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. Five years later, however, actions were taken in Anglican Churches both in Canada and the United States of America which officially transgressed these boundaries in defiance of the Bible’s authority.

There was an immediate adverse result for those who wanted to maintain orthodoxy within these churches. They courageously protested against these actions, and as far as possible withdrew their fellowship from those who they perceived had broken God’s law. In doing so, they wished the world to know that they remained as genuine Anglicans. They had made no change in their basic beliefs and they understood themselves still to be in fellowship with the mainstream of the Anglican Church elsewhere in the world.

The American actions also impacted churches all around the world. In particular the churches of the Global South had to own the name ‘Anglican’ while living in societies where the actions of the Americans was condemned by all, especially Muslims. The action of some North Americans severely hurt the witness of these churches. It also hindered the good effect that membership of the Anglican Communion has for those who live in a situation where Christians are in a minority.

Since 2003, patient attempts have been made to call the offending North Americans back to biblical standards. Many American Anglicans are now more aware of the distress which their actions have caused others, and regret this impact. At the same time, however, others have condemned attempts by Global South Bishops to provide ministry for the orthodox Christians who still wish to be Anglican, but cannot continue to do so in the fellowship of the American churches. Individuals, parishes and even dioceses have left the original church, becoming associated with other dioceses in other parts of the world, and with new bishops being appointed from overseas to care for the disaffected.

Such has been the fall-out that it is now clear that we will never go back to being the Communion which we once were. There has been a permanent change. We live in a new world. Some American Anglicans are as committed to their new sexual ethics as to the gospel itself, and they intend to act as missionaries for this faith, wishing to persuade the rest of us. The problems posed by the American church are not going to remain in North America. This means that the rest of the Anglican world must be vigilant to guard the teaching and interpretation of scripture. Bound up in this are other issues such as Anglican identity, fellowship, theological education and mission. How are we going to help each other remain true to the authority of God’s word? How are we going to help each other to preach the gospel of God’s transforming power and grace? These matters require urgent attention.

The next Lambeth Conference has been summoned for July-August 2008. The Archbishop of Canterbury is responsible for the guest list, and he has invited all except for the Bishop of New Hampshire on the one hand and some of the new bishops appointed to care for the dissidents on the other. Thus, for example the Bishop of New Westminster has been invited although his actions have caused the Reverend David Short and his congregation (which includes Dr Jim Packer) to withdraw as far as they can from the Diocese. An invitation to share the Conference under these circumstances has posed a real difficulty for many of us.

Several African Provinces have indicated that they will not be attending Lambeth, because to do so would be to acquiesce with the North American actions. They are not ending the Anglican Communion, or even dividing it. They are simply indicating that the nature of the Communion has now been altered by what has occurred. They see that since the American actions were taken in direct defiance of the previous Lambeth Conference, the Americans have irreparably damaged the standing of the Conference itself. They asked without success for the Conference to be postponed. They do not think that this Conference is what is needed now. To attend would be to overlook the importance of the issues at stake.

The Anglican Future Conference is not designed to take the place of Lambeth. Some people may well choose to go to both. Its aim is to draw Biblical Anglican Christians together for urgent consultation. It is not a consultation which can take place at Lambeth, because Lambeth has a different agenda and far wider guest list. Unlike Lambeth, the Future Conference is not for Bishops alone – the invitations will go to clergy and lay people also. But it is a meeting which accepts the current reality of a Communion in disarray over fundamental issues of the gospel and biblical authority. It therefore seeks to plan for a future in which Anglican Christians world-wide will increasingly be pressured to depart from the biblical norms of behaviour and belief. It gives an opportunity for many to draw together to strengthen each other over the issue of biblical authority and interpretation and gospel mission.

I am supporting this Conference and am part of the planning team for it. I am hoping that we will also see Sydney laypersons and clergy in attendance with our bishops. We must look to the future, and network with Anglican Christians from around the globe who share our fundamental trust in the authority of God’s word. We have much to learn from them and they can benefit from our fellowship also. I hope that you will pray for the Conference and support our decision to attend.

Response from Peter Toon Dec 27 2008

Many Anglicans understand the frustration felt especially by African Anglican leaders at the way in which the North Americans have been able to tie up the Anglican Family in discussing their issues, while they seem not to have departed from their innovations in sexual relations and morality. Many of us agree with them and with Dr Jensen that the Archbishop of Canterbury made a mistake in inviting to Lambeth 2008 those American bishops who consecrated Gene Robinson, for they are as guilty , if not more so, than Robinson himself. (One suspects that one reason was his invitation was that the money from the U.S.A. is necessary to pay a lot of the massive bills for Lambeth 2008 and not to invite them possibly meant that no money or less money would be available, and thus Lambeth could not occur!—few bishops pay for their board and lodgings!)

However, in charity, in long suffering, in going the extra mile, and in loving even their enemies, the Bishops of Nigeria, Rwanda, and other provinces could still go to Lambeth—and go to show how that faith works through love, and that truth and unity are not opposed but are two sides of the one divine coin. One does not know what three weeks together in ancient Canterbury—as we all pray for them—could achieve under the loving guidance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Not to try this obvious route will always be to leave for the church of tomorrow the need to ponder what could have been if only all the Bishops had assembled and seen what God was ready to accomplish in and with them.

After the Conference—and especially if it fails to promote truth with unity and unity in truth—would be the time to plan what was next, what new initiatives, associations and ways and means were necessary to uphold the Gospel and deny the innovations any further publicity and progress.

BUT to plan a Conference a month before Lambeth 2008, in a place where the local Anglican Bishop was not first consulted, does not seem to be a wise or even courteous action. Why could not a Conference if needed be planned for late 2008 or early 2009 – after Lambeth 2008?

It seems that those Primates and assistants who planned this June 2008 Conference in Israel have lost the virtue of godly patience—after all it is one month from June to July!

Tragically also they have exhibited a lack of both godly patience and a sense of unity in the Gospel in their own ranks in the way in which they have entered into the geographical space of the North American Provinces of the global Anglican Communion. And this action Dr Jensen does not mention. Perhaps he supports it as being fine.

Before the crisis brought on by the Robinson affair in 2002, there was working in the U.S.A. that which was known as “the Anglican Mission in America” which was promoted by the Province of Rwanda. In 2004 and the years following, the African Primates in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda knew well that this Mission was not approved by any of “the instruments of unity” of the Anglican Communion, because it involved the crossing of boundaries by invading missionaries without permission from the home Church/province .

Nevertheless, they decided (a) to send their own missionaries (to function wholly separately from the AMIA) and in general to work separately from each other; and (b) to pay no attention to TEC locally or the “Instruments of Unity” globally. There are now effectively several separate Anglican denominations in the U.S.A. & Canada sponsored by Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, together with the Southern Cone of South America.

By any reckoning this state of affairs—when one puts alongside them the many other Anglican denominations and groups—is a major denial of the doctrine of the Church held within the Anglican Way from its inception. It is nearly a free for all and this despite organizations like Common Cause. And there is a very real question as to whether this situation can ever be put right, for once in existence denominations in the U.S.A, as history shows, tend to solidify and spin off groups to add to the mix.

Looking back, one can see how much wiser it would have been for the Primates involved in the invasions to have stayed off shore, offered succor and aid, and counseled patience until the matters could be thrashed out at Lambeth 08. At least, if they wanted to invade from 2004 they could have worked in and through the AMIA to keep the differences and missions in their own ranks to the very minimum.

The impending facture of the global Communion is caused not only by the wicked innovations of the North Americans, and the lack of courage and conviction by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the lack of patience and precipitate action of some of the Provinces of the Global South!

If only all the Bishops will go to Lambeth and there engage in godly conversation and prayer, the fracture could perhaps be avoided and many wounds healed or at least begin to heal.

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