Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well done Bishop Beckwith!

Before the Episcopal News Service began its planned press conference on July 30, Bishop Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield, became involved in dialogue with the waiting journalists- and much to their pleasure!.

Here is one thing that he said, probably to the astonishment of some loyal, modern Episcopalians who were present to support the USA cause:

“It’s not just that we’re not on the same page; We are not in the same book; We are in different libraries. I am dealing with inter-faith relations within The Episcopal Church."

Recall that this is a diocesan bishop of TEC speaking about the Bishops of the TEC (the 'we' includes them all and he is one of them--and in the room are others waiting to take part in the press briefing).. Using the picture of reading from a book, Beckwith not only uses this illustration in a clear and common form ( to make the point that 'we are not reading from the same page'); but he much strengthens the point or distinction between reading from different texts by saying that 'we are actually reading from different pages in different books.' And he crowns it all by saying that the reading of very different texts is occurring in two different locations/libraries.

In other words, there are two basic sources of authority in The Episcopal Church -- (a) the received Holy Scriptures received and interpreted as the Word of God given to the Church for the salvation of the world; and (b) the Book of Experience, the receiving of the message that God is giving to the Church from the variety of Experience known in all forms of human endeavor, personal, scientific, economic, political, social, psychological etc.. Beckwith tells them that he looks to the first and finds himself very much in a minority in TEC, for the majority look to Experience as the source of revelation, and even see the Bible as itself the record of primitive Experience from centuries ago. and thus not as authoritative as what God is revealing Now!

So it is not surprising that Beckwith sees his position in TEC and in the College of Bishops of TEC as being involved not in Christian fellowship but rather in inter-religious dialogue or inter-religious/inter-faith activities. Between the historic, received Religion of TEC (that is received from the PECUSA and the Anglican Family) and the innovatory, present Religion of TEC (based on the Baptismal Covenant as a commitment to the God known via Experience of the world around us) there is a great divide! Different answers arise when such basic questions are asked as: Who is God? Who is Jesus? and What is salvation? Different forms of morality arise when such basic questions as: What is the right relation of a man and woman in creation? and Who may be married in church?


BUT WHY IS IT that so many bishops, clergy and laity outside the USA - e.g. many at Lambeth 08-- do not see that what is fuelling the new sexual ethics and agenda of TEC is a new Religion, a wholly revised form of Christian Worship, Doctrine, Polity, Discipline and Ethics?.

Why is it that those who espouse and propagate this new Religion are welcomed at Lambeth as if they were Bishops holding to the 'faith once delivered to the saints'?

Though this new 'Faith' may use traditional terms, symbols and ceremonial, it has in reality only the most minimal connection with the classical Anglican Faith known in the USA from the seventeenth century onwards, the Reformed Catholic Religion found in the Formularies and best writings of the divines of The Protestant Episcopal Church USA from the 1780s through to the 1960s.

July 31 2008 Trinity X The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PASTORAL FORUM --what really is it? thinking aloud

Concerning the NOVEL idea and proposal of A PASTORAL FORUM -- see the description below of it as it currently stands in the receiving process by bishops at Lambeth 08 on July 29. First comes my comment:

Very obviously Anglicans do not have a Pope with authority worldwide; locally the archbishop or presiding bishop usually has very limited authority; and the so-called Instruments of Unity tend to arrive when a problem is much developed and they have no power to do anything but comment and often make worse!

So individual provinces, dioceses and bishops, do their own thing - that is, what they believe the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of the age) tells them to do --be it to innovate in sexual relations; call this-worldly relief work 'salvation', make Jesus into a universal, inclusive symbol -- or cross oceans and diocesan boundaries to work in those provinces where modern innovation is in progress in order to restore the evangelical message of personal salvation with the holy gracious God and a morality related to it.

Will the proposed PASTORAL FORUM help? First note its odd name --- does not speak of a dynamic, authoritative small body, but a place for discussion in a non-judgmental way (note how 'pastoral' is used in the West today). The name of a critical entity surely counts and this name does not help, except to suggest that discussion and reasoning and patience etc will possibly solve problems (which is not generally true).

But take the USA as it is now in July 08! Is there any likelihood at all that the inner core of the Episcopal Church, committed zealously to a wholly revised doctrine of the nature of God, of Christ, and of salvation is going to be genuinely moved by a A PASTORAL FORUM talking about two moratoria of sexuality (which are part of the fruit of the new Episcopal Religion, not its doctrinal center and core!)? Likewise, now that five or six overseas Provinces are deeply involved in USA and Canadian anglican life, and see their role as co-workers with God to save the Anglican Way there from total apostasy and oblivion, what would a visiting discussion group, the Forum, have to offer that meets the people where they are (or where they have been driven!)?.

In North America there seems no other real practical possibility than - for the next decade-- the existence of two forms of Anglican expression in parallel : the present TEC and Anglican Church of Canada as INCLUSIVE in worship, doctrine and morals and a NEW PROVINCE which is deliberately orthodox in a traditional sense but is COMPREHENSIVE in churchmanship and in the interpretation of the basic Anglican Standards (Formularies)

--Peter Toon

Below the text as being studied at Lambeth o8 on Pastoral Forum

New Ways of Responding
We make the following suggestions for situations which might arise in different parts of the Communion:

-- the swift formation of a 'Pastoral Forum' at Communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion. Such a Forum draws upon proposals for a Council of Advice (Windsor), a Panel of Reference (Dromantine), a Pastoral Council (Dar es Salaam) and the TEC House of Bishops' Statement (Sept 2007) acknowledging a 'useful role for communion wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight'.

-- The existence of such a Forum might be included in the Covenant as a key mechanism to achieve reconciliation

-- Part of the role of a Forum might be for some of its members, having considered the theological and ecclesiological issues of any controversy or divisive action, to travel, meet and offer pastoral advice and guidelines in conflicted, confused and fragile situations. There is a precedent in the method of the Eames' Commission in the 1980s.

-- The President of such a Forum would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would also appoint its episcopal chair, and its members. The membership of the Forum must include members from the Instruments of Communion and be representative of the breadth of the life of the Communion as a whole. Movement forward on this proposal must bear fruit quickly.

-- We believe that the Pastoral Forum should be empowered to act in the Anglican Communion in a rapid manner to emerging threats to its life, especially through the ministry of its Chair, who should work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury in the exercise of his ministry.

-- The Forum would be responsible for addressing those anomalies of pastoral care arising in the Communion against the recommendations of the Windsor Report. It could also offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken.

-- We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own Province but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintain, their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion.

-- The proliferation of ad hoc episcopal and archiepiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global Communion. We recommend that the Pastoral Forum develop a scheme in which existing ad hoc jurisdictions could be held 'in trust' in preparation for their reconciliation within their proper Provinces. Such a scheme might draw on models derived from religious life (the relationship of religious orders to the wider Church), family life (the way in which the extended family can care for children in dysfunctional nuclear families) or from law (where escrow accounts can be created to hold monies in trust for their rightful owner on completion of certain undertakings. Ways of halting litigation must be explored, and perhaps the escrow concept could even be extended to have some applicability here.


Fr. Todd Wetzel at Canterbury commenting on Tuesday July 29, 2008

There are a number of serious and deeply held misconceptions operative throughout the conference.

(1) One, stated by the Windsor Continuation Group, “the proliferation of ad hoc Episcopal and archiespiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global Communion.” Translation: Communion leadership is angry with Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, the Southern Cone et al., for consecrating bishops and charging them with the development of their missionary outreach in the States and Canada.

No one adds to this condemnation a simple statement of fact that these actions were taken because the Communion stood by and did nothing substantive while abusive actions against believing clergy and parishes (now whole dioceses) on the American shores continued. In the light of the Episcopal Church’s escalating abuse, they choose not to simply stand by in the face of Canterbury’s weak (no matter how well intended) response. Their intervention has put lifeboats in the turbulent waters at no small cost to themselves.

And, Christians under siege in the Episcopal Church, are heading for those lifeboats in ever increasing numbers.

I am reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan. Good upstanding representatives of the Communion passed by the one beset by thieves and robbers. They were in a hurry to carry on carrying on. Perhaps they would form a committee to investigate later. Fortunately, others in the Communion, willing to risk becoming outcast themselves, stopped by and sought to give aide.

(2) Two, the word “inclusive” has completely replaced an older and historically more familiar word “comprehensive” which, frankly, is the familiar word one used to describe a far healthier Anglicanism. The two words are not synonymous. The latter word, “comprehensive” is associated with a saying attributed to Augustine: “Unity in essentials, freedom in non-essentials and charity in all things.” This springs from a clear sense of what constituted the essentials – a clear statement of essentials in the 39 Articles and a transparent identity.

“Inclusivity,” on the other hand springs from the opposite: the lack of a clearly understood center and a fluid identity. We Americans defined the meaning of the word when, in the late ‘90’s, the Episcopal Church, fully present at the Richter trial, found that it had no “core” doctrine. It is this ethos of “inclusivity” to which the Episcopal Church is now so aggressively seeking to convert the Communion. It argues against discipline. Leadership mitigates against statements of doctrine. While that same leadership seldom hesitates to use the power of money to work its will. Curiously, that same “inclusivity” is being used to drive out the opposition.

There is an old story about an emperor and a town. Americans considering themselves proper Anglicans in their dress and demeanor parade about. Other members of the Communion fawn upon them and cheer them on. But there is a still small voice being uttered in this the Lambeth Conference: “They have no clothes!”

Take away the money and the political power and there is no longer any there there!

(3) Three, the Global Anglican South Conference, is spoken of with disdain. Attempts are afoot to redefine the “Global South” thereby excluding GAFCON’s leadership. True, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he is pained by their absence as do other bishops but it seems only to echo an earlier statement from the Episcopal House of Bishops who, when asked to repent of their actions said, “We’re sorry you’re upset.” No real regret there (let alone repentance). And, in the case of Rowan Williams his pain could have only evolved as a consequence of his own actions (or non actions).

The Global South, fearing that Lambeth would speak much and yet remain unwilling to discipline a stubbornly willful and recalcitrant Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, fearing yet a further diminishment of the Christian Witness of the Communion, decided to stop wringing its hands and crying unfair. In short, in the face of constant jawboning, and leadership failure, the Global South, representing the rapidly growing Anglican areas of witness in Africa, Asia, the Global South and the mission efforts in America stopped reacting and seized the initiative. GAFCON affirmed Anglican orthodoxy in its “Declaration,” communicating clearly a way forward in its statement.

Even with the absence of over two hundred bishops of strongly Christian persuasion, there are still a good many orthodox and evangelical bishops here. Though by and large of more moderate persuasion than those of the Global South, they may graciously find the resolve to take leadership in this Lambeth Conference. What a wonder it would be to see something like the clarity of GAFCON’s “Jerusalem Statement” coming from Canterbury. Sadly I’m not sure if even this would be enough to hold the Communion together.

My guess would be that if anything positive comes out of this Lambeth Conference it will largely be because the Global South stopped reacting and clearly stated, “Here we stand, we can do no other!”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

GAFCON PROVINCE for North America—much desired by some, and soon [?] to be granted by the GAFCON Primates?

Some preliminary observations and comments from Peter Toon

Ecclesial revolution is in the making in Canada and the U.S.A. The Common Cause Partnership in North American has petitioned the Primates’ Council of the GAFCON movement for recognition as an Anglican Province in North America. If granted, this extraordinary request will lead to a rival to the two existing Anglican Provinces of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, both of which are regarded by GAFCON as deeply flawed and probably apostate.

Further, if this petition is granted, then the new North American, cross-border entity will be unique. Not only will it be a province like unto no other either in the GAFCON membership or in the full Anglican Communion of Churches and Family, but also it will present a type of Province, the like of which there has not been in the history of either the Western or Eastern Churches since Provinces were recognized in the patristic era through to the present day. In fact, to call the recognition of the body, that is the present Common Cause Partnership, a Province will be an innovation for which there is only the minimal meaningful precedent.

However, it seems that someone in the Common Cause membership is thinking at least in semi-traditional terms for the Organization has asked not merely for general recognition of the Cause as a Province, but also for the Primates’ Council to seat its own “presiding bishop,” Bishop Bob Duncan, as a fellow Primate at their table. This is a remarkable request from a young and fragile fellowship, and is perhaps of the kind which perhaps only Americans on the move would be so bold as to ask!

It is possible, that, by making this request for Bob Duncan, Common Cause is (as already indicated) making use of an ancient ecclesiastical use of “province,” a usage continued today, for example, in England with the Provinces of York and Canterbury: that is, a specific geographical district or area, where the Church is wholly present and is ultimately (via diocesan bishops) under an archbishop or a metropolitan bishop (e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury is still called the Primate of all England!). On this (supposed) model, offered by Common Cause, North America is the “district” (and here is the unlikeness to the ancient usage) in which there are no dioceses or Episcopal areas as such; but the whole area is open to all the Bishops of the constituent parts of Common Cause to evangelize and plant churches as they deem right in this district.

Order and fellowship it is assumed will be maintained because each Bishop has two loyalties and works both at the same time –one to the sponsoring diocese, or overseas province, or network, or denomination, or organization, within Common Cause that legitimizes him and which he serves; and the other to Bob Duncan, as Presiding Bishop of Common Cause and also the Primate of the district, to whom he takes some kind of oath of loyalty. Thus the individual bishop keeps watch over the members of his jurisdiction, making sure that they work well together and in harmony with their partners in Common Cause; and, at the same time, he is careful to work with and for his Primate in order to have general stability for the whole “Province.”

While the traditional Province of multiple dioceses is united by a common canon law and constitution, the new North American one will apparently be united primarily by the bonding of the Bishops, each of whom will operate with the canon law of his own jurisdiction (be in REC, AMIA, CANA or another) amongst his people. So there will be no general provincial rules for admittance to ordination; to Baptism and Confirmation; to Marriage in church if divorced; and so on. What each of the Partners accept and do will be acceptable to the Province for that is the nature of this new Province. Its total impact is, and will be, the net result of the action of its partners working alongside, and sometimes in opposition to each other, throughout the whole “district.” That is, it will be bottom upwards and the character will emerge as the bottom rises (as it were). So there will be differences over a wide range of issues and areas such as female deacons and priests, use of liturgy, exercise of discipline over erring members, ownership of properties, medical cover for employees, pension rights and so on. But this will be a part of the real character of this province.

In short, the character will be unity without uniformity and the unity will be a generous, comprehensive one, wherein all major “streams” and “schools” of the Anglican Way will be acceptable and probably present. General unity will be maintained by loyalty to the Primate whose person will be the symbol of this wide ranging and deep form of unity for the district/province.

Will it work? Only if the participants consciously become a different kind of Anglican than they are now and learn to subdue their pronounced “opinions.” That is an Anglican who sees unity as deeply integrated with truth and never apart from it, and reckons being “in Christ” together the primary goal and experience. Some may call this “compromise” but another way of putting it is “walking with Christ” where he sets the route and the pace, and takes along whomsoever he will on his journey!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Trinity X 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Is Dishonesty the Best Policy for the Church? or The Wages of Fudge

© 2008 The Brynmill Press Ltd

Edgeways Miscellany no. 20

25 July 2008

All men are equal in the sight of God, people keep telling us, on what authority we don’t know—but not, anyway, in the sight of the Church of Rome or the Church of England or even the Methodist Church. Some but not all men are priests or ministers and others superintendents or bishops. One man alone is servus servorum dei. And women?

On the eve of the Lambeth Conference, and against the advice of the two archbishops, the Church of England General Synod decided to press ahead with legislation to make it possible to consecrate women bishops. On the question itself at this point we offer no opinion, nor about the wisdom of entrusting important decisions to a Mussolini-style democracy within a church claiming to be within the apostolic succession. Within the Church of England a wide variety of strongly held opinions is to be found. Whether the sex of a bishop is a theological matter is itself very contentious; also the degree of importance the question of male episcopacy has for the right ordering of the church, for there are those who hold seriously that it doesn’t matter much. Some ask what difference it can make when already some of the bishops are old women. These brief remarks are not to support any of these positions, but are about what can be learned of the Church of England from its handling of the question.

The doctrine of reception was developed by the Church of England as an aid to resolving the crisis of the 1990s over the ordination of women priests. Though in the considerable body of reports during the last twenty years the possibility was sometimes acknowledged that differences may simply be irreconcileable, the drive has been (as Dr Toon puts it in a lucid survey of Reception in the Church of England) towards “maintaining communion in the Anglican family despite differences over women’s ordination”.[1]

It is fair to say that the Eames Commission and the Rochester Report were predominantly trying to answer a how question, not a whether or a why: how full communion could be retained
within a church seriously divided on what some on both sides thought a very important matter.[2] One of the Rochester Report’s conclusions (just before its final recommendation of an eschatological perspective, because no “closure” is to be anticipated before the end of the world) was that “people of differing views will have to be enabled to live together in the highest possible degree of communion . . . .”[3]

Reception in the C of E is unlike the medieval doctrine, when Reception was the process of acceptance of decisions made by higher authority (e.g. about what constitutes the canon of holy scripture), behind which was, perhaps, the concept of the reception by the individual of the baptismal covenant. It is also unlike the more modern “reception” springing from the ecumenical movement, when one church might receive from another, over time, a practice or doctrine thought to be consonant with Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church. The contemporary C of E reception was itself an innovation. The Church recognised division between two convinced parties and so introduced the ordination of women during a period of reception as what amounted to an experiment. The will of the Holy Spirit in this matter would be revealed and discerned over an indefinite period of time, during which all parties could keep to their views and live together in full communion (though with some refusing the administration by women of the sacrament of Holy Communion). It was essential to the honesty of the procedure that the possibility be entertained of the failure of the experiment, and this was clearly stated by a number of authorities. The Rochester Report for instance speaks of “the process of discernment by which a development could be either accepted or rejected”[4] and quotes the Eames Commission, “In the continuing and dynamic process of reception, freedom and space must be available until a consensus of opinion one way or the other has been achieved.”[5]

Obvious weaknesses of the process were that no criteria were formulated for judging reception, and no timescale was fixed. The process might be of indefinite duration. It was explained to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament that “the safeguards will be there in perpetuity or for as long as they are required.”[6] The suspicion inevitably arose that, with the church bureaucracy committed to women priests and enabled to block the advancement of those opposed to female ordination, the outcome would be decided bureaucratically. One way or another, opposition to female priests was expected to fade away. But meanwhile, the Rochester Report said, “No time limit has been set for the process of the reception of the decision to ordain women priests to be concluded, because the fact that reception is a dynamic and open-ended process means that it cannot be arbitrarily halted on a given date. What is clear, however, is that while there is still substantial opposition to or hesitation about the ordination of women both within the Church of England and ecumenically the process of reception is not complete.”[7]

The word reception itself prejudices the issue by suggesting that something is being received, when it is possible that the something is in process of rejection. And if the whole process is genuinely experimental what is the position of women priests? Ordination can no more be experimental and conditional than marriage, and it would have been unthinkable to tell an ordained woman that after all she was not really a priest. As the Rev’d Rose Hudson was reported to have said, in rebuttal of the argument that female priesthood could be “repugnant to the Word of God”, “How can I, and the work I do, be repugnant to the God who has called me to a life of discipleship and service?”[8] Howbeit, the Church of England took the path of Reception, including the possibility that it might have erred by ordaining women priests, and with sufficient seriousness to be able to keep within the fold many members who did not believe that a female can be validly ordained to the priesthood. More than a decade later there has been no general recognition that Reception is complete, and both parties are still entrenched, as are those who wonder what all the fuss is about.

The Report of April 2008, GS 1685, differs from earlier reports not in explicitly discarding Reception but in its conclusion in bold type that “the moment for making choices has come.”[9] As the Synod vote went, this does mean the arbitrary halting of the process of Reception, but as a side effect, not a considered judgement.

The relevant part of the motion moved by the Bishop of Gloucester and passed by sufficient majorities without emendation reads “That this Synod: (a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate.”[10] The following clauses about arrangements for those who in conscience cannot accept the authority of female bishops are not in the spirit of Reception.

For them “special arrangements” will have to be made by a “code of practice”. No possibility is mentioned that the Church may be erring in a way that in future will have to be corrected.[11]
Women bishops are to come, and there’s an end on’t. But the process of reception of women priests has not been formally terminated, and numbers of Anglo-Catholics and a few conservative Evangelicals are still within the Church of England on the understanding that Reception continues. GS 1685 conceded that “Those who perhaps expected to see a steady contraction in the constituency of those theologically unable to accept women’s ordination will have been disappointed.”[12]

But what if the dynamic process of Reception continues, and the ordination of women priests is judged to have been rejected by the whole church? Would the newly consecrated female bishop have to resign because her priesting was invalid? This is of course unthinkable: but the inescapable conclusion is that the doctrine of reception was wrongly named. The outcome was never in doubt and was not in fact experimental. The doctrine of Reception has been shown retrospectively by the Synod vote to be the doctrine of Deception.

Reception, itself an innovation, should itself have been subject to a process of reception, with clear criteria and a timetable. That it was not was itself a sign of playing politics with a concept not in the interests of the Body of Christ but in order to keep together a ramshackle earthly organisation.

It is quite possible that any present muddle is caused by feeble-mindedness. A “vast majority” of the same 2008 Synod recognised that “this was the greatest issue confronting the church”.[13] The this was not women bishops, nor, as might perhaps have been expected, the fading of Christianity from English life and loss of countless souls. It was climate change. “Feeble-minded” because only a Christianity in the last stages of feebleness could take our stewardship of the earth to be the very centre of the gospel. There is very little about global warming in the Bible. And only delusions of grandeur could explain the belief that the Church of England can make any even infinitesimally small difference to climate change.

There is nothing to prevent dishonesty getting embodied as feeble-mindedness. Not all deception is deliberate. Quite likely some of the proponents of Reception were not Machiavellian schemers but adopted Reception without much thought. They should have thought hard; not to think hard was the insincerity of the occasion. The present deplorable state of the Church of England is a righteous judgement on its possibly absent-minded flirtation with the Father of Lies.

The Prayer Book thanks God that those who have received the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ are assured thereby of being “very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people”. Can deceit be a good basis for the maintenance of communion? Whatever the rights and wrongs of female bishops, they are certainly an innovation. The change will be in the established church, not in those who secede. But if it is not possible any longer to see the Church of England as the local part of the Body of Christ, the underlying reason is not so much its innovations as its feeble-minded dishonesty.


1 Peter Toon, Reforming Forwards? Latimer Studies 56/57, 2004, p. 39
2 See Women Bishops in the Church of England?, a report of the House of Bishops’ Working Party on Women in the Episcopate (the Rochester Report), GS 1557, 2004 and Report of the Women Bishops Legistlative Drafting Group, GS 1685, April 2008.
3 Rochester Report 8.1.18, p. 234.
4 Rochester Report 3.6.10
5 Ibid., 3.6.11, our italics
6 GS 1685, 68, p. 14
7 Rochester Report 3.6.33
8 The Church of England Newspaper, 11 July 2008. This clearly offers experience as authority. Traditionally the Church of England has recognised the authority, in descending order, of the Bible, the other formularies, the ecumencial councils, the fathers and reason, but not experiment.
9 Para 47, p. 11
10 Why the wording was altered from the published draft, “That this Synod: (a) reaffirm its wish for women to be admitted to the episcopate . . . .” is unclear. The version passed is odd in that the question what the majority wishes is one of fact not resolution, and whether any ecclesiastical lawyer will be ingenious enough to argue an interpretation of the motion not as affirming anything but reporting an opinion remains to be seen. In grammar a good case could be made, though the intention of the General Synod seems to have been otherwise.
11 The detail of the debate is hard to find. If there is a Synodical equivalent of Hansard we have not discovered it. The Synod website offers audios of the sessions when the question was considered but when we tried them they were not working.
12 GS 1685 21, p. 4
13 Church of England Newspaper, ed. cit.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Status of Dr Rowan Williams as Lambeth 08 formally begins – July 19/20

According to the British Constitution and the Canons of the Established Church of England, Dr Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primate and Metropolitan of all England. His Cathedral-See is the ancient See of Canterbury and his London home is Lambeth Palace. He has no ecclesiastical authority in Scotland, Wales or Ireland.

Because of this position and status, and because the Conference (not Synod or Council) of Anglican Bishops has always been held in England since 1867, the Archbishop has always been the one to invite bishops from overseas churches in fellowship with the Church of England and himself to the (usually every ten years) Conference, held initially at Lambeth Palace (thus the name of the Lambeth Conference).

For the July-August Conference of 2008 held at Canterbury, Dr Williams has generally followed the traditional set-up: he has invited the bishops; using advisory groups he has set the structure and content of the Conference, and he is presiding over it (which includes in 2008, his leading an initial Retreat for all bishops). What will be noticed at the end is the absence of any Resolutions on pressing topics (which has occurred from 1867 to 1998).

However, for the first time in modern times, a large number (between a quarter and a third of the whole of those invited) have refused and are not present. And these bishops come from provinces that are growing and which have large memberships.

Let us now ask: How do the bishops present view the status of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Conference begins?

The fact that they are present, suggests very strongly that they accept his right to invite bishops, to fix the structure and content of the Conference and to preside over it. And they may connect this to his status as the Primate of all England.

Further, as there has been much talk in the last decade about the central place of the Four Instruments of Unity in modern Anglican life (see The Virginia Report of 1998 and The Windsor Report of 2004), the bishops also no doubt see Dr Williams as “the First Instrument of Unity,” and recognize his calling of the Lambeth Conference (itself an Instrument also) as part of this vocation. Other important aspects of this position include his calling of the Primates’ Meeting and his Chairmanship of it, along with his major participation in the Anglican Consultative Council, made up of clergy and laity. Thus has a very major role outside of England.

Amongst those present are a hundred or so bishops, who previously attended Gafcon in June in Jerusalem. Included in them is the Primate of the Southern Cone of S. America. It is now becoming clear that many in this group (as the 250 or so bishops not present) have a very reduced estimate of the role of the Archbishop outside England, and are beginning to say so in clear terms (see the very clear Message of the Primates of GAFCON to the Archbishop of Canterbury, dated July 18th, 2008, using “colonial” images).

This in general terms is how they have been expressing their problems with Dr Williams in a variety of forms over the last several months:

“There are at least two problems associated with the ABC.
One is the fundamental problem that he is appointed by politicians. Once, when England was more Christian it worked well enough.
But to have a major Church leader appointed without any serious grass roots engagement by the churches is unsustainable in the increasingly secular world.
The other is Dr Williams’ abysmal failure to uphold by discipline the resolution 1.10 from 1998.
The African primates would not be using colonial talk about the role of the present Archbishop, if he had done his job in this matter.
He would have saved the unity of the Communion had he done so. He has failed to be ‘the First Instrument of Unity’.”

The Primates of Gafcon also have very serious problems with the content of the latest version of the Anglican Covenant and their opposition to it means –because of their sheer numbers and influence--that it is already dead as a means of uniting the present thirty-eight Provinces. So this is a major blow to the plans of Dr Williams and others who placed high hopes in this Proposed Covenant (suggested originally by The Windsor Report).

So while it will be in a sense business as usual at Lambeth 2008 from July 20 to August 4, with the Archbishop as President, behind the scenes and around the world, it will be known that up to one third of Anglican leaders believe that he leads a basically colonialist structure and with this they want nothing to do!

Changing evaluation of the See of Canterbury and its Occupant

A comment from Peter Toon, July 19, 2008

What has been whispered at conference tables, or discussed in darkened rooms, or stated in safe e-mail traffic, or mentioned over the phone to a trusted hearer, is now being disclosed in formal ecclesial statements. And it is momentous. It is this: The respect and status being given by half the leadership of the Anglican global Family to The Archbishop of Canterbury is changing significantly.

This is to be seen in the Response of the GAFCON leaders on July 18 to the evaluation made by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the closing Statement and Declaration from the Jerusalem Pilgrimage and Conference in June.

They end their Response in this way:

“We assure the Archbishop of Canterbury of our respect as the occupier of an historic see which has been used by God to the benefit of his church and continue to pray for him to be given wisdom and discernment.


The Most Rev Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria
The Most Rev Justice Akrofi, Primate of West Africa
The Most Rev Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of Rwanda
The Most Rev Valentine Mokiwa, Primate of Tanzania
The Most Rev Benjamin Nzmibi, Primate of Kenya
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda
The Most Rev Gregory Venables, Primate of The Southern Cone.”

This is significant because they speak of Canterbury and its Occupant in a way both to honor it and also to take away from it a unique position in present Anglican life globally. It has been used in the past and it may be in the future; but it becomes like York or other ancient sees, a historic see with no future assured role.

Perhaps this text is not as revolutionary as I suggest. What follows is, and gets to the heart of the matter.

The same Primates also responded to the latest Draft of the Anglican Covenant, which is intended to be a means of binding the Anglican Family of Provinces closer together. In their looking at the legal framework they noticed two problems:

“First, the document describes four instruments of Communion, which it proposes will provide solutions to disputes. It fails to recognise the disproportionate influence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who invites to the Lambeth Conference, chairs the ACC and calls the Primates' Meeting. The problem of this undue influence is compounded by the lack of formal accountability on the part of the Archbishop and the prominence the document envisages for this Primate is frankly colonialist. Secondly, the prominence given to the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and Primates raises problems in increasing further the ability of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ACC to exercise disproportionate influence over the Primates, thereby tending in effect to silence dissentient primatial voices.”

To summarize the first objection: in Anglican global affairs the Archbishop of Canterbury has excessive authority and power, just as did colonial governors in the days of British Empire.

And to summarize the second: Primates who have legitimate matters of global concern to raise will be prevented by these legal arrangements, which are designed to give the Archbishop of Canterbury too much influence over the functioning of the Primates in the Communion.

In short, they are no longer interested in being part of a colonial structure, which they believe cannot serve the present needs and opportunities of the Church outside Great Britain.


There is NO turning back. What has been a necessary part of perceived Anglican Polity—the role of the Metropolitan of all England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the leadership of the fellowship of Anglican Churches outside the Church of England-- is not only being challenged, but it actually being rejected by half of the membership of the Communion of Churches, if not yet half of the provinces as such.

It will take time for the implications of this momentous change to settle, if they ever really settle!

The July-August 2008 Lambeth Conference will be the last and it may also qualify as the least useful of all the Conferences since 1867! This is because it has been organized to have no prophetic function but to seek internal unity only.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Lambeth Conference of 1930: its continuing influence on the Morals and Behavior of Anglicans.

“It is about as clear as any historical chain can get that the continuing implosion of The Episcopal Church is a direct consequence of the famous Lambeth Conference in 1930” [First Things, August 2008, page 40].

So what happened in 1930 of such consequence? Whatever did the assembled Bishops (mostly from the West in those days) do or say to be so important and far-reaching?

Do not be surprised! They spoke about sex and family life in which they said many helpful and even wise things (see Resolutions 9-20 of the Conference). However, in one Resolution, in which they were also trying to be helpful (and relevant!), they gave advice that was wholly innovatory in 1930 for a traditional Christian Church, be it Catholic or Protestant. Here is Resolution 15:

Resolution 15

The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex

Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

Voting: For 193; Against 67.

In the Early Church, in the Medieval Church, in the Churches of the Protestant Reformation and in the Christian tradition to the 1920s (e.g., see the Marriage Service in The BCP 1662), any form of artificial birth control in order to make the sexual act sterile was regarded as a serious sin against God’s holy law. In 1930 the Anglican Council of Bishops, for what seemed to be good pastoral reasons, suggested ways for Christian couples in certain circumstances to reject this law. By this Resolution, which went around the world like wild-fire, the Anglican Way was changed permanently. No attempt has been made in any Lambeth Conference since 1930 to reverse it, and no national or regional synod of the Anglican Communion has officially rejected it. Thus it stands as part of the modern, Anglican teaching on sexual relations within marriage.

To quote from First Things again: “By giving benediction in 1930 to married heterosexual members purposely seeking sterile sex, the Anglican Church lost, bit by bit, any authority to tell other members—married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual—not to do the same. To put the point another way, once heterosexuals start claiming the right to act as homosexuals, it would not be long before homosexuals start claiming the rights of heterosexuals” (page 40).

Much ground is covered and many assumptions taken for granted, of course, in the last sentence, for, while the seed was sown in 1930, the fruit did not really begin to be seen till the 1970s and on into the twenty-first century. (For more detail on this period see my booklets from “Episcopal Innovations, 1970-2004;” and “Same-Sex Affection, Holiness and Ordination”.)

The key moments and moves in the historical chain, which goes from the adoption of artificial birth-control, through marriage without procreation, to the pursuit of sterile sex between homosexual partners, include the following:

(a) The arrival of the “Pill” in the early 1960s and its impact on the easy availability of sterile sex for all kinds of heterosexual couples from then till now;

(b) The major change in the Episcopal Canon of Marriage in 1973, allowing for Divorce and then Remarriage in Church; and making “traditional marriage” as one of various possibilities.

(c) The new marriage service in the Episcopal 1976/79 prayer book, where procreation seen as an option within, not a normal part of, the “one flesh” union in healthy married couples.

(d) The widespread presence and acceptance of expressive individualism so that a person seeks self-worth, self fulfillment, self-justification and self-orientation. In this context, marriage is seen as created by the two concerned as a personal covenant, according to their own lights and needs. They marry into a subjective rather than an objective reality and order.

(e) The powerful homosexual lobby in the General Conventions and some diocesan synods from 1970 onwards; and the support for this major push given by those whose see morality in terms of human rights and human happiness in terms of expressive individualism as the norm for human identity.

(f) A sense of major support from the culture, its media and progressive Roman Catholics—via the continued major ridiculing of the official Roman Catholic teaching on right Sexual Relations and against artificial birth control and sterile sex, as found in Humanae Vitae.

(g) The election and consecration of the openly-active homosexual Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2004.

Other facts and details, of course, could be added to this list.

What seems to be the case is that the progressive liberals of The Episcopal Church, who favor full and equal rights for homosexual persons and couples, accept the general truth of this historical chain. They have long made their petition, “Give us what the heterosexuals enjoy in the Episcopal Church.” Also those few Anglicans who hold to the doctrine of Marriage provided in the Service in The BCP 1662 (see especially the Preface) generally find the historical chain makes full sense, as do Roman Catholics (see e.g., the essay, “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae cited above).

However, many of those evangelical Anglicans in The Network, Gafcon and Common Cause, who describe themselves as “orthodox” or “traditional,” or both, seem to reject the historical chain presented above. Apparently, they actually believe that the historical chain does not begin with the Resolution of Lambeth 1930, and not even with the new Canon on Marriage of 1973 and the new Marriage Service of 1976/79! In fact, many of them have no quarrel with what these three teach!

Rather, they believe that The Episcopal Church got its first homosexually-active Bishop in 2004, and provided before then for the blessing of same-sex couples in varied dioceses, because during the 1980s and on into the 1990, the General Convention of the Church, followed by diocesan conventions, knowingly rejected the teaching of the Scriptures on sexuality in its traditional and straightforward meaning. That is, the supporters of same-sex arrangements worked over-hard to seek justification for their position by new and involved interpretations of Scripture, thereby twisting the meaning of the Bible to make it say the very opposite of what it actually says and had been heard to say by millions over millennia. And all this, it was alleged, was to avoid the clear sense and meaning of the Bible, which is that God has willed marriage for a man and a woman. (For details of this “new” use of the Bible to commend homosexual acts see my booklet, Same-Sex Affection.)

For many conservative Anglicans the primary question and issue has been, and remains, primarily hetero- or homo- sexuality. And for them absolutely and clearly hetero- is seen as the only Scriptural way. On this basis and from this mindset, it seems that, usually, they are happy to fall in with the Episcopal Church’s Canon Law and its 1976/79 Marriage Service. Why? Because they accept the “pastoral” need for divorce and remarriage in modern society and also they do not see any problems with “sterile” sex, if engaged lovingly and tenderly within a marriage. In real terms, one may observe they have accepted some if not all of the expressive individualism of modern society and are “realists,” not denying the full biblical doctrine of the one-flesh union (of the BCP 1662 Marriage Service), but seeing as an “ideal” for which to strive, not a commandment to follow now.

Finally, let us recall that the famous Resolution on sexuality of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, cited universally as a modern statement of Anglican orthodoxy, is, of course, the “orthodoxy” of post-1930, and it is within what we may call the modern, partial Anglican Christian doctrine of marriage.


While it is clearly the case that Anglican married couples are not prevented from following the full Christian doctrine of sexual relations within marriage, they do not as Anglicans belong to a visible branch or part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which can claim to receive and proclaim the teaching of the Bible, the Early Church, and the Fathers on sexual relations in holy matrimony. And this situation will not change in the immediate future!

In fact, the Anglican Way may be said to have been permanently weakened and disturbed in its morality and teaching office. This means, in brief, that the Anglican Way has constantly to fight the harder to keep at bay innovations even in basic sexual morality. What it has endured in the last decade is merely a foretaste of that which is to come!

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon July 18 2008