Tuesday, August 5, 2008

LAMBETH 2008 REFLECTIONS

A Response to Sarah Hey on Lambeth 2008

Dear Sarah and Stand Firm team;

Thank you for your hard work of reporting, usually without too much editorializing apart from the headlines. The Stand Firm team – and Kevin Kallsen from Anglican TV - have shown how the younger generation can mobilize the new communications technology to shed light on the subject at hand, while George Conger continues a fine foot soldier of the old media.

I have been waiting for the analysis, and it was not long in coming (http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/15164/). Thank you again for an honest, if searing, review of Lambeth 2008. It is going to take quite a few doses of official Episcopal indaba-palaver to neutralize her acidic analysis.

Sarah’s review led me go glance back over my chronicle of Lambeth 1998, especially the third week. (http://www.stephenswitness.com/2007/12/lambeth-diary-1998-week-two.html). A comparison of Lambeth 1998 with 2008 might be worth the read. Please note that August 5 was the tenth anniversary of the passage of Lambeth 1.10, one of the last coherent and relevant statements of Anglican orthodoxy from the official Communion that we are likely to see for a long while.

This is not my spot to pontificate from afar, so let me just leave several brief observations on Sarah’s analysis.

Firstly, I am surprised that Sarah and other orthodox Anglicans were surprised at the course and outcome of the Conference. Frankly, I was overwhelmingly unsurprised. Saddened, but not surprised. The ABC and Design Team had telegraphed their intentions for over a year and they stayed the course, even with the absence of 200+ bishops and the challenge presented by GAFCON. (One sentence in the ABC’s final Address hardly represents reaching out to GAFCON, but we’ll see.)

Secondly, I agree with Sarah that Rowan Williams has now like Phaeton taken in hand the other three reins of Anglican authority (a.k.a. Instruments of Unity) and is the only charioteer in town. So Lambeth was pretty much a paper parliament, as stunningly revealed in the 37-page Reflections document. What I do not see is why she sees his actions and inactions as unintentional. I am reminded of how the colonists right up to 1775 were convinced that it was the Privy Council passing all those nasty taxes and if good King George only knew… At some point, one gives up wondering “what Rowan really thinks” and holds him accountable for the consequences that Sarah so ably describes and predicts.

Finally, I want to commend Sarah for sounding a hopeful note for the GAFCON movement when she says:

I believe that all of this new-found unity [among conservative Anglicans] -- if it holds -- can help both the GAFCON group and internal TEC groups. It appears to me that if GAFCON proceeds calmly, wisely, and methodically -- something that it is not always known for -- and with more unity among other GS Primates, that it will gather more Primates who have endured the bizarre summer camp of Lambeth. I don't think such a shift will be immediate -- but I think it will be slow and sure, again if GAFCON does not act imprudently or arrogantly.

I think this alliance among conservative Anglicans is a real possibility, as is the warning to the GAFCON leadership to tread carefully. I will be interested to read Matt’s reflections on this subject, as one who went to both Conferences.

Looking back on my journal, I note the passing reference to the lone incident of Bp. John Rucyahana taking pastoral oversight of a church in Little Rock. That crack in the dike has opened to a flood, and many of the British and American conservatives who worked with the emerging Global South leadership for internal discipline and reform, first within the Episcopal Church and then within the Communion, are now in GAFCON. If you had told me at Lambeth 1998 I would have soon been residing in Uganda, I would have been amazed. If you had told me the fellowship of the Franciscan Centre at Canterbury would be transferred to the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem ten years later, I also would have likewise been amazed. If you had told me that my new bishop, Robert Duncan, who did not even make it to Lambeth 98, would have become the bete noire of the Episcopal Church, well on it goes…

So, Sarah, as you leave behind the toppled towers of Canterbury and turn to face the vengeful conquerors of TEC, take heart that there is a diaspora and that like Jeremiah God may carry you willy-nilly off into it, where you will be welcomed with open joy.

Speaking of women warriors for the faith, I am reminded in reviewing my memoir of the loss of Diane Knippers, one of the lovely and resolute saints of God whom I was privileged to work with. We rejoice that she is with the Lord, even as we feel her loss.

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