Friday, January 15, 2016

Anglican Communion Acts--18 Years Late

When the Bishops of the Anglican Communion met at the Lambeth Conference, in 1998, one of the key resolutions passed was number 1.10.  The resolution stated that the Conference, "in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage".  The resolution went on to say that the Conference of bishops, "cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions".

What happened in the years following is well known:  in 2003, the Episcopal Church's General Convention gave consent to the election of a gay bishop, Gene Robinson.  Subsequent General Conventions gave approval to individual bishops who wished to authorize the blessing of same sex relationships, trial rites for the blessing of those relationships; and finally, in 2015, the General Convention gave formal approval to same sex marriages.  

There were plenty of warnings along the way that the effect of these actions would be to rupture the fabric of the Anglican Communion.  To Mend the Neta 2001 report produced under the leadership of two archbishops, Drexel Gomez and Maurice Sinclair, outlined a series of steps by which an Anglican province considered to be erring might be encouraged to repent and return to orthodox faith and morals.  These steps would start with an initial request not to allow changes considered to be outside the limits of diversity and lead to a "godly admonition."  A diocese or province that refused to cooperate would be reduced to "observer status," followed by suspension of communion, and, finally, as a last resort, the establishment of a new alternative province or diocese.  
Order "To Mend the Net" on Amazon
To Mend the Net was published in January 2001 and widely read by Anglicans.  Conservatives in the Communion had high hopes.  But when the primates met in March 2001, the report was referred for study to the the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission.  And, while the published report continued to be a study guide among conservatives as to what ought to happen to set the Communion right, To Mend the Net was never officially brought up again.  The Windsor Report, prepared in the aftermath of the Robinson consecration, and the attempt to implement an Anglican Covenant were similarly derailed and disregarded.

It took six years for conservative primates to take another run at bringing discipline to the erring provinces of the Communion: the Dar es Salaam meeting in February 2007.  There, conservative primates from the Global South, tired of being outmaneuvered by conference organizers and western parliamentary tactics, succeeded in imposing an ultimatum:  TEC would be subject to discipline if it failed to give assurances by 30th September 2007 not to authorize Rites of Blessing for same sex unions nor to consecrate persons in such relationships as bishops. 

But, as with To Mend the Net, the will of the primates was once again to be frustrated, as then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, set aside the Primates’ decision by inviting the TEC bishops to the 2008 Lambeth Conference before the deadline.  This resulted in the unprecedented withdrawal of over two hundred orthodox bishops (mostly from the Global South) from attending the conference.  Those bishops and others inaugurated the first Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem later in 2008.  

The most significant outcome of that first GAFCON meeting was the invitation extended to conservative Anglicans in North America to form an alternative province: the Anglican Church in North America.  The rending of the Communion through the disobedience of Communion liberals had occurred, and the final steps envisioned in To Mend the Net--the suspension of communion and the establishment of a new, alternative province--had become a reality.

In retrospect, the tragedy of this history can more clearly be seen:  the painful departure of thousands of North American Anglicans from their church homes, countless millions of dollars spent in litigation.  All of this might have been avoided if the three Archbishops of Canterbury under whose watches all this has occurred had provided faithful, godly, unequivocal leadership.

But there is an even greater tragedy:  "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8).  Of the three great streams of apostolic Christianity--Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism--two stand unequivocally for historic Christian faith and morals.  Only Anglicanism has equivocated at the highest level.  

The churches of formerly mainline Protestantism have embraced the zeitgeist.  Too many Anglican leaders have chosen the path of mainline Protestantism rather than biblical, apostolic, and catholic faithfulness.  And damage has been done to countless souls through the ambiguous or downright immoral witness of these Anglican leaders and church bodies.  

Many count it a sign of God's grace that, in this week's meeting of the primates in Canterbury, the GAFCON and Global South primates have finally taken an effective stand to restore godly order and discipline to the Anglican Communion.  This is a first step--a baby step--that, though it goes in the right direction, does not go nearly far enough.  Will this first step ultimately lead to the restoration of the Anglican Communion to historic Christian faith and morals?  For that to happen a lot of hearts will have to be changed.

Witness these reactions from the Anglican left:  
  Giles Fraser @giles_fraser Disgraceful communique from the Anglican Primates, disciplining the US church for their prophetic commitment to gay equality.
"Prophetic commitment..." Conservatives have had to listen to this kind of talk for decades.  It is the prophetic voice of Balaam who perverted the message of God.  

Tracey Bishop @Thebishoptrace  @giles_fraser As a Deacon, I wonder, how do I now minister to the lost? What do I now say? Are those not Christ's arms outstretched?
Tracey, we minister to the lost by telling them that God loves them. It does not mean that he loves their sins. If we want God's salvation, we cannot be like the rich young ruler who held on to those things that kept him from truly following Jesus.

And, finally, remember the liberal, Roman Catholic celebrity priest who was received into the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida in 2009? :
Father Albert Cutie  @padrealberto Those who seek to divide and discriminate others should never deceive themselves into thinking they are doing God's work.
Alberto, we do not seek to discriminate against anyone but to help them to know the transforming love of Jesus Christ.  Leaving people in their sins because the culture says it is okay is not being a minister of Christ's redemption to them.  

As you can see, there is a very great deal to be done to win the hearts and minds of even those who are Anglican clergy if we are to restore the Communion to faithfulness.  Although we have been praying for such a restoration for years, we are going to have to work and pray as never before if we are to see the Anglican Communion once again embrace the apostolic and catholic faith, and submit its common life to the authority of Scripture.


Unknown said...

I wonder if TEC will accept bank robbers and sex perverts, "because that is how God made them."
John Mitchell

Moheb Ghali said...

Thank you, Fr. Munday, for this excellent article.

What grieved me most is that the Primates’ Communique focused on the results not the root cause of the brokenness in communion. The same-sex marriage approved by TEC’s General Convention, the focus of the Primates Communique, is the result of a theology that has challenged: the authority of Scripture, the nature of Christ, the existence of sin,the way to salvation, and the definition of Love. A communion that does not hold a common theology is no communion - it is an organization. Addressing the symptom does not cure the underlying desease.

On the other hand, had the Primates focussed on the cause of the brokenness and achieved unity, that would have taken care of the “results” as well. The cost of that unity would have been much higher - loss of members of the Body. But Jesus had anticipated this by advising that to enter the Kingdom one may need to sacrifice members of the body that cause stumbling [Matt. 18:8,9; Mark 9:43-47]; and He warned of the cost and consequences of keeping those members that cause stumbling so that the body can remain intact. I do not believe that Jesus was talking about a physical hand, foot or eye, rather He was talking about those in the Body who cause stumbling.

I pray that over the next three years the root cause of the tear in the fabric of the Communion will be addressed.

Rev. Canon Olugbenga Olajide said...

Anglican Communion has being in crisis for too long, and some of our leaders in the past had fail us woefully because they were standing on the fence instead of protecting the Faith they all promised to defend on the days of their consecrations. They tuned our communion to a Social welfare organization, instead of stemming the tide of this crisis by demonstrating the love of Christ to a world starving for real love. Anglican Communion is suffering from the crisis of secularization, pluralization and privatization. These elements in society rob us of our sense of shame, reason and meaning. With my experience with them, we can only make a way through them by praying and one on one personal evangelism; they are aggressively on defense which is the work of the devil. The Ven. Olugbenga Olajide (Fr. Olu)