Skip to comments.BAHAMAS PRIMATE SAYS COMMUNION AT CRITICAL CROSSROAD
Posted on 01/31/2004 9:56:42 AM PST by ahadams2
BAHAMAS PRIMATE SAYS COMMUNION AT CRITICAL CROSSROAD
By The Most Rev. Drexel W. Gomez
The following was an address the Archbishop delivered to the ACI Conference in Charleston, SC on January 8, 2004.
Recent events in North America have placed the entire Anglican Communion into a state of crisis. We are, as Anglicans, at a critical crossroad in our pilgrimage as a Communion. I refer of course to the actions of the Bishop and Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada where same sex blessings were officially endorsed and authorized by the Synod and subsequently implemented as a matter of diocesan policy. These actions in New Westminster must be considered against the background of an existing official policy that forbids such actions and a Provincial authority that refuses to enforce the policy. Meanwhile many Anglicans in New Westminster are suffering and enduring spiritual persecution simply because they have elected to remain faithful to the historic teaching of the Church which prohibits homosexual practice in conforming to the universal teaching of Holy Scripture.
In the United States, four actions have contributed to the growing state of chaos in worldwide Anglicanism. They are: The action of the Diocesan Convention in New Hampshire in electing a non-celibate homosexual living in an openly gay relationship as the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
The confirmation of the election by the General Convention. The Consecration of Canon Gene Robinson. These actions must be viewed in the context of: The declared official teaching of the Anglican Communion as stated in Lambeth 1:10. The repeated affirmation of Lambeth 1:10 by subsequent Primates Meetings. The specific condemnation of same sex blessings from the Primates Meeting in May 2003. The approval of General Convention  in regard to same sex blessings.
There are persons who admit that we face a problem but wish to minimize the impact by reminding us that, "Anglicanism, since its beginning has been forged on the anvil of ecclesiastical controversy (Philip Thomas in Sykes, Booty and Knight, page 250). Paul Avis, "The problem of [Anglican Identity] is perennial. It is as old as Anglicanism itself, but it has surfaced particularly strongly at times of greatest stress and conflict" (page 11). [The Anglican Understanding of Church]. In its mid-16th century efforts of Bishops Jewel and Parker to determine Anglican Identity over and against rival claims of Roman Catholicism. At the end of the century, Hooker - "Of the Laws of ecclesiastical polity" in which he defended and defined the integrity of Anglican polity over and against the radical puritans.
The work of Cosin and Hammond led to the restoration of monarchy in 1660 - 62. 19th Century Oxford Movement - the conservative theological and politically conservative defense of Anglican Identity in the face of an emerging secular state.
While we cannot deny that the identity has been our constant companion of our Anglican ecclesiastical journey, we are presently faced with an acute challenge as "the nature and future of Anglican Communion, the worldwide family of legally autonomous but spiritually and pastorally interdependent churches that are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 1930, the Lambeth Conference defined the Anglican Communion as follows: "The Anglican Communion is a fellowship within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces, or regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, which have the following characteristic in common: They uphold and propagate the catholic and apostolic faith and order as they are generally put forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorized in their several churches. They are particular or national churches and as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and They are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority but by natural loyalty sustained by the common counsel of the bishops in conference.
Alongside is the 1930 Lambeth statement we must place the Lambeth 1948 declaration on the dispersed nature of Anglican authority regarded by some "as a classical definition of the nature of Anglicanism. "The positive nature of the authority which binds the Anglican Communion together is.moral and spiritual, resting on the truth of the Gospel, and on a charity that is patient and willing to defer its common mind. Authority, as inherited by the Anglican Communion took the individual church of the early centuries of the Christian era, is single in that it is derived from a single divine source, and reflects within itself the richness and historicity of the divine Revelation, the authority of the eternal Father, the incarnate Son, and the life-giving Spirit. It is dispersed among Scripture, Tradition, Creeds, the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, the witness of saints, and the consensus fidelium, which is the continuing experience of the Holy Spirit through the faithful in the church. It is then a dispersed rather than a centralized authority having many elements which combine, interact with and check each other; these elements together contributing a process of mutual support, mutual checking, and redressing of errors of exaggerations in the many-sided fullness of the authority which Christ has committed to His Church.
Where this authority of Christ is to be found mediated not in one mode but in several we recognize in this multiplicity of God's loving provision against temptations to tyranny and the dangers of unchecked power."
In respect of this dispersed authority at the very heart of Anglicanism we should note that ECUSA's actions, sighted above, displayed a distinct lack of charity and an unwillingness "to defer to the common mind" of the Anglican Communion as declared at Lambeth and reaffirmed by subsequent Primates Meetings. In addition ECUSA has violated the process of "mutual support, mutual check up" by taking unilateral action without conference with other members of the Communion. Indeed the contempt towards the other members of Anglican family displayed by ECUSA, clearly demonstrates an inherent weakness in our Anglican system that offers no clear guidelines for holding each other accountable and for admonishing one another. While many have found solace in the absence of a central authority, there are many voices within the global community insisting that the time has come for us to introduce some mechanism in our common life to prevent each Province from going in separate directions without reference of the fellow members of the Body.
Some of you may recall that Archbishop Sinclair and I raised this issue in To Mend the Net. Despite the urgency of our appeal, the document has not been debated on the level of the Primates, having been relegated to the Standing Commission on Doctrine. Copies have been supplied for the new Commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to advise on the structural and judicial issues which have arisen out of the actions taken by ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster.
One of the factors that has blocked clear focus on the authority issue in Anglicanism is the fear of a vatican-style central authority coupled with a dread of the Archbishop of Canterbury assuming the role of pope with the implicit dangers of "unchecked power" and "authoritarianism" and "monolithic conformity". The existence of these phobias have led some in our midst to refuse to face up to the reality that we have no established mechanism, as Anglicans, for dealing with the resolution of the conflicts for the building up of the Body of Christ.
II Our present crisis in the leadership many Anglicans to question the merits of the highly acclaimed comprehensiveness and diversity at the heart of Anglicanism. "As members of a culturally diverse worldwide communion of churches, Anglicans are habituated to the idea that communion can co-exist with considerable diversity of belief and practice. The varieties of faith and practice that are a feature of Anglicanism are held together at a fundamental level in the communion that Anglicans have with one another across divisions of churchmanship. that does not mean that all varieties of belief are equally valid, or that the differences do not matter, or that Anglicans should not be striving for greater coherence and cohesion; only that there is something that is greater, deeper and stronger than all these differences- the fact that all the baptized belong to the one Christ and in Him to one another."
This idealistic portrayal of Anglican diversity and comprehensiveness does not address the situation created by contradictory and mutually exclusive teaching and practice within the one body as presented in our present crisis that challenges us to accept the validity of contradictory and mutually exclusive teaching and homosexual practice. Furthermore, our incorporation into Christ at baptism issues us a common life, a common faith and a discipline of Christ-like lifestyle.
Our Anglican devotion to its diversity of comprehensiveness obscures very often the need for boundaries. There are patterns of behavior which place us outside of the boundaries of the Christ-like life. There are too many advocates of Anglicanism without boundaries.
III The challenge to the Catholic tradition Anglicanism has always maintained its allegiance to its catholic tradition, its "historical continuity in the life, worship and ministry of the Church, and to the authority of the undivided church of the early centuries."
The catholicity of Anglicanism has been justified historically - Ecclesia Anglicana represented at the Council of ARLES 314. In addition, the Celtic Church existed before the arrival of Augustine of Canterbury in 557. The English Church existed before the Reformation and all Anglican Churches trace their origins to the Church of England and thereby to the historic catholic tradition.
The catholicity of Anglicanism is justified theologically because "Anglicanism incorporates an upholds the ancient structures of the catholic church, the canon of Scripture, the historic creeds, the dominical sacraments of holy baptism and the Holy Eucharist (put in the context of liturgies that trace this lineage to the liturgies of the early church) and the historic episcopate. These structures of catholicity are enshrined in the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral (Lambeth 1888).
The catholicity of Anglicanism can be supported polemically by its acceptance of the General Councils of the undivided church and its commitment of its council on Catholicism. Despite the fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize Anglican orders, eucharists and authority, Anglicanism affirms its membership within the one, holy and catholic and apostolic Church along with the Roman Catholic Church and the historic churches of Orthodoxy.
Our present crisis poses a threat to our catholic heritage because the acceptance of homosexual practice as a holy pattern of living represents a departure from the historic tradition. Representatives from the Roman Catholic Church and some segments of the Orthodox churches have already indicated their opposition. It is noteworthy that the Presiding Bishop has resigned from ARCIC and the Vatican has suspended the meeting of IARCUM until further notice. The Oriental Orthodox have cancelled the bilateral meetings with the Anglican Communion and the Russian Orthodox Church has issued a strong condemnation of ECUSA's actions.
IV Threat to our reformed heritage. Although the English Church predated the Reformation, it was strongly influenced by the Reformation especially in regaining its Biblical center of gravity. The central place of the Bible in the life of the Church has been jeopardized by the actions of ECUSA and New Westminster. It has been clearly demonstrated by several scholarly works that the Bible does not support homosexual practice. I refer you especially to the treatment of this violation of Scripture in our booklet entitled, "Claiming our Anglican Identity - The Case Against ECUSA".
V A departure from Anglicanism's appeal to reason and sound learning. Under normal circumstances, one would have expected the authorities in ECUSA, out of respect for this Anglican proclivity for sound learning, to have initiated serious and diligent inquiry into the theological and ethical dimensions of the issues related to homosexual practice before embarking on a deliberate course of action to promote change in the church's historic and Biblical teaching and practice. Instead we observed a refusal to travel the road of serious theological dialogue. All too often, we were informed by the leadership of ECUSA that there were several views within ECUSA in respect homosexuality without any attempt to examine each approach with a view to arrive at a consensus. I am convinced that the leadership of ECUSA is not interested in a serious theological approach to the issues since they are driven by a secular cultural agenda.
In this regard, we note that our two publications - True Union in the Body and Claiming Our Anglican Heritage have not received any formal response form ECUSA. In both of these publications, we have set out in an orderly and well-reasoned manner the arguments for the retention of the Church's historic teaching on homosexual practice. In addition, we have detailed ECUSA's violations of the teaching and historic order of the Church. In my opinion, we must place some pressure on ECUSA to mount a reasoned response by circulating our material to all and sundry.
VI Our present crisis requires some major realignment within Anglicanism - Within ECUSA - According to its own self-definition, "ECUSA is a constitutional member of the Anglican Communion . is communion with the See of Canterbury." The emergence of the Network of [Anglican Communion] Dioceses and Parishes should lead to the determination as to which grouping fulfills the terms of ECUSA's declared self-definition. In addition, it should agitate for a critical and objective assessment of ECUSA's violation of its constitution and self-definition as an integral member of the Anglican Communion and in communion with the See of Canterbury. We hope that that this aspect will not escape the attention of the new commission. Within the South/South bloc of Anglican Provinces, where the overwhelming majority of Anglicans reside (at least 50 million of 75 million). A majority of the Primates and Provinces have firmly declared an altered status of relationship with ECUSA ranging from impaired communion to a complete break of communion. Within the grouping there is 100% agreement that the actions of ECUSA are unacceptable. In addition, there is a strong consensus for some form of discipline to be applied. It is quite clear that there will be no possibility of business as usual without repentance and disavowal.
In a real sense, the future of the Communion will be determined by the response of the Global South to the proposals from the new commission. The Global South is not prepared to compromise on the non-acceptance and repudiation of the actions of ECUSA and New Westminster. While we hope and pray for the continuation of the Anglican Communion, we of the Global South cannot and will not accommodate the numerous violations of ECUSA within our ongoing life.
AS a member of the new commission, I request your prayers for all members as we begin our formal work on the 9th of February. We must present our report by September 30 . We are all cognizant of the fact that so much rides on our recommendations and their acceptance by the decision-making instruments of the Communion. Please pray that the Spirit of God will lead us to a positive determination that will enable the worldwide Anglican Communion to prosper in mission and ministry in this century and for the foreseeable future.
The Most Rev. Drexel W. Gomez is Archbishop of the Bahamas
"As members of a culturally diverse worldwide communion of churches, Anglicans are habituated to the idea that communion can co-exist with considerable diversity of belief and practice."
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