Skip to comments.Memory Lane [Lambeth 98]
Posted on 12/28/2005 8:16:57 AM PST by sionnsar
The other day, I wandered the Episcopal News Service archives in search of ECUSA reaction to the 1998 Lambeth Conference sexuality resolution. As I read, two facts quickly became apparent. The rupture in the Anglican world began five years before Gene Robinson got his pointy hat. And orthodox Anglicans can't say that we weren't warned:
Bishops of the Episcopal Church have been struggling to explain the meaning of this summers Lambeth Conference to the folks back home. Some of them took advantage of the technological facilities-over 200 computer terminals spread across the Kent University campus, thanks to a grant from Trinity Church of New York-to file regular reports by electronic mail.
Atlanta's Frank Allan set the tone with this over-the-top rhetoric.
While not surprised by the vote on sexuality resolution to affirm the traditional teachings of the church, Allan said "what surprised and shocked me was the rhetoric of hate and condemnation. A new biblical fundamentalism has taken hold in the Anglican Communion, and this concerns me because it is idolatrous. The issue is not the authority of Scripture, but the interpretation of Scripture."
Maine's Chilton Knudsen was appalled by the behavior of her opponents.
The last week was rough for most of the bishops, including Knudsen, who said it was "exhausting and painful." When she put up her hand to vote against the amended resolution on sexuality, "I was hissed and verbally harassed by people sitting around me."
While admitting that, as far as she was concerned, the resolution meant nothing and she would not be bound by it.
As she had during the election process, she said that she was "prayerfully persuaded that God is calling us to be an inclusive church, in which all people are welcomed, without prejudice or condemnation." She promised that she would "do everything in my power to assure that Maine becomes ever more a safe place for everyone to seek and serve Christ, whatever their opinions or circumstances."
Massachusetts' Barbara Harris really wanted to use the word "savages" but managed not to.
In trying to explain "the tone of the most contentious resolutions the conference passed," [Harris] pointed to "our different understandings and interpretations of Scripture, its place in the life of the church and the struggle of rapidly growing churches in the hostile environments of many developing nations. Another factor, she said, was the different sharing of authority in parts of the American church. "To put it more bluntly, in many provinces of the church-particularly those in African and Asian countries-diocesan bishops hold absolute sway."
For Harris "the vitriolic, fundamentalist rhetoric of some African, Asian and other bishops of color, who were in the majority, was in my opinion reflective of the European and North American missionary influence propounded in the Southern Hemisphere nations during the 18th, l9th and early 20th centuries."
But she has to account for the fact that--gasp--mere--shudder--Africans actually had the temerity to disagree with her, an educated American liberal Westerner. So...
The hard-line stance on gays and lesbians and the role of women in the church was rooted in what she called "a belief in the inerrancy and primacy of Scripture, which supports a preexisting cultural bias" and that meant bishops from the developing world brought the same truth "that not only had been handed to their forebears, but had been used to suppress them." And they found allies in "a small contingent of U.S. bishops who had been unable to move their agenda at last summers General Convention."
Jack Spong's rhetoric was as hysterical as it usually is whenever anyone disagrees with him about anything at all.
In his column entitled, "Christianity caught in a time-warp," Bishop Jack Spong of Newark blasted the process and results of Lambeth, charging Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey with abandoning his role as a diplomat, throwing his weight "verbally and visually behind resolutions that have in fact left this church polarized. Once more in the name of the God of love, the church has managed to insult gay and lesbian people and to suggest to women everywhere that they are still a problem in the body of Christ."
And he got his customary liberal racism in.
Calling it "a tense, difficult and negative experience" for many, Spong added, "No one seemed to recognize that the church in the West had engaged our modem world with its challenging scientific and secular insight far more significantly than has any other part of the communion." And, he said, "We lived at Lambeth with perceptions of reality so vastly different that the same words simply did not mean the same thing. We became aware that difficult local circumstances so deeply colored ones frame of reference that those outside those circumstances could never understand the words that were being spoken."
New York's Cathy Roskam also indicated that she'd ignore the resolution.
Bishop Catherine Roskam of New York warned that condemning homosexuality would be "evangelical suicide in my region" and result in a "divided church."
Spong Scotland was another liberal who couldn't deal with the fact that some of his pet indigenes had suddenly developed opinions of their own.
Bishop Richard Holloway, the primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, later blasted Carey for his intervention, calling it a "pathetic" example of leadership. He said that the vote left him feeling "gutted, shafted, depressed." He said some of the gay youth working as volunteers at the conference "are feeling broken-hearted and wondering if they have a place in this family. It is very difficult to be a lesbian and gay Christian. It takes enormous heroism," he said.
Holloway also publicly charged the American conservatives with influencing the Africans. "These Americans have lost the battle in their own Episcopal Church so they have hired a proxy army," he said in a press interview. Observers on both sides of the issue admitted that the climate was operating more like a political system than a theological debate.
Frank Griswold tried to play both sides of the street.
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said that he abstained from the vote "because I found parts of the resolution positive both in tone and content, particularly when considered in relationship to the nuances of the report on which it is based." Yet he objected to other parts and urged the church to "explore more fully the whole question of what is compatible and incompatible with Scripture." He issued a letter to the church August 14 (see Newsfeatures section for text), offering a "pastoral word" on the vote and pledging himself to "do everything I can to foster a climate of frank and respectful conversation which will allow different points of view to address and hear one another ."
"Bite me," said Fred Borsch of Los Angeles.
Some American bishops were upset and defiant. Bishop Fred Borsch of Los Angeles issued a letter expressing his disappointment and pointed to what he called "a large gap between the pastoral experience of many bishops in our part of the world from that of bishops from other countries." He said that his diocese, which has about 30 openly gay priests, would continue to take a liberal line. "Things will not change. We ordain human beings, we do not discriminate because of sexual orientation," he said.
One Martin Smith of Massachusetts claimed that the Archbishop of Canterbury was blackmailed.
The Rev. Martin Smith SSJE of Massachusetts told his community on returning from Lambeth, where he served as a chaplain, "The archbishop of Canterbury has made no secret of the threats made by certain bishops from Southeast Asia and Africa in particular not only to walk out of the Lambeth Conference but to break up the Communion unless there was a condemnation of homosexual practice. He saw his role as preventing that split and believes he succeeded. It was blackmail," he charged.
And that the Africans were bought.
"Homosexuals serve as ideal symbols of what is alien, and this stigmatization was eagerly encouraged by a very active group of American conservative propagandists with lots of money to spend who occupied a command center in one of the residences on campus, fomenting and encouraging this movement of collective blackmail," Smith said. "The few bishops who spoke up for the gay and lesbian reality were literally hissed, and denounced in angry whispers as racists and imperialists, for if you supported gays you were opposing the witness of the third world bishops defending purity and scriptural authority," he added.
But he did add this rather prescient remark.
"But the main shock of this Lambeth Conference was the discovery that Anglicans are going to find it difficult to pretend that from now on we have a common theological method to arrive at truth together," Smith said.
In 1998, ECUSA liberals could not have been clearer. As indicated by these comments, there is only one right answer on the homosexuality debate and they have it. So "dialogue" means talking until conservatives change their minds and the idea that they would ever be influenced by the views of the rest of the Anglican world is too ridiculous to entertain.
Should the split have happened in 1998? In an ideal world, yes. But it's pointless to argue about what should have happened back there somewhere. We are here, now, and we have only the present and the future; the past is out of our hands. "Arise," said Jesus. "Let us go hence(John 14:31)."
The Current Unpleasantness cannot be resolved; the Anglican split is coming and it's coming sooner rather than later. For my part, I would just as soon leave the buildings and grounds to ECUSA and go off, preach the Gospel and plant orthodox congregations with the vigor and enthusiasm that these people have displayed since they were turned out of their meeting house. But that's just me.
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