August 14, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Lambeth Conference 2008

The decennial meeting of the Anglican bishops from around the world that was held at the Lambeth Quadrilateral concluded on August 3 without undue strife, thank God. It remains to be seen, however, whether the various bishops in attendance truly narrowed their theological differences or just papered them over for the time being. Of course, the biggest controversy underlying this year's Lambeth Conference was the question of homosexuality and the proper role of gay people in the church. Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is openly gay, in effect "crashed" the meeting, showing up even though he was not an invited participant. This, of course, raised tensions even further. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams urged the American (Episcopal) Church to refrain from taking any further steps that might bring about a total schism. He "urged bishops to halt further consecrations of gay bishops, pointing a finger specifically at the United States." See Washington Post.

In his sermon at the concluding Holy Eucharist, Archbishop Williams focused on Saint Peter's words that "We are witnesses of what Jesus did..." What does that mean? That we should understand that "the Gospel is written so that we may recognize that (as the hymn has it) 'this is our story, this is our song'." That is, the words and deeds of Jesus Christ are not some ancient tale about supernatural happenings in a faraway place, they are meant to turn our hearts toward God and transform our lives. See aco.org.

One of the elements of the Lambeth Conference was a series of candid encounters known as "indaba." (That is a Zulu word referring to a council or conference among tribes of South Africa; see indaba-southafrica.co.za.) For the Anglican bishops, it meant "Face to face conversations, often exchanging conflicting and challenging points of view, have led to deeper understanding and new insights." The report on the lambethconference.org Web site emphasized that the outcome of such spirital encounters cannot be expressed adequately in words, because it is rather an inner transformative experience. I pray that these encounters will indeed have the desired effect, opening the eyes and hearts of all faithful people. Lord knows, the alternative of continued stubborn factionalism is too awful to contemplate.

The dissenting, orthodox faction of the Anglican Communion (which is strongest in Africa) issued a brief statement: "The Primates' Council of GAFCON will wish to study the outcome of the Lambeth Conference carefully and consult with those they are leading." See GAFCON.