Message from Trevor Baker about Todd Bentley

I found today on the Revival Fires website the following message from Trevor Baker, who has worked closely with Todd Bentley and leads the Dudley outpouring meetings:

Open Response in regards to the Florida Outpouring

I know many of you will have heard of the breakdown of Todd and Shonnah Bentley’s marriage and that they have separated. This is very tragic in the light of all that Todd and Shonnah have given into the Outpouring.

It is now time to pour into their lives and their family, the grace and love that we all so eagerly desire.

Todd has withdrawn from public ministry while he seeks counsel and help from those he is accountable to. A meeting with Bill Johnson is planned when he returns from Australia. This will take place on 30-31 August. Do pray for the Holy Spirit to give clear counsel during this time.

There are areas of Todd’s life that have resulted in the breakdown of his marriage that he is willing to address. We now have both opportunity and responsibility to steward the Outpouring and see it increase. Bobby Conner prophesied that the further from the source we take this, the greater the flow would become.

Now it is time for us all to maintain the Outpouring and see it increase in our personal lives, our family, churches and communities where we minister.

I have been truly transformed by my association with the Outpouring and have seen an increase in healings, salvations in Dudley and a deepening of my dependence on Jesus to manifest His glory.

May we all continue to seek the grace and mercy for our own lives and also for Todd, Shonnah and their family, and the Fresh Fires Ministry.

I personally will uphold Todd through the difficulties he is encountering in his personal life. He remains a dear friend in ministry and I will continue to pray for his full restoration.

I believe the best days of the Outpouring are still ahead of us.

Blessings abundantly

Trevor Baker

Amen! It is good to hear that Todd is prepared to address at least some of the issues, and that he will be able to address them with the wise pastor Bill Johnson quite soon.

Certainly the Outpouring will continue in some way, in various places round the world, but we need to wait and see in what form. Meanwhile meetings continue in Dudley four nights a week, with various special events planned including a visit from the same Bill Johnson.

PS: Rupert Ward has posted some very perceptive comments about Todd and Shonnah:

They are the victims in this.  Willing, co-conspiring victims maybe.  But victims none-the-less.

Victims of the hype of the church; the tendency of the Body of Christ to idolise human beings.  The longing for God to move, which tragically means the Church lurches from one thing to the next, looking for the next big thing that God is doing.  I applaud the hunger, but not always the response to that hunger.

Although I suspect the seeds of this situation were sown in their marriage long before April this year, the pressure of nightly meetings, the criticism and scrutiny of the world (both Christian and non-Christian) and the internal battle form being in that kind of prominence and position that undoubtedly would have been raging within Bentley, must have stretched his family to breaking point.  I wonder how many marriages would survive?

I wouldn’t want to test mine in that cauldron of pressure and public glare.  My stones are firmly being left on the ground.

So tonight, as I write, fan or not, I feel God’s compassion towards Bentley, his family, and no-doubt the many people who will be disillusioned and hurt by another prominent failure of a Christian leader.  I feel God’s sadness that this has happened at all; that it was all so avoidable.  Not because Bentley didn’t have the right safeguards, or accountability.  But because the church doesn’t have to put that kind of pressure on people, to chase after the next big thing in the way we do, to set people up on pedestals that they can only fall from.

Todd Bentley and Broccoli

I have no time to write much tonight about Todd Bentley or anything else. So I will give little more than a couple of links.

Dan Curant writes about the Broccoli Revival. His main point is simple: broccoli grows better when the first sprout in the plant is cut off. Similarly, he predicts that the “fall” of Todd will lead to even greater outpouring worldwide. He concludes:

The number one lesson might be, Don’t be offended, find the good, and keep on keeping on pursuing Him.

It’s only going to get better!

Richard Steel writes that the Florida healing outpouring revival is for global evangelism. Certainly it should be, and he correctly writes:

It is important to remember that this has been a sovereign move of God, and not about any one person.

Abraham, David, Peter and Todd Bentley

Abraham was a man of faith who did great things for God. He was also a fallible man who treated his wife badly at times and took a concubine. Yet he is the only person in the Bible called the friend of God – both in the Old Testament (Isaiah 41:8) and in the New (James 2:23). And he became the ancestor of God’s chosen people.

King David was a man of faith who did great things for God. He fell into an adulterous relationship which led him to murder. But through the intervention of Nathan and a period of repentance he was restored to his kingdom and his relationship with God. Yet God called him “a man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). And God promised that his royal line would last for ever.

The Apostle Peter was a man of faith who did great things for God, even walking on water. He denied his Lord, but when he met that same Lord risen from the dead he repented and was restored to an even greater ministry. He is now recognised as the greatest, after Jesus, of the founding fathers of the Church.

Todd Bentley is also a man of faith who has been doing great things for God. But he is also fallible. Following the news I reported earlier that he is separating from his wife, there has now been issued a further statement which includes the following (please read the whole statement before commenting):

We wish to acknowledge, however, that since our last statement from the Fresh Fire Board of Directors, we have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff. In light of this new information and in consultation with his leaders and advisors, Todd Bentley has agreed to step down from his position on the Board of Directors and to refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life.

This relationship appears to be non-physical and so not adulterous, but is also clearly wrong. The Board of Directors to which Todd is accountable (don’t believe those who have accused him of being unaccountable!) have done the right thing by suspending his public ministry and taking steps intended for his restoration.

Let us expect and pray that as Abraham, David and Peter were, through painful experiences, restored to their ministries, so Todd also will, in the right time, be restored to his ministry and do even greater things that will make the Florida Outpouring look like a mere sideshow.

And let us also remember this, taken from the latest statement:

Todd’s own words, “What God is doing is bigger than one man”

As one man is temporarily taken out of the way, that way is left open for many others to take over where he left off, to be men and women of faith who do great things for God.

Meanwhile let’s continue to pray for Todd and Shonnah as they work through these issues.

Again, as an exception to my normal comment policy, I will not allow any comments on this post which are negative about Todd or Shonnah. My other posts about Todd, except for the one before this one, remain open for comment.

The oldest known sin

Phil Whittall reminds us that

we are stewards and caretakers of the earth. It’s the height of arrogance to think that a generation can destroy, consume the world and leave future generations to deal with the consequences.

Indeed! But a recent BBC article shows that human beings have been destroying their environment for at least 43,000 years, when our ancestors caused the extinction of many of the large animals of Tasmania. (Well, actually these early Tasmanians are probably the ancestors of no one alive today as ironically their distinct race has now become extinct, much more recently when we British allowed it so that we could use their island as a prison.) So the oldest known sin is not that of the proverbial “oldest profession”. It might be idolatry, but the earliest undisputed images of religious significance are somewhat later, from the Upper Palaeolithic. So it seems quite likely that the oldest human sin for which there is now any evidence is causing environmental change and the extinction of species.

These extinctions in Tasmania are by no means uncharacteristic. Rather they are among the earliest examples in what is known as the Quaternary Extinction Event, which has involved the loss of the vast majority of the large mammal genera in North and South America and Australia, as well as a significant number in Eurasia including the mammoth. Many reptiles and flightless birds have also died out. Such extinctions have continued into quite recent times, with the loss of birds such as the dodo.

The causes of these extinctions are controversial. But in very many cases there is a clear link in time to the arrival of the first humans. The new evidence from Tasmania confirms this link in time there also. It seems highly probable that in most if not all of these cases the species were hunted to extinction by humans.

Sadly this extinction event is continuing. Some of the surviving large land mammals are under threat from human activities, although now more from loss of habitat than from hunting. Meanwhile fish and marine mammals are now being hunted in unsustainable ways which put them in serious danger of extinction.

Does this have any theological significance? Can this historical evidence of the first sin be related to the biblical account of the first sin, Adam and Eve taking the apple, and the consequent Fall?

First of all, in accepting datings as old as this I have effectively rejected the young earth creationist position that no events happened more than 6,000 or perhaps 10,000 years ago. My position is to accept that the accounts given by scientists of ancient events are broadly accurate, although their explanations of these events may not be. (I use “event” here in a very broad sense of anything that has happened in the past.) I am more or less what is called a theistic evolutionist, but my account here is also compatible with ancient earth creationism. I don’t need to go into this in detail here.

On any explanation of the past there must have been a time when humans first became conscious and spiritually aware, whether this happened gradually through evolutionary processes (although I don’t think evolutionists have offered any convincing explanations of this one) or in some sudden way. If we accept that animals do not have the capacity of choosing to sin but humans do, there must have been a first man or woman to have this capacity, and there must have been a first man or woman, no earlier but possibly much later, who actually did choose to sin. In this sense there must actually have been an Adam or an Eve.

And the new evidence from the BBC suggests that that first sin must have taken place at least 43,000 years ago, as by that period humans were already showing selfishness and disobedience by hunting their prey to extinction – interestingly something which is very rare among animals, except for introduced species for which humans are so often responsible.

Sin is common to all humans, including aboriginal Australians and Tasmanians who were almost completely isolated from other human populations for up to 50,000 years before the late 17th century. This strongly suggests that this first sin predates that period of isolation. According to some scientists, the worldwide dispersal of modern humans followed a “great leap forward” to behavioural modernity which took place about 50,000 years ago, probably in their original homeland of Africa. Perhaps what scientists call a leap forward is much the same as what theologians call the Fall.

Let's support Todd and Shonnah Bentley at this difficult time

It has been announced by Fresh Fire Ministries that Todd Bentley has separated from his wife Shonnah. Here is the relevant part of the statement on the Fresh Fire front page:

The Lord’s blessings and abundance have been so evident on the ministry during this season of intense activity and we rejoice in seeing and being able to participate in what we believe is only the beginning of a worldwide awakening. It is with considerable sadness then, that we must temper the jubilation we know you all feel with the sobering news that Todd and Shonnah Bentley are presently experiencing significant friction in their relationship and are currently separated. We want to affirm that there has been no sexual immorality on the part of either Todd or Shonnah, nor has there ever been. Undoubtedly the pressures and the burden of the Outpouring, which approaches 144 days on August 23rd, have helped to create an atmosphere of fatigue and stress that has exacerbated existing issues in their relationship. We wish to stress however, that the Outpouring is not “to blame” for the current chain of events and that in effect we have no interest in blaming anyone, but rather we deeply covet your prayers for Todd and Shonnah and for Fresh Fire Ministries during this time.

We know that many of you will have questions, for most of which we presently have no answers. We cannot see far down the path ahead of us, but we have quiet confidence in the One who sees the end from the beginning and promises to provide grace and strength for whatever lies ahead. We are hopeful that the outcome will include restoration, but we can make neither promise nor guarantee. We intend to take each day as it comes and look intently for the new mercies promised us each morning. We will watch and pray and ask each of you to do the same, knowing that you will pray as you are led by the Holy Spirit. …

With all of this in mind, we ask each of you to continue to pray with us, both for Todd and Shonnah and for this ministry, as we continue to bring the saving, healing, and delivering power of God to a dry and thirsty world, desperate for an encounter with the endless love of the living God.

We thank you again for your many prayers and support and we truly believe the promise of the Lord that He will indeed work all things together for our good.
With our sincerest blessings and gratitude,

The Fresh Fire Ministries Board of Directors

Michael Spencer reports a message from God TV which seems to be dependent on the above – and also noting that they are no longer broadcasting from Lakeland.

I have seen rumours purporting to give further information about Todd and Shonnah’s marriage difficulties, some of it from a former employee of Fresh Fire. This information may be true but if so the release of it was a breach of personal privacy and of confidence. As a Christian I am not prepared to pass on this gossip or link to it. I am saddened that bloggers who are not the usual Todd-bashing culprits have chosen to give credence and support to this kind of gossip by responding to it on their blogs.

One generally sympathetic blogger seems to imply that the current difficulties somehow prove right all the concerns of the critics “about the money, the angels, the use of scripture, the style etc.” This is the kind of rhetoric I would expect from those same critics. But compassion for Todd at this difficult time as well as simple logic should help us realise that these issues are independent. History proves that it is not only false teachers who have marriage difficulties. I think I warned months ago, and I certainly mentioned here, that the Lakeland meetings were putting a huge strain on Todd’s marriage and family. Indeed the Apostle Paul recognised how difficult it was to combine Christian ministry with a good marriage, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35.

I call on all my readers to join me in praying for Todd and Shonnah at this time, for a restful break from Todd’s ministry schedule, for a renewal of love and understanding between them, and for full restoration of their marriage. Please pray also for the children at this difficult time.

I at least will stand by Todd even when he is down and in the gutter.

As an exception to my normal comment policy, I will not allow any comments on this post which are negative about Todd or Shonnah. My other posts about Todd remain open for comment.

Does God know the future? Does prayer make a difference?

California pastor TC Robinson burst on to the blogging scene a few months ago with his blog New Leaven. (I assume he is male, and not a woman using initials rather than a first name to disguise her gender, because he admits to a wife and two kids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much these days in California!) This is one of the most prolific blogs I read with an average of more than four posts a day. It is also one of the most consistently interesting and thought-provoking, as TC consistently finds subjects which are both serious and entertaining and very often lead to long comment thread discussions. I disagree with TC on a number of issues, but it is always good to discuss them with him and others on his blog.

When I call him TC I can’t help remembering the Top Cat cartoons of my childhood, in which the hero was known as TC. But I don’t recognise Pastor Robinson as the leader of the bloggers’ gang!

Among TC’s posts recently have been several on Open Theism, which is basically the idea that God does not predetermine the future or even know it in advance. So far he has written ten posts in this category. It was partly in response to one of these posts that I wrote my post God the Blogger, to which TC responded.

Meanwhile Jeremy Pierce has reactivated his extremely long running Theories of Knowledge and Reality series, which touches on the same kinds of question. He has also posted an interesting essay on Prophecy in Harry Potter (see also the comments on this one); now I am not much interested in Harry Potter, but in this post issues also come up of whether even God can prophesy reliably about the future.

Open Theism has been rejected by many evangelical Christians, such as Wayne Grudem, because of its apparent implication that not even God knows the future. If not, they argue, how can God fulfil his purposes, and inspire accurate prophecies about what will happen? Surely, these people argue, the future is predetermined by God. This is in effect the position of Calvinists, who believe that God has predetermined who will be saved, if not necessarily every detail of the future. Yet it is difficult to see how this kind of determinism allows for any kind of human free will. But the Bible seems to affirm that humans do have free will, as for example in Psalm 32:9, and as such are responsible for their actions.

A related question is whether Christian prayer can make a real difference to the future. Some may hold that the real function of prayer is to bring us closer to God – and that people should not ask for anything specific, even for God to provide for others’ genuine needs. However, Jesus, especially in Matthew 7:7-11, seems to present prayer as a real process of making specific requests and seeing them fulfilled. But how can this be if God has already fixed the future before we pray?

Now there are very many complex arguments here, into which Jeremy goes in depth, and this is not the place to repeat them. One possible answer is provided by “compatibilism”, which is basically the idea that there are two separate but compatible descriptions of the world, one from our viewpoint in which human decisions are free, and another divine one according to which God has predetermined everything. I can also recommend here a rather heavy book which I have only skimmed but would like to read in more detail: Providence and Prayer by Terrance Tiessen.

I will simply state here where I think I stand at the moment. I’m not sure it is where I will always stand – at least that part of the future is open, or in God’s hands. But this is my present position:

I believe that God is sovereign over everything and quite capable of determining everything that will ever happen within the universe he created. He is eternal and outside this universe, and not subject to anything within it.

I believe that God has freely chosen to allow a real openness about the future of the universe. This is because he has delegated many of the decisions about its future to intelligent created beings, both spiritual ones, i.e. angels, and humans. This delegation of authority was intended to be for his own glory. But for reasons which I do not presume to understand in detail some of these created beings chose to reject God’s good purposes and use their delegated rights to make decisions against God. God could have simply taken away their right to decide, but for reasons hinted at in Psalm 32:9 he chose not to.

Nevertheless God is not bound by the universe or by time and therefore he can see into the future. He knows what will happen. He generally chooses not to intervene to overturn the consequences of human bad decisions, that is, human sin. However, he knows his own long term purposes for his creation as a whole and for particular individuals and groups in it. So he works in generally subtle ways within his creation to bring about his purposes. This may include calling particular people to particular works; but if they refuse to take up their calling, or mess it up, God finds other ways to fulfil his purposes.

Among the privileges which God has granted to those people who are committed to living according to his will is that he has promised to answer their prayers, to give to them whatever they ask for (Matthew 7:7-8, John 14:14). He will indeed do this, in ways which do not conflict with the free will of others, although not always in quite the way his people expect. But if what they ask goes against his general purposes, he will not be pleased with the person asking and may choose to work through other people in future. However, those whose prayers are closely aligned with God’s will, because they know that will and truly want to see it done, will find that God is more than pleased to answer not just the basics of their prayers but to give them abundantly more than they ask. As they live and pray according to God’s purposes they will be able to do great things with him and for his glory.

This post has already turned into quite a long essay. So I will leave it there. I await comments!

Books for sale – not mine!

Blogger Graham Old has over 1000 Christian books for sale, at prices starting from £1. At least most of the books listed are Christian, although some (such as ones by Don Cupitt) only marginally so. Graham clearly has very broad interests and tastes. He has asked other bloggers to pass on the news, and I am happy to oblige – after taking a look myself first!

These books are in the UK, and so probably not economically available to my American book-loving blogger friends.

An averagely muddled Archbishop

Ruth Gledhill reports, both in The Times and on her blog, on some letters written by Archbishop Rowan Williams in which he compares gay sex with marriage. I must say I wonder why these letters have suddenly come to light – has their recipient, who has left the Anglican church, just now, in the wake of Lambeth, decided to spill the beans? There is also a leader in The Times on this subject, and comment from Mary Ann Sieghart.

In one of the letters, whose text Ruth posts, Archbishop Rowan signs off as follows:

My prayers for you, and my request for prayers for an averagely muddled bishop!

From Archbishop Rowan

Well, I can only agree with him that he is “averagely muddled” in his thinking, maybe not on every issue but clearly on this one. To be fair, I can agree with what he writes in the second letter, from 2001. The following is in fact rather similar to what I have written here:

When I said that I wasn’t campaigning for a new morality, I meant, among other things, that if the Church ever said that homosexual behaviour wasn’t automatically sinful, the same rules of faithfulness and commitment would have to apply as to heterosexual union. Whether that would best be expressed in something like a ceremony of commitment, I don’t know; I am wary of anything that looks like heterosexual marriage being licensed, because marriage has other dimensions to do with children and society.

In other words, homosexual practice, if allowed at all, should be restricted to lifelong faithful unions. Presumably this would imply that homosexual clergy who were not faithful in this way would be subject to the same sanctions as married heterosexual clergy who have adulterous affairs. This means that these lifelong unions, at least among clergy, would have to be declared openly, although I understand Rowan’s reservations about anything like “civil partnerships”. Of course this status, formally entered into at what some have made into “a ceremony of commitment”, didn’t exist in 2001, at least here in the UK.

But where I think Rowan’s thinking is indeed muddled is in his earlier, 2000, letter. Here he writes how he came to agree with the position

that the scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience; but that the Bible does not address the matter of appropriate behaviour for those who are, for whatever reason, homosexual by instinct of nature … I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.

The problem with this argument is that there is simply no proper exegetical basis for it. In a series of posts Doug Chaplin has conveniently summarised the relevant biblical material. Whatever one makes of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11, these passages list descriptions of people, not of acts which are not characteristic of them. Just as someone who is normally sober but gets drunk once is not a “drunkard”, someone who is usually faithfully and heterosexually monogamous but occasionally does something different “for sexual variety” is not an arsenokoites, whatever this word might mean. Similarly Romans 1:27 refers to men who “abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (TNIV); these are men who have rejected heterosexuality, not ones who are usually heterosexual but looking for “sexual variety”.

I can understand how much the Archbishop wants to find some biblical support for the position which his cultural background is pushing him to accept. After all, my background is rather similar. At Cambridge I studied and worshipped with his wife in the college and chapel of which he later became Dean. Unfortunately there is simply nothing in the Bible, nor in church tradition as he admits, to support his contention that a committed homosexual relationship “might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage”. Sadly he has muddled the teachings of the Bible with the presuppositions of society.

It is interesting that Rowan, writing in 2000, mentioned charging interest and contraception as two things which the church used to consider wrong and now accepts, and suggests that homosexual practice may be a similar issue. But, as his correspondent Dr Pitt points out, the rightness of lending at interest and of contraception is by no means indisputable. David Lang of Complegalitarian has today written openly and movingly about how he and his wife prayerfully came to the decision that contraception is wrong for them. And John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar, questions the whole system of charging interest and notes that Rowan himself is also now questioning it. So here we hardly have two shining bright examples of the church moving in a morally right direction.

Mary Ann Sieghart writes in The Times:

If only more members of the Anglican Communion displayed as much humility as Rowan Williams, who signs himself endearingly in one of these letters as “an averagely muddled bishop”. And if only Dr Williams could display just a little less humility in his job of leading the Church, the current stand-off in the Communion might have more chance of being resolved.

Indeed! I may not agree with Mary Ann on the direction the Communion should take, but if it is to survive it needs to be led in some direction.

Primates 'face extinction crisis'

This is the headline of a new BBC article, headed by a picture looking rather like Rowan Williams keeping his mouth shut, which starts:

A global review of the world’s primates says 48% of species face extinction, an outlook described as “depressing” by conservationists.

“Conservationists”, not “conservatives”? This is the first clue that this article is actually about monkeys and apes, not the archbishops of the Anglican Communion. But at least according to some press pundits the outlook for Primates of the episcopal kind, in the wake of the recently finished Lambeth Conference, is just as depressing.

So what did the allegedly 666 bishops at the conference achieve? And what now are the prospects for the Anglican Communion?

The main output from the conference was a long and rambling document called Lambeth Indaba Reflections. I have not attempted to read all of this. The most controversial part is in Section K, paragraph 145:

The moratoria

145.  The moratoria cover three separate but related issues: ordinations of persons living in a same gender union to the episcopate; the blessing of same-sex unions; cross-border incursions by bishops. There is widespread support for moratoria across the Communion, building on those that are already being honoured. The moratoria can be taken as a sign of the bishops’ affection, trust and goodwill towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and one another. The moratoria will be difficult to uphold, although there is a desire to do so from all quarters. There are questions to be clarified in relation to how long the moratoria are intended to serve. Perhaps the moratoria could be seen as a “season of gracious restraint”. In relation to moratorium 2 (the blessing of same-sex unions) there is a desire to clarify precisely what is proscribed. Many differentiate between authorised public rites, rather than pastoral support. If the Windsor process is to be honoured, all three moratoria must be applied consistently.

John Richardson, who quoted the words “Episcopal ordinations of partnered homosexual people” apparently from an earlier version of this document (or perhaps from the Church Times blog), has misunderstood the first moratorium as referring to ordinations by bishops. The current version has clarified that the moratorium is restricted to ordination or consecration as bishops, of practising homosexuals. This justifies John’s response to my comment that he may have understood the words he quoted:

If it now means ‘ordinations of’ bishops, then the Lambeth 2008 has been an unnoticed disaster for the traditionalists there, as they have now accepted what Lambeth 1998 1.10 said ought not to happen.

Indeed, section H of the Reflections, on Human Sexuality, while referring to Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, mentions only that ordination of homosexual bishops goes against this resolution. The document has nothing to say about ordination of practising homosexuals as priests, which in practice now seems to be considered acceptable.

Actually these three moratoria are nothing new. They go back to the 2004 Windsor Report, paragraph 134:

the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges;

paragraph 144:

public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions … Because of the serious repercussions in the Communion, we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites …;

and paragraph 155:

We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own … to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.

So will these moratoria now provide a basis for healing the rifts within the Communion? They might just do if they were observed. But for four years the second and third of them have been widely ignored. It seems highly unlikely that the North American churches will now start observing the second one. Indeed Susan Russell of the gay lobby group Integrity has already invoked the Boston Tea Party and said:

It is not going to change anything on the ground in California. We bless same-sex relationships and will continue to do so.

And there is no way that the conservatives are going to abide by the third moratorium if the first two are simply ignored. The best that can be hoped for here is a breathing space, nothing more than a “season of gracious restraint” which will in fact not be accepted graciously by many.

So where does this take the Anglican Communion? Ruth Gledhill quotes George Conger, writing on Sunday:

While a blow up is not expected on the final day of the July 16 to Aug 3 gathering of bishops in Canterbury, the prospects for a united Anglican Communion appear less likely now than at the start of the conference.

Is this journalistic pessimism, or, from the point of view of those looking for stories to report, optimism? Well, there are those who claim to be optimistic, like Tim Chesterton who writes:

I’m cautiously optimistic. I suspect that the extremists on both sides will not heed the call for moratoria and will not sign on to any covenant. But I think the majority will, and if that means that we have a smaller communion, based on humility, prayer, a willingness to admit that each of us ‘sees through a glass darkly’ and a determination to seek the will of God together without automatically dismissing those with whom we disagree – well, so be it.

Well, if even an optimist expects “the extremists on both sides” to leave, what does that mean? If “the extremists” on one side are the North American churches and on the other side are those who boycotted the Lambeth Conference, then, according to statistics from Anglican Mainstream, we are talking about 17.5 million (or 25 million) Anglicans in Nigeria, 9.6 million in Uganda, 2.4 million (or 800,000) in the USA, and 740,000 (or 640,000) in Canada. As the total number of Anglicans is variously reported to be between 50 and 75 million, if these “extremists” are in fact a minority they are only just so. Of course not everyone in each of these provinces is an “extremist”, but there are many other provinces with large numbers of “extremists”, in some cases on both sides, as here in England.

So perhaps the BBC’s estimate of 48% is a good one, that 48% not of Primates but of the Anglican provinces and dioceses they serve “face extinction”. The amazing thing is that a conservationist, I mean a conservative, like Tim Chesterton does not find this outlook “depressing” but is still “cautiously optimistic”.