Lambeth: no news may be good news

The long awaited Lambeth Conference has started. But for the moment it doesn’t seem to be very interesting, in terms of any real content. The blogging bishops, and even the usually irrepressible Dave Walker who has got himself a pass through the security fence, are keeping quiet about anything non-trivial. The real press have been reduced to talking about themselves and sneaking through the fence.

The most interesting news I have seen, with the possible exception of the contradictory Roman Catholic reactions, is that the bishops are saying what they think about the Church of England’s antiquated parish system by breaking its rules. They are meeting for their conference without the permission of the incumbent of the parish they are meeting in – as reported by that incumbent, who is also a blogger. But he doesn’t report that a bishop who is not at the Conference will this Sunday attend an open air service in his parish. Nor has the bishop in question yet reported it on his blog; this news was hinted at by Ruth Gledhill and confirmed here. Has the incumbent officially invited this bishop? Does he even know he is coming? Of course the bishop doesn’t need an invitation if he is just going to attend, but will he do more? The bishop I am referring to: none other than Gene Robinson!

What can we hope for from this conference? The press have gathered in the hope of picking over the bones of a deceased Anglican communion. But I doubt if they will find a corpse. I suspect that the whole thing is now being carefully enough stage managed that an appearance of unity will be kept up, even if everyone knows how superficial it is. In that case there will be no news to satisfy the reporters, so I hope the weather warms up so they can enjoy their swimming pool. Of course if the stage management breaks down and real fireworks start to go off among the mitres, that will be news. But I expect that even if the rain stays away Lambeth will be a damp squib, three expensive weeks which will do nothing to solve the terminal sickness of the Anglican Communion if not actually making things worse.

I am sure a lot of Anglicans are taking a “wait and see” approach to the GAFCON process until after Lambeth, and after their summer holidays. But by September they will be starting to realise that they have to make choices one way or another. Time will tell.

0 thoughts on “Lambeth: no news may be good news

  1. Tim, thanks for these links. I hadn’t seen them when I wrote, perhaps because I hadn’t looked. I’m glad the bishops are having a good time of fellowship and Bible teaching. And it is right that the conference starts with that. But what they should then do is hammer out the issues which are dividing the Communion and trying to come to some real mutual understanding. They are not intending to do that. That is why the conference looks like being an expensive way of doing what could have been done much more cheaply by Rowan sending out his sermons on DVD.

  2. That’s a very cynical comment, Peter. Pat Ashworth’s column on the Church Times blog shows a better understanding:

    http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/blog_post.asp?id=60447

    Reality: People on either side of this issue are unlikely to change their mind. Sitting and talking and arguing won’t do it. Rowan was quite realistic in what he said: a two week Lambeth Conference won’t heal the wounds all by itself.

    That being the case, there are three possible strategies:

    1. The Conservatives win, the Liberals get kicked out.

    2. The Liberals win, the Conservatives leave.

    3. The Communion decides that, while its members hold strongly diverging views on the blessing of same-sex unions, it is not a communion-dividing issue (just as in the past we’ve held diverging views on polygamy, divorce, ordination of women, war and peace, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, apostolic succession, the authority of the Bible in relation to the authority of tradition, baptism and conversion, etc. etc.). Those who disagree with this, on both sides, leave.

    I suspect that #3 is the direction in which Rowan is leading, in a gently determined sort of way. Personally, I’m comfortable with that. I also think it’s the most realistic solution.

  3. Tim, I agree with you that, at least humanly speaking, a two week conference cannot solve the problem. But if that can’t, probably nothing can. Or at least only God can. But Rowan isn’t even praying for a solution, as Pat Ashworth reports.

    The problem with your #3 is that it is indistinguishable from #2, as I don’t think even the most extreme liberals are trying to force same-sex marriage and gay bishops on every province. I accept that it may be the way Rowan is steering things, and hoping that only the most extreme conservatives leave. But in practice a quarter of the Communion has already left for GAFCON – they won’t be back unless things change in their favour – and doubtless that will grow. Perhaps that is the best that can be hoped for, at this stage after years of mismanagement. What other organisation would consider it a success only to lose a quarter of its members?

  4. Joel, you posted more or less the same comment here, and I answered it there. To that I will add that just at the moment, as I see it, if Canterbury is moving anywhere at all it is downwards, into oblivion. The best we can hope of the current conference is that this lovely little city stays where it is, and quickly recovers from being overrun by bishops!

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