I was sitting in our parish library eating lunch with my wife …. we do this nearly everyday – she takes her lunch hour from work, drives through McDonald’s and picks up a couple of their grilled chicken Caesar salads, and joins me at the church office.
Anyway … I was sitting in the library eating lunch with my wife and looking at the order of the books on the shelves. Sometimes it seems to me that the order of the titles are quite humorous, but today I wondered if three book titles taken together might be speaking a word of warning from the Almighty!
There on the shelf, in this order, were these titles:
The Church as Moral Decision-Maker
Countdown to Disaster
“Lordy!” I thought. “When the church gets into this morality thing too heavily, it almost always ends in disaster, and disasters frequently result in deaths. I wonder what is going to die when we finally sort out our current moral dilemma.”
I am, of course, thinking about the current kerfluffle in the Anglican Communion about the full inclusion of gay-lesbian-bisexual-and-transgendered human beings.
To be honest, this is not something that I think about on a daily basis. I’m not GLBT, so it isn’t a personal matter to me. I think about it when someone brings it to my attention. Yesterday, the women’s book study group asked me to join them and try to explain the conflicts to them. (A newer member of the congregation had been reading the secular newspapers’ accounts of our Anglican spat … always a dangerous activity!)
From their comments and questions, it became clear to me that they (like many others) seem to believe this “thing” started in 2003 with the election of Gene Robinson to be the Bishop of New Hampshire. “Good Lord!” I said, “No! This goes back many many years.”
Others believe it started with Lambeth 1998 and the (in)famous Resolution 1.10. Also, No! If this current conflict can be laid at the foot of any official action of the church, I would suggest it be laid at the feet of Lambeth 1968! The bishops at that conference wisely noted that there were (and are) GLBT (well… they said “homosexual”) human beings in our communities (secular and ecclesial) and that the church was going to have to deal with that fact. They suggested a process of study and listening and discernment.
It seems to me that the churches of North America followed that advice and, having done so, more than 30 years later found themselves at a place in their corporate lives where the American church could be comfortable electing and confirming the election of a partnered gay man as bishop and the Canadian church could be comfortable offering to bless the committed relationships of partnered gay men and lesbians.
Did the rest of the Anglican Communion do so? Did those who are now critical of the North American churches for “failing to follow Lambeth 1998” follow Lambeth 1968?
Was Lambeth 1968 acting as a “moral decision-maker” in recommending that process of discernment, and was that recommendation the start of a “countdown to disaster”, and is that countdown going to end in the “death” of the Anglican Communion as we know it?
The conservative evangelical archbishops of some provinces on the African continent, who have banded together and called themselves CAPA (“Conference of Anglican Provinces in Africa” I think is what that stands for, although it doesn’t include all of the African churches), are calling for the cancellation or postponement of Lambeth 2008. They want the Primates to meet in emergency session, to adopt an “Anglican Covenant” (presumably the version authored by Abp. Drexel-Gomez and his “drafting group”), require all provinces to sign on to, then reschedule Lambeth, and only the bishops in signatory provinces would be invited. Alternatively, I presume, they will boycott Lambeth.
Either action would mean the end of our loosely-held-together family of churches. No longer could we claim to be united by “bonds of mutual respect and affection” (although, I have to admit I wonder if we can claim that now). It would be the “death” of the Anglican grouping of churches. Something would take its place, of course, but it would be something very different.
These are the things that looking at a shelf full of books and reading their titles makes me think about …. maybe I need to take the afternoon off.
I think I’ll do that.