From the Revd Mike D. Williams
Sir, — Dr Chris Sugden’s defence of holding a conference of conservative Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic archbishops and bishops in June 2008 (Comment 11 January) is a blatant example of the opportunistic alliances and power politics of the modern global world.
Rather than a gathering to prevent Churches’ being “overwhelmed by the power of their surrounding culture”, it will be a demonstration of homophily. Homophily is a modern cultural tendency (not related to homophobia) to form relationships with other people who have similar social status or think and hold the same values as ourselves.
The calling of such a conference in 2008 is an example of schism, a cultural response to not getting one’s own way. At a time when the world needs examples of how to live with difference, church leaders should be focusing on the Lambeth Conference and setting an agenda related to peace, the eradication of poverty, and the stewardship of the environment.
Can our church leaders buck our culture and rise above narrow internal interests for the sake of God’s world and his Kingdom to come?
MIKE D. WILLIAMS
3 Perriams, Old Ebford Lane
Ebford, Exeter EX3 0QB
From the Revd Don Brewin
Sir, — The organisation of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) before the Lambeth Conference comes as no surprise. But the way in which it has been set up fills me with deep sadness.
First, the organisers appear not to have consulted the Anglican leaders of the province in which the conference is to be held — surely a basic act of courtesy. They claim that a letter was sent to the Bishop of Jerusalem on 24 December; but in what sense was this a meaningful consultation, or an announcement of a decision already made?
Second, the organisers have clearly alienated some of their strongest supporters by not including in the planning of the conference key Anglican leaders from “Asia, the West Indies, and the Middle East”. Why this exclusion?
Third, the Archbishop of Sydney and others are in danger of setting the clock back 80 years to the battle for Christian fundamentalism in the 1920s, by the way they are trying to define “soundness”. Of course, this discussion is important; but does it mean that only those who subscribe to Dr Jensen’s narrow criteria will be accepted? Does he want the Anglican Communion to become a sect in which only those who agree with him are welcome?
Fourth, the choice of Jerusalem may be iconic, but could further destabilise the fragile Christian witness in the Holy Land. Maybe, as the Revd George Conger is quoted as saying (News, 4 January), some European-led Christian groups do have an “anti-Israel agenda”, in contrast with the strongly Zionist view of many American Christians; but there are others in Europe who try to be more balanced.
My concern is for Palestinian Christians. Are they now going to suffer further as a result of this conference? What efforts are the organisers going to make to encourage them, and to bring them closer to their Messianic believers?
This conference appears to be rightly concerned for faithfulness to the biblical gospel, and for personal righteousness. But if the leaders do not show love — for those with whom they may disagree, as well as for others — and a desire for peace among Christians, as well as more widely, what will its outcome be?
Billington, Leighton Buzzard
Beds LU7 9BW
From Canon John Howden
Sir, — The present sight of our bishops wrangling and bickering like alley cats is both unseemly and unsavoury. Jesus’s command is unequivocal: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15.12). In our world of division and hatred, those who seek peace have to learn to agree to disagree. We have to respect our fellow human beings and live in harmony with them, no matter what differences we find. That is what the commandment means.
The bishops are, or should be, the focus of unity in the Church. They are asked in the ordination and consecration of a bishop: “Will you promote peace and reconciliation in the Church and in the world; and will you strive for the visible unity of Christ’s Church?”
Do the bishops feel ashamed of their dereliction of their divine calling? Will they, in humility, come to Lambeth to confer with their brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Church may go forward in strength, offering hope and forgiveness to a torn world? Or are they dedicated to presiding over the death of the Anglican Church?
Twenty or 30 years from now these oh-so-important debates will seem very trivial. Thank God that the gospel will survive, no matter what our bishops may do.
12A Back Road, Writtle
Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3PD