Conference is ‘not as crucial as it once was’

by
06 February 2008

by Peter Jensen

ON SATURDAY I had the pleasure of ordaining 49 men and women who were officially starting their ministries in Anglican churches in Sydney and beyond. Amid their joy and enthusiasm, I charged them to be faithful servants of the biblical message. I did so, aware that I had to announce later in the day our painful decision that we will not go to the Lambeth Conference.

I have characterised this debate not just as one of sexual ethics but of faithfulness to the very message those ordinands had promised to uphold.

There has been a long road leading to this. The last Lambeth Conference in 1998 made it clear that the leaders of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide maintained the biblical view of sexual ethics. . .

Five years later, however, actions were taken in Anglican Churches in Canada and the United States that officially transgressed these boundaries in defiance of the Lambeth resolution and the teaching of the Bible.

The American actions affected Churches around the world. In particular, the Churches of the Global South had to own the name “Anglican” while living in societies where the actions of the Americans were condemned by all, especially Muslims. The action of some North Americans severely hurt the witness of these Churches.

Since then, patient attempts have been made to call the offending North Americans back to biblical standards. Many American Anglicans are now more aware of the distress which their actions have caused others, and regret this. At the same time, however, others have condemned attempts by Global South bishops to provide ministry for the orthodox Christians who still wish to be Anglican, but cannot continue to do so in the fellowship of the American Churches. . .

There has been a permanent change. Some American Anglicans are as committed to their new sexual ethics as to the gospel itself, and they intend to act as missionaries for this faith, wishing to persuade the rest of us. . .

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Some have said to me: isn’t it better to be there than stay away? I respect those who hold that view, but it is not as simple as that. Several African provinces have indicated that they will not be attending, because to do so would be to acquiesce with the North American actions. . .

People, the media included, should not jump to wrong conclusions. We are not alone in this. Some of the largest Anglican communities in the world have taken the same decision.

This is not a discourtesy to the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have assured him of our prayers as we continue in the Anglican Communion, and I am sure he understands our situation.

We remain committed to the international Anglican Communion. Our commitment to vital, life-changing ministry in local churches goes on week by week. Judging by what I saw at our ordination service, I have confidence that God will honour the enthusiasm and faithfulness of those faces of the future.

This is an edited extract from the Sydney Morning Herald.

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