Monday, February 19, 2007

Chris McGillion: An Anglican unity of sorts, but bring on Lambeth

Chris McGillion: An Anglican unity of sorts, but bring on Lambeth

But it is hard to see how any such mechanism would be any more binding on the independent dioceses of the Anglican Communion than the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that rejected homosexuality as "incompatible with scripture" and said the church could not "advise the legitimising of same-sex unions nor the ordination of those involved in such unions".

That resolution, remember, was approved by an overwhelming vote of bishops (526 to 70) only to be ignored within a matter of years by some of the same Americans who had agreed to it. In any event, the Anglican covenant has now to be considered by Anglican bishops worldwide before next year's Lambeth Conference. That means more delay.

And it will be at this Lambeth gathering, rather than at a meeting of primates, that the strongest divisions between liberals and conservatives are likely to emerge. In Tanzania, for instance, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall - a moderate - represented the province of Australia; at Lambeth next year, Archbishop Peter Jensen - an outspoken opponent of homosexual ordination and blessing same-sex unions - will represent the Diocese of Sydney.

Still, any formal schism would be an ugly affair. It would invite legal disputes over property and lay bare any claim that Christians go about their dealings with one another with more charity than other people.

It is also becoming harder to see how formal schism would deliver any more to either liberals or conservatives than what each enjoys at present. After living with this dispute for five years, elaborate arrangements have been entered into (including fostering "parallel" church structures) that express the "impaired communion" among Anglicans but, in a practical sense, allow liberals and conservatives to do pretty much as they want.

This dispute may be developing into more of a guerilla struggle for the hearts and minds of churchgoers than a conventional struggle over "turf".

Read it all.


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