Bishop John Lipscomb wrote his diocese this week. It was a thoughtful letter, although I believe he does an analysis of the Anglican "situation" that is prejudging and not helpful. He states that there are "… two major parties in the life of our church. There is a consistency in the theological and moral teachings within each that stands in opposition to the other. Our division begins with two radically different views regarding the authority of the Holy Scriptures."
It is increasingly unwise to divide the Church into the "two" parties on the matter of the approach to or use of the Holy Scriptures. What happens with almost unfailing frequency is that one party turns out to be described as soft on heresy, moral certitude, communism, or whatever, and the other true to the faith delivered and unchanging. Bishop Lipscomb whose analytical abilities are far greater than that could have done better.
And then, toward the end of his letter he makes this comment, one true to Bishop Lipscomb's clarity of belief and his commitment to justice . He wrote this:
"On a final note, I must address the growing concern regarding human rights abuses in Nigeria and the reported support of the primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria for laws that would criminalize homosexual behavior. I am aware that our Lord said that we should take the log out of our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from our brother's eye. Even as we need to clear our own vision this church must stand opposed to the abuse of human rights wherever they may occur. It is only when we allow freedom of conscience for the other, no matter how much we may disagree about their manner of life, that our freedom is assured. Support for such laws is contrary to both the letter and spirit of Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. This resolution is clear:
- Recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the church and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
- while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex."
Bishop Lipscomb is willing to speak out against the support given by the Archbishop of Nigeria for repressive legislation. That he uses Lambeth 1998, Res. 1.10 in support of this position is completely unnecessary. But as someone who appears to support the rest of the resolution and may, as many in the realignment camp do, believe that this indeed is the mind of the Communion requiring our compliance, it is no wonder he did use it.
Lambeth resolutions are not the place to go for support. Rather we might go to such places as our Baptismal covenant in an ecclesiastical context or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a political context. Lambeth Resolutions are, by comparison, a trifle. The Baptismal Covenant provides all the justification we need for respecting the dignity of every human being, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a "natural" law sensibility for the rights of all people.
Still, he did speak out against the Archbishop and the Church of Nigeria and their support of the proposed legislation.
Bishop Lipscomb has spoken. But what about Bishop Minns of CANA and Bishop Duncan of ACN?
Bishop Minns is in a hard place. The Archbishop is his patron and boss. It's hard to be critical under such circumstances. Still, Bishop Minns says nothing to distance himself from the support give by the Archbishop for the legislation in Nigeria, much less from the Archbishop's own justifications for supporting the legislation – a variation on the love the sinner, hate the sin argument.
It may be that the Moderator of the Network has spoken out, but as far as I know, he has not. (I will publish any statement of distancing he might have made.) Actually, nothing publically has been heard from the Moderator since March 9, 2007 when he sent a message to the Network following the Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam. In the last month the House of Bishops met, Holy Week came and went, and yet we have nothing.
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh newsletter, which witnesses to a breadth of ministry and mission in Pittsburgh, the Bishop had this to say in his Easter message:
"…Do what is right and trust the Lord. It is Scripture's consistent message. Rescue is not always the result - martyrdom and death sometimes are. Yet the message is always the same: Do what is right and trust the Lord.
As a diocese we, here in Pittsburgh, have not bowed down to the culture's golden images. We have stood again and again for the faith once delivered to the saints, without compromise or accommodation. Even though the fiery furnace may await us - heated ten times in the fury of opponents - we will do what is right and trust the Lord.
In a small way, the results of the Primates' Meeting at Dar es Salaam showed the Lord's power, once again, for those who refuse to bow down to the false gods of a declining Western culture. As we look toward Easter, we are reminded of the greatest of all acts of deliverance by our faithful God - a triumph in which we actually share - the triumph of life over death because Jesus would not bow down to the world, the flesh or the devil."
It would appear that the Moderator has other concerns that keep him from speaking either to the results of the House of Bishop's meeting or to matters as seemingly secondary as the actions and words of the Archbishop of Nigeria, who in turn is no slouch in decrying the "false gods of a declining Western culture."
But when will we hear from CANA and ACN on this matter?
At least Bishop Lipscomb said a word.