Why the Trajectory of Lambeth Matters, even if it does Little

What Lambeth does matters, even if it does little.

The 2008 Lambeth Conference, we have been told over and over again, was not designed to be a legislative or decision making body. Rather it was meant to be a reflective and engaging time for the bishops who gathered and for the church as a whole. That means, however, that the meat grinder that was at work from Lambeth 1998 and the Kuala Lumpur South to South meeting the previous year (1997) has continued to turn out supposedly "orthodox" sausage and is working to do so now.

The Windsor Report, touted as the new icon for the fix that was on in the Anglican
Communion, has been widely rebuffed from the left and the right and yet now is reintroduced, moratoria intact, as the core of a fix for the future of the Communion. The Anglican Covenant, which for a short time seemed to be moving away from becoming a litmus test for Anglican identity, is now firmly back on track as the way by which Churches can self select in or out of formal full engagement with the Anglican Communion.

Ten years ago there was wringing of hands about the unwarranted criticism of Africans'

theological sophistication by some thinkers in the West. Just weeks ago there was the opportunity to pounce on an American bishop, a woman, who had the audacity to suggest that cultural standards that condone beating of women are pervasive and might also be present in the church. She too was viewed as insensitive and just a bit piggy. The bishop in question, Bishop Roskam of New York, has since taken the media and the bishops to task on how her words were mistaken, misquoted or misused. But meanwhile she is viewed has having bashed third world bishops and it recalls the last Conference.

In the midst of the fracas that ensued there was an interesting comment by Archbishop John Sentamu of York. Bishop Sentamu, you may remember pledged not to wear a clerical collar until President Mugabe was bounced. He also camped out in York Minster and parachuted from an airplane. By the way, he was wearing a collar on several occasions at Lambeth. Mugabe is still messing with peoples minds and bodies in Zimbabwe. Well, here is what he is reported to have said,

"As far as Africa is concerned, she needs to be wary of the damage that has been done by [Bishop] Spong and his twelve theses."

Ruth Gledhill, reporting for the London Times noted, "The retired Bishop Spong declared in his theses that Christianity must change or die, and that every central Christian doctrine, including theism, Christ's divinity, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, was impossible and must beforced to apologise at the last Lambeth Conference after implying that African religion was based on superstition." redefined. He was also

So, the Archbishop of York resurrected at the 2008 Lambeth Conference one of the primary theological concerns that was on the minds of bishops at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. It was not about homosexuality, although the punch line of Bishop Spong's 12 theses was indeed about inclusion. It was about whether or not the American Episcopal Church was going to discipline Bishop Spong for the heretic he clearly was and, if not, who would.

The long trajectory of those days still gives us the dual targets: theological heterodoxy and lack of biblical values based on "the plain reading of Scripture."

Either way gay and lesbian people are screwed, but with them a huge number of the rest of those of us who are part of Anglican Churches. The targets are NOT gay and lesbian people alone, the targets are all of us when we believe that we can be faithful followers of Christ Jesus and still question biblically literal statements or worse yet consider them inadequate as statements of fact while considering them holy as statements that point to faith.

Lambeth 2008 did nothing to address these matters. These are still driven by the mechanics of the legislative work of Lambeth 1998 and the committee work of the "Instruments of Unity." More importantly the Archbishop of Canterbury has reaffirmed the basic work of those instruments and the legislative decisions of Lambeth 1998 as the moral stance of the Communion. So here we are in 2008 with no movement beyond the administration of the "mind of the Communion" as determined by Lambeth 1998 by way of the various committees and commissions authorized by the Archbishop and sometimes the Primates. Most of which, of course, is paid for by western monies.

Well, who the hell cares? The realignment crowd thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury is a loser and the instruments of unity a joke. The progressive are given to shaking off all "interdependence" talk as a bit of conservative double speak whose purpose is to delay and delay until gay and lesbian people, and anyone else who things there might be some change in the way Scripture is handled just leave.

The trouble is, I care. And indeed I think many of us do.

No one "got rid" of Bishop Spong. He retired and went about with his writing. His most recent book (I think it is the most
recent) is Jesus for the Non Religious. I'm about half way through it. I don't particularly like it, but Bishop Spong is doing two things that are very important: (i) he is putting something in the hands of non-believers that tries to make sense of being a follower of Jesus without accepting the "religious structure" that accompanies the telling of the Good News, (ii) he is asking again and again why it is that damn near everyone who has done serious theological work understands (for example) that the stories of the birth of Jesus are not factual but rather emblematic - told for purposes that are true even if the stories are more a fantasy. Why isn't biblical criticism taken seriously by so many Anglicans?

Now those who like Archbishop Sendamu remember the twelve theses of Bishop Spong remember them as outrageous, and as the basis for hauling him into ecclesiastical court and having his tongue cut out or whatever would shut him up. At least, it was argued, he ought to be deposed so that such naught thoughts would not be thought to be in any way related to regular paid up Anglican thinking.

But of course such thoughts are part of the thinking of almost anyone who does theological study in the twentieth or twenty first century. If there is anything wrong with Spong it
is that he is fascinated with fundamentalism in his tirades against it. Many of us have simply taken the best of modern scholarship and tried to exercise some care in our telling of the Christimas message so that we don't mix up the celebration of the Feast of the Incarnation with the gobbly-gook story of Christmas. But at the core Spong's demands are that we try to live with the results of that scholarship and stop repeating the same old myths as if they were what the Truth was about.

But Lambeth's trajectory simply makes Spong's twelve theses the continued enemy, and Bishop Roskam's remarks on violence a new edition.

We need to be clear that the trajectory of Lambeth is to consider a way by which Bishop Spong could be shut up, if not in fact at least by rejection and anathema. And, if the going gets rough and the suggestion is made that treatment of women is excused at times because, after all,
it is part of the culture, the person making such a radical and bitter comment, namely a woman bishop from the first world, could be shut up as well by saying, "see, she is just like Bishop Spong and his twelve theses."

Strike one for the Lambeth trajectory.

Then let us consider my mother. She is ninety years old and is dying. She knows it, we know it, there it is. She is doing it well and with grace. As an artist Anne has done a series of computer drawing collected as "Post Mortem Anne: A Fantasy." You can see the pictures HERE.

So far so good. It turns out that Anne has continued her fantasy, having lived, thank God, for a while longer. In one of her recent drawings she and Ed (her husband, our father) and Jesus are all in front of God, who is a woman who has her arms around all of them. You can tell Jesus
because he has a halo. But Ed, Anne, and Jesus are naked and all before God. It turns out in the fantasy that Jesus brought Ed and Anne to God.

Now there is a name for that fantasy. It is a heresy, some form of Arianism I suppose. Jesus is not God, Jesus is different from Ed and Anne, but they are all before God, and God is welcoming.

If Anne were as important a figure in the Anglican world as she is in mine, the current
Lambeth trajectory would have her shut up just as it would have Bishop Spong shut up. Heresy is heresy. But of course bishops get to be bigger targets for the arrows of Lambeth than my mother and after all who wants to pick on a woman who is dying and will have to face up to whatever wacko ideas she has sooner rather than later. Besides, she has only poisoned a few poor slobs, me for example. She is not worth the effort.

But of course you have to watch out about artists. Their work lives on and with it their message. Anne's message was given to her by her priest of many years ago. A Mister Cornish, who came to give her confirmation instruction, told her that Jesus is our guide to God. So it stuck. There it is. Anglicanism is rife with such little heresy. But the Lambeth tide is against such rubbish.

Still Anne's family and friends will remember.

Strike two for the Lambeth trajectory.

And then there is me. I write poetry. I am absolutely dead certain that if the Lambeth trajectory goes forward from Lambeth 1998 and Kuala Lampur and say the fundamentalist Niagara Creed of 1878 and the 1910 statement of the five fundamentals which are:
  • Inerrancy of the Scriptures
  • The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14)
  • The doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God's grace and through human faith (Hebrews 9)
  • The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)
  • The authenticity of Christ's miracles (or, alternatively, his pre-millennial second coming)[4]
Well it is flat out true that Spong is against the fundamentalist five points. It is only passably true that my mother's fantasy is against fundamentalism, although her theology is clearly out of whack. But my poetry takes me down other lines.

I suggest in one poem, The Fruit of the Vine, that God could not know the delights of life unless God became one of us. That is, part of the reason for the incarnation is so that God might understand us in our delights and sorrows. I wrote about the apostles that

" they knew the taste of cheese and fruit,
of bread and wine,
were all enhanced by the deliciousness
of temporality.

They knew that laying head on breast,
and washing feet,
and smiling at Mary's ankles
as she brought more wine,
and looking into young John's eyes
dark as olives,

deep as pools of water,
was as good as it gets,
particularly when the hangman was near by....

But God, who knows no moments
just as moments
must have been surprised
to find that this last supper
was so poignant,
so, let us say, in fleshed."

I am dead sure this is some sort of theological heresy wrapped up with the suggestion that God is not omniscient. But there you are. And I am certain that if I were a person of note, an important person, the long arm of fundamentalist thinking in Anglicanism would reach out and attempt to silence me as well.

Few in Anglican land care much what my mother and I think. After all we are not bishops. They may think badly of me as a priest. They will let my mother go.

But we need to be clear: the trouble with the Anglican trajectory is that the target for its disciplinary arrows are all of us who thought that Anglican spirituality and practice had a place for us and that we were broadly speaking included in the fellowship of the ch

Strike three for the Lambeth trajectory.

Lambeth did not invite Bishop Robinson and in doing so they did not invite Bishop Spong, my mother and me. Perhaps they did not invite you. When the analysis of Lambeth 2008 is given it will, I hope, be noted that Lambeth's big tent was never big enough to protect the queer, the old and the poetic.

That is why what Lambeth does matters, even if it does little.


  1. This is beautifully written. Thank you for it.

    I personally see other problems, in addition, and I really don't believe the Communion will hold and certainly not much longer when the ABC, in particular, falls right into the categories you define in some of his theology which is a big "Oh Dear!" for many whose names roll off our tongues, and for many more that don't, globally.

    I don't think the AC, in its current form, CAN hold. I just do not see the NA churches turning into plain reading AC doormats and I don't see the GAFCON types accepting anything BUT plain reading, etc., as you point out even if the rest of everything remained the same, which it will not.

    I do, however, think that all will be well... that is my faith, not my head speaking.

  2. That (your poetry) is beautiful, Mark.

    Prayers for your mother---and you.

    God bless TEC!

  3. But, God does, and in the long run, that is the only thing that matters!

    It is time to begin the transition --

  4. Yes. The use of force to compel or exclude expressions of faith is abhorrent and yet built into much of Christianity.

    The ecclesiastical elites have always been concerned with power and, in the church, power means thought-control. It is self-defeating: surely faith that is not freely chosen (and whioch therefore always holds the possibility of more or less heterodoxy) is no more than a half-faith. No-one can be forced into the presence of God.

    I think the church needs fundamentalists and sytematic theologians, and Spongs. She also needs mystics, artists and poets. The latter will always be on the edges and the powerful will always distrust them, but they cannot stop dreamers infecting the wells from which we drink.

    The Lambeth trajectory seems primarily to narrow and make more legalistic the language of the elite. If pursued it will become a barren church with a limited vocabulary.

    Luckily elites cosistently over-estimate their own importance. They are not able to tell God how to speak, nor even your mother.

  5. Beautiful post and poem.

    I'm told that there are similar ideas in the Jewish Midrashic tales. The angels both despise and envy mortals for their mortality. There are lots of stories of mortals having to rescue angels who (being immortal and unworldly) frequently find themselves in trouble when visiting this world.

    If the Anglican Communion is going to take a fundamentalist path, is it worth keeping?

  6. I asked my bishop and bishop suffragen about the tension between the indaba process and the Windsor Process and they agreed. I think our task is to continue the former and defeat the latter. Canterbury continues to embrace both, mistakenly I think. The key thing is for TEC and Canada to keep pushing forward (I'm not sure how much they will, but it will be enough, especially with regard to blessings), so that the rest of the Communion has to stay engaged with these issues. Where moderate, Communion conservatives get it wrong is that these issues would not even be raised on a Communion level without some member churches forcing the issue by our honesty. Some in England may deplore this "foot in the door" strategy. But that's precisely what is required. If we can keep it going and work on our relationships, it may help the whole Communion to move forward.

    To the credit of the Lambeth organizers, the issue of domestic violence the households of bishops (not only in Africa) was at least raised, along with pervasive sexual violence in African contexts. Anything that raises feminist concerns in any Anglican context can only be to the good. York's comments about Bishop Roskam notwithstanding.

  7. Mark, the primary objection voiced against both +Spong and +Roskam was the implicit racism (whether deliberate or unconscious) in their remarks. The Africans certainly didn't like the Spong's theology, but Gledhill's and +Sentamu's comments indicate that this is not the point.

    I don't think you folks are aware of yourselves. Your own remarks:

    He is asking again and again why it is that damn near everyone who has done serious theological work understands (for example) that the stories of the birth of Jesus are not factual but rather emblematic - told for purposes that are true even if the stories are more a fantasy. Why isn't biblical criticism taken seriously by so many Anglicans?

    Mark, there are plenty of people who have done serious theological work that understand the stories of the birth of Jesus as primarily factual, even people who take biblical criticism seriously and are aware of the other legendary birth narratives and the historical issues, etc. Surely you know that. But your statement implies that anyone who sees these stories as factual haven't done serious theological work. This is sheer intellectual snobbery, and does not suggest the inclusive ideal you call for elsewhere here. After all, what will we do with all these inferior clergy who haven't done serious theological work? There is no racism in your remarks, but there is a prejudice of another kind.

    Personally, if my rector espoused the views of Spong, I wouldn't waste my time looking for him to be disciplined. He or she is welcome to whatever beliefs they choose. But I would find a different church. And you could call me a Donatist, a Fundamentalist, a neo-Puritan or whatever name you want to drag up. But frankly, I do believe the preaching of the Word is a sacramental act as well as the Eucharist, and I would not imperil my spiritual life by subjecting myself and my family to false teaching. I wouldn't care what names you pull out of the hat.

    Frankly, I'm not sure I could accept you as my rector. Not because you doubt the virgin birth (which I think a minor issue), or because I don't respect you (actually, I respect you tremendously), but because I'm not sure you understand the tremendous importance of the teaching and proclamation ministry a priest has, and what good and damage it can do. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preaching of Christ." But if something or someone else is preached, what then?

  8. Oh, God. Please don't make this about Spong, of all people.

    If Spong is what Anglicanism has come to, then who gives a damn about it? The criticism isn't of Spong's pathetic "Theses" - or of his nonexistent "theology" - it's of Spong's arrogance.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury is not a Biblical literalist. (Neither is anybody else, for that matter; "usury" isn't questioned; divorce is permitted; anaesthesia is used in childbirth. Need I go on?)

    This is not about Western White Heterosexual Males, as much as everybody wants to make it so. It's not about "Biblical literalism," either. It's about power and about using gay people to get it. Period.

    It's about the fact that the Anglican Communion - including TEC - doesn't have anything to say to Peter Akinola's fascism. It's about the fact that nobody seems to know what a Christian life actually involves, so intent are they on preserving their own cultural values - and their positions of authority.

    Nobody's fooled about any of this, you know. And lots of us are fed up now, and aren't going to stick around because nobody would want to belong to a church like this.

  9. textjunkie10/8/08 1:06 PM

    Thanks, Mark. That sums it up beautifully.

  10. Francis of Assisi and John of the Cross were both hauled before the inquisition at one point or another. Legalism is its own religion and Nigeria et al pray there.

    For those of us, the artists, the poets, the mystic and the singers, there is little room within orthodox legalism. So be it. I think I know who Jesus would dine with, indeed with whom Jesus dines.

    The earth shows forth the love of God. Some of us insist on laws against it.

    Thanks for a beautiful piece of writing, the lovely verse, and the opportunity to pray for Anne, her family and her journey.


    Jim's Thoughts

  11. I applaud Paul's well written thoughts - thanks, Paul. I'm a priest, but a former lawyer/businessman, and I tend to a largely practical rather than theoretical bent. The fact is that our General Convention is simply not going to permit other provinces, or even a Pastoral whatever it is, to come and tell us what we have to believe. I suspect that the large majority of bishops feel the same way, even though many may truly believe that a continued moratorium would help the Communion to 'heal.' It won't. The reality is that the FOCA fools have tied themselves up in a package, financed by conservative Americans, and they are never going to back down - at least not for a long, long time. thus, the 'schism' or in any event split, is already here. Does anyone's parishioners even know what is going on? I asked my intelligent, EFM grad, former Vestry member of a Cathedral sister if she knew what GAFCON was, and she had no idea. None of my folks ever bring it up. It truly would be sad if we and Canada were no longer in communion with the ABC, but I doubt it will happen, and it won't change my life and ministry if it does. My parish supports a substantial direct ministry in Uganda, and I doubt if ++Orombi even knows about it. The priests there that we support don't talk about all of this - and I don't ask them about it when they visit. We are simply concerned with doing the Lord's work - and that is what will define the Church - period.

  12. Great comment, rb. Would that those who have ears to hear would listen. Instead, we get the usual Episcopalian attitude that the revelation of God in Christ, who He is and how He miraculously came among us, is optional stuff that "Lambeth" ought to lay off of. And so we're told that the wisdom of the Church down through the ages should be taken less seriously than the ramblings of a crank "bishop" who long ago renounced anything resembling Christianity, and is celebrated by his institutional home for it.

    Maybe the Episcopalians who love to lord their intellectual, aesthetic and moral superiority over others should hold their noses and consider, for once, the apostle they revile most:

    "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

    'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." (1 Cor 1:18-21)


  13. Fr. Mark,
    Perhaps this is a sign that I'm a heretic... but I can't see the heresy ("Arianism") in your dear mother's drawing nor in what she was taught by the Revd. Mister Cornish. Jesus is "our guide to God," and He is a human being who stands in solidarity with us, bringing us to God. Isn't your mother's painting just a lovely visual metaphor for the doctrince of Chalcedon--that Jesus is fully human and fully divine--putting the emphasis on the human side of the equation? Isn't your mother simply drawing 1 Timothy 2:5? ... "...there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human...."

    I've becoming increasingly concerned that the tendency of even "liberal" Christians to think that robust affirmation of Jesus' full humanity is "heresy" is a sign that much of Christianity has been captured by crypto-docetism.

    As for your wonderful poem ... again, no heresy there if one reads it generously in the light of the importance of the Incarnation. One of the things that most binds me to Christianity is that I worship a God who knows my humanity from the inside-out.

  14. Thank you for sharing Anne with us once again...she's great and that is besides being talented.


  15. rb, with all due respect, and in my humble opinion, it, (representing Christianity), is not about preaching. It is about "being."

    We are "Christ" in the world. We are not about the law. We are each, in our inadequate humanity, Christ's love, or not. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol." 1 Corinthians 13:1

    The first and greatest commandment is to love your God; the second "like unto it," is to love your neighbor as yourself."

    First, first, first, we are about love. We are not about righteousness or judgement, or deciding who is right.

    What is the quote?: "Faith comes by the hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ." I don't recognize that particular quote.

    I find that my faith is enanced by real encounters with faithful, baptized Christians who are "being" faithful and loving. It is not encouraged or enlightened by "preaching," and especially not when I am "preached at."

  16. Romans 10:17 (NRSV)

    So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

  17. Ambition and fanaticism have met together,
    Political supremacism and religious doctrinalism have kissed each other.

  18. Mark - You say "But at the core Spong's demands are that we try to live with the results of that scholarship and stop repeating the same old myths as if they were what the Truth was about."

    Perhaps, the Truth you refer to is not something that can be told - the way an "old myth" may be told in a simple narrative for all to either believe or disbelieve at their own peril. If it can - please please do so.

    If it can't - perhaps and explanation of why not is in order. We are at bottom talking about different views of how the world works and how and what we can understand about it.

    Anglicanism has a something profound to say about the Truth in this modern "non-religous" age - it needs to get on with saying it - millions are waiting for the word of Christ.

  19. By the way - nice new picture. It's very distinguished.

  20. Spot on. As a college student in New Hampshire, I most certainly was not invited. Was the ABC telling me I may be an Episcopalian, but that I am not an Anglican?

  21. Lambeth's trajectory .....even with TEC having 1/4 of the bishops at Lambeth, even without the GAFCON bishops present, still the trajectory does not go TEC's way?

    So, Rowan asks another decade of waiting.....and obedience to his moratoria....and TEC will oblige.

    It's your own fault, TEC! This situation arises from bending over backwards to stay in Rowan's club, accepting the exclusion of Gene, voting for BO33 as a political sticking plaster....not having the courage of convictions.

    When will TEC put principles before institutional unity?

  22. Mark+,
    As a gay man I give thanks every day that I am able to worship the risen Lord Jesus freely in the Episcopal Church.

    At the same time, I feel deep sympathy for my conservative brothers and sisters who are confounded by the way many Episcopalians talk about their faith as if it exists completely independently from the Creeds and the Book of Common Prayer.

    Liberal clergypeople slam Conservatives for violating their vows to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of TEC but then violate those vows themselves by teaching about the Creed and Scriptures in ways contrary to the Prayer Book. Conservatives violate the discipline of the Church, liberals violate the doctrine and they are both always convinced of their integrity.

    I think it rightly brings ridicule on the Church when progressives turn the simple statement "I believe," or "We believe" into some convoluted, nuanced concept that allows them to say the Creed or pray a Eucharistic Prayer without wincing or feeling queasy.

    If there's fascism on the right of the Church, there's so much hypocrisy on the left of the Church. How many liberal ordinands are forsworn at their ordinations when they make the vow that Scripture contains ALL things generally necessary to salvation? Or how can a priest lead his/her congregation in affirming a collective belief in the Virgin Birth but not believe it?

    Many Episcopalians like me are simply seeking some sort of reasonable harmony between what we pray as a Church and the theological positions we hold. I believe that the prayer book should form and inform our beliefs about God as we pray the Office and gather for Eucharist. I don't understand why this isn't self-evident for Episcopalians.

    Liberals complain that The Lambeth Quadrilateral should be enough or some limited statement about our common belief in Jesus Christ and Mission. But since liberals often become so slippery when it comes to what they mean by "belief," I can see why there can often be a lack of trust in them. I don't agree with a punitive covenant, but I understand the impulse behind it. Also, how can the conservatives trust the common bonds made by a common liturgy when the liberals don't seem to view Common Prayer as an instrument that binds their belief?

    I've never wanted to be accepted as a gay man in the Church because the Church has ceased to confess the apostolic teaching that makes us a Church. You see, I promised in my Baptismal Covenant to follow in the Apostle's Teaching and
    Fellowship, not only to respect the dignity of every human being.

    The Conservatives may hate me, but I worry about what will happen when they are gone and can no longer constrain the excesses of the liberal wing of the Church.


  23. I feel deep sympathy for my conservative brothers and sisters who are confounded by the way many Episcopalians talk about their faith as if it exists completely independently from the Creeds and the Book of Common Prayer.

    how can the conservatives trust the common bonds made by a common liturgy when the liberals don't seem to view Common Prayer as an instrument that binds their belief?

    If you will look around a bit in the real world, I think you will find that it is generally those on the happyclappy end of the spectrum who consider the prayerbook optional.

  24. rb said, "I'm not sure you understand the tremendous importance of the teaching and proclamation ministry a priest has, and what good and damage it can do. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preaching of Christ." But if something or someone else is preached, what then?"

    actually, rb, I do. I preach regularly and am in complete agreement with this statement of yours. You might be surprised just how much prayer accompanies my preaching (much of it in the agony of the reading again of the sermon at about 6 AM prior to preaching at 8 and 10.)

    It might very well be that you would not want me as rector. I've had that happen.

    What I was looking for you said: "prmarily factual" and that the virgin birth was a "minor" issue. That is enough to begin a conversation about biblical criticism.

    Concerning Spong's 12 theses, he wrote those a good while before Lambeth and his remarks there. When the Archbishop of York references the theses, it is really the reaction to them at Lambeth and Bishop Spong's taunting and possibly racist retort that was probably on his mind, but calling up the theses reminded me that the desire to get the Episcopal Church to "do something" about Bishop Spong was around long before Lambeth and was about his understanding of the biblical witness.

    As for your charge of "intellectual snobbery," I think my sentence was confusing. Almost all Anglicans have done the theological work, but few actually follow up on it, rather they continue to tell the story as if the biblical critical work had never been done. (I am correcting this this afternoon.)

  25. stuart: you write, "If there's fascism on the right of the Church, there's so much hypocrisy on the left of the Church. How many liberal ordinands are forsworn at their ordinations when they make the vow that Scripture contains ALL things generally necessary to salvation? Or how can a priest lead his/her congregation in affirming a collective belief in the Virgin Birth but not believe it?"

    fascism on the right hypocrisy on the left.. interesting split.

    I don't know how many liberals are "forsworn" at their ordination vows. I took them and still abide by them, including the proposition that the Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation. Meaning also that HS also include things unnecessary yet sometimes useful for particular people seeking salvation.

    As to the believe in the virgin birth, it is interesting to note that the phrase, "virgin birth" does not appear in the creeds. Rather there is reference to "the Virgin Mary." It is a title. A descriptive reference would have been to "the virgin Mary" or to "Mary, a virgin." By the time the creeds are written she is already titled. The Creed of Saint Athanasius Mary is not referred to by name at all, but in the phrase, "and Man, of the substance of his Mother, born in the world."

    You seem to think I am crossing my fingers when I say "born of the Virgin Mary" because I don't take the virgin birth as plain fact. There is both more and less to the witness to Jesus Christ than can be contained in the creeds. I say the creed and know that.

  26. "All things necessary for salvation" is not the same as the fundamentalist - uber calvanist idea which is that all things they like are necessary. The Bible also contains things that are not necessary. cf the rules for sacrifice.

    The simple truth is that this is not a fight about the Bible, not a fight about lesbian / gay sexuality, and not a fight about Jesus. It is a fight about who gets to decide, and about secular American politics. Anyone who thinks the IRD and GafCon are funded to do something relating to God is smoking an illegal substance.


  27. You have written well about the trajectory, but not at all about why Lambeth matters. I don't think it does anymore, except as a historical relic, a token of nostalgia.

    TEC is moving into a post-Anglican phase, and the battlefront will shift to England, where the fighting will be ten times nastier than it's been here. (Imagine that.)

    I'm not giving a brass farthing to retire Lambeth's debt, and I'm beginning to oppose my diocese's annual budget for a future Lambeth. I don't think one will be held, or if it is, that my bishop ought to go. I don't regret the past spending, but Lambeth now seems irrelevant.

    Meanwhile all around TEC, thousands of parishes are holding to the Prayer Book, the Sacraments, the Creeds, the preaching, the soup kitchen, 12-Step groups, blessing pets and emergency workers and holy relationships, comforting the dying, celebrating the living, doing all we can to feed and shelter people. Lambeth? Whuzzat?

  28. Father Craig: I agree with you--most don't have a CLUE what is happening.

    I am in year 4 EFM (starting this fall) and I talk(ed) about it; to those on our Vestry, and to those in my EFM class. Most wouldn't have a single clue if I didn't. Shame. The group mentors don't follow this either, however, I carpooled with one for the last two years, so she had no choice but to learn a bit as I talked about it every week.

    And I agree with your other assumptions about what this is really about. I look at what's been done, barriers put up by some, and I see no way around, over or under those BRIGHT-LINE barriers of GAFCON/FOCA, not to mention the others in CCP.

    I'm not sure how it will work out for TEC... still don't have a real handle on that, but as far as the communion goes, I agree that we are already split, except in name. Where many of the undedicated Global South will go, individually, is probably evident to many, but still not to me.

    It is a shame that we cannot remain together, but we cannot. At least we cannot do it on the backs of our lgbt folks in TEC, and I believe that is true in Canada, as well.

    The nice thing about EFM, imho, is that it gentles the way for this split (at least for me) given the history of Anglicanism, and I can hardly wait to add the more recent history in year 4.

  29. HS also include things unnecessary yet sometimes useful for particular people seeking salvation.

    You seem to think I am crossing my fingers when I say "born of the Virgin Mary" because I don't take the virgin birth as plain fact. There is both more and less to the witness to Jesus Christ than can be contained in the creeds. I say the creed and know that.

    Well said, Mark. Thanks.

    The verb I like, re the Creeds, is "profess". It's far MORE than simply "saying" them...

    ...but it's ALSO far MORE than treating them as T/F propositions, about which one could be wired to a lie-detector, and tested.

    It's a song of praise . . . and, as for the The Nicene Creed, it's a song by the church. The community. "We". A "we" composed of all the "I's" w/ all our individual, subjective understandings, which add up to MORE than the sum of our parts (whether beliefs, or doubts---probably both!)

    While I expect a priest to know more than I do (hopefully---I've been blessed that way thus far!), I don't expect my priest expound in a "teach to the T/F test" kind of way. That's BAD preaching at best, and apt to be a dangerously "Are you forgeting the dignity of MY (lay) person, Father (Mother)?" way of propagandizing, besides. :-/

  30. All those conservative bishops who yammer on about +Spong could have brought him up on charges of heresy themselves. They didn't---I suspect because he made too good of a whipping boy where he was.

    So those of you who keep dragging him out of the closet as some sort of liberal boogeyman are being, at best, disingenous, and, at worst, dishonest. I don't know a single progressive Episcopalian who agrees with him totally. He certainly is not considered a "mainstream" Episcopalian by anyone I know.

    Mark---I was not invited to Lambeth. I am a progressive, heterosexual woman who can say the Nicene Creed without crossing my fingers. I've got no problem with the virgin birth either---for the God who created this glorious universe, that would be nothing but a parlor trick, and it just isn't something I worry about, one way or the other.

    I am tired of being told I am not "orthodox" because I believe that God is calling us to include all the baptized in the life and ministry of the church. I suspect I am far more "orthodox" than many who want to kick me out of the church. (Most of them seem to be gnostics---and totally unaware that they are committed to the earliest of heresies.)

    Full inclusion is not a "justice" issue for me---it goes to the heart of my belief that God loves EVERYONE, and that faithful love between two people is a sign of God's presence and grace...no matter what sex they happen to love. To accuse me of wanting full inclusion based on some political agenda is to trivialize my faith and my experience of the Living God.

    Cany---glad to see the good review of EFM. I'm a mentor, and it totally changed my life and my relationship with God.


  31. Spong's book does not simply concern the unchurched. A longstanding church person where I attend often refers to it in his presentation to group discussions.

    When the Archbishop again recently said he had views he gives in public and different views he holds as a result of personal study, he makes the case for a form of duplicity that involves many in Anglicanism and other denominations.

    The only way around this is to declare a difference between liturgy, which has to be common and a single pathway, and theology which is diverse.

    If anyone wants to know my views I will tell them. The danger is appearing to believe something and actually believing something else.

    If you look at my recent blog entry on Richard Dawkins's position you can see that my viewpoint intersecting with his does preclude some Christian views - well I don't hold them.

    I'm only an ordinary worshipper: I have considered seriously pursuing ordination but my views pretty much make this difficult and the fact that I express them.

    I rather agree with Spong that Christianity needs revision, at least for some of us that revision needs to be legitimate. He writes to an important constituency. He has some of the enthusiasm even arrogance of his evangelical background, but no one thinks he is faultless - he just says something important.

  32. And for something many people will like even less than BIshop Spong,
    visit "Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth". The old pagan religions had
    a lot of beliefs about important persons who became gods (either in their lifetimes or after death), Virgin births ( a fairly common occurance in the ancient world), resurrection after death, and other presently contentious issues.


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