The Lambeth Conference is a series of meetings, held every ten years since 1867, where the bishops of the world’s Anglican churches meet to discuss canon law, theology, and matters of church doctrine. Although the conference has no “official powers” to order any changes in any of the communion churches, the Lambeth Conference is nevertheless so important that the gathering is considered to be one of the four “Instruments of Communion” of the Anglican Church.
As you probably know from my blog (or elsewhere), the Anglican Church is rapidly heading towards schism. With the 2008 Lambeth Conference rapidly approaching, several conservative bishops, outraged that the Archbishop of Canterbury would invite to the conference controversial bishops from North America at such a delicate time, have decided to “break off” and hold their own conference, the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON for short.
As you might guess, this has has really angered the liberal bishops of the church. Bishop Brian Farran, of the Diocese of Newcastle (Australia) penned this “open letter” (which is actually targeted towards Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney) in response to Jensen’s decision to attend GAFCON. Farran’s letter is absolutely frightening for the sheer amount of Newspeak which it contains. I’ll let the you read Farran’s letter yourself, because Sandy Grant, rector of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong (Sydney) has written an incredible “open letter” to Farran in return. I’ve excerpted the best parts below:
Firstly, there is a surprising reliance on pejorative language in a letter where you commend “grace” and “respectful exploration” and “conversation” regarding the issues being debated. So that others can assess for themselves, I will simply list the descriptors used to characterise the position of the Global South conservatives with whom you disagree:
- “one-dimensional conference” (of GAFCON),
- “forensic theology… bordering on legalism”,
- “narrow template of biblicism… applied relentlessly”,
- “self-declared orthodoxy”,
- “wedge theology”,
- “strategy of division and exclusion”,
- “corrosive strategy”,
- “rigidity” (of interpretive methodology),
- “impositional mind-set”,
- “police-state approach”.
An argument could easily be made that every single one of those phrases is either begs the question or is inaccurate or at the least misleading and overblown. It is certainly highly pejorative. That is your choice. And one can understand slipping into some such language in the height of a live debate. But in a settled public statement from a bishop in God’s church, is this really the language that will aid the gracious and respectful conversation you desire?
Secondly, I was amazed by your choice to describe the Global South’s position as the “pursuit of the homosexual agenda”. For a start, it would be more accurate to describe the conservative position as the “heterosexual marriage agenda”. (Your ‘spin’ seems akin to describing the Liberal Party as having a ‘union agenda’.)
More important than the label though, is the fact that conservatives have not especially sought to raise the matter of homosexual marriage or ordination in the Anglican Communion. Rather it has been persistently pushed by those on the more liberal wing of the Communion. Conservatives have reluctantly responded because of their deep convictions in regards to the threat to faithfulness to what we see as the plain and consistent reading of God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
I also note that by and large – to my knowledge – it has been liberals who have locked conservative parishes out of their church buildings and deposed conservative clergy via legal action. Would that be at all analogous to a “strategy of exclusion” or a “police-state approach”?
What an awesome response! Read the rest of Rev. Grant’s letter here.