Bishops press conservatives to attend Lambeth Conference

By on April 1, 2008

A group of evangelical bishops in the Church of England have urged conservative primates (national archbishops) in the Anglican Communion to reconsider their decision to boycott the upcoming Lambeth Conference because of disagreements over the place of homosexuals in the church.

[pullquote]In a letter to the primates of Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Southern Cone, the bishops said they longed to “stay with you in fellowship and in celebration at Lambeth.”

Bishop Mauricio Andrade, the primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church in Brazil, also expressed regret at the primates’ boycott and said in a letter to members of his church that the bishops of his province are participating “because we are certain that this is the space for unity, and we know that unity does not mean uniformity.”

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The primates, however, responded in a letter that they could not accede to the request. They said that since 2003 they have chosen not to take communion with the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States because of the American bishops’ decision to consecrate an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. It is, the primates said, “an action of which they have not repented.”

The Church Times reported that the evangelical bishops’ letter said that staying away from the conference, scheduled July 16 to Aug. 3 in Canterbury, England, “would inevitably split apart those who share an equally high regard for scriptures [sic] and for the historic faith of the church.”

The letter was signed by seven diocesan bishops and 13 suffragan bishops.

“We share your increasing sorrow and alarm at the developing situation around the Anglican Communion and we have prayed and worked for a way forward,” the letter said. It added that while the process to address the festering divisions over sexuality has been “tortuous and frustrating,” they nonetheless “have no reason to suppose that … we should seek to abandon the work you and many others have put into seeking a way forward under God.”

The letter, which arose from a yearly gathering of evangelical bishops in England, also expressed support for the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams “in his immensely difficult task of developing the life of our Communion in new ways of mutual understanding and support.” It urged the primates “to be present to help us do this.”

The primates said they were boycotting Lambeth because those who consecrated Bishop Robinson have all been invited to attend the conference. (Bishop Robinson, however, has not been invited.) This, they said, was “contrary to the statement of the Windsor Report that members of the Episcopal church should ‘consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.'”

On the other hand, they said, those who objected to Bishop Robinson’s consecration and made arrangements for alternative “orthodox oversight” from other provinces “have been charged with abandonment of communion.”

The primates also said that they do not believe that the conference would provide “serious space for those of an orthodox persuasion in the councils of the Communion to be themselves or to be taken seriously.”

Nonetheless, they said, their boycott of the conference “is not intended to signal that we are walking out of the Communion.”

With files from Ecumenical News International

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