Lambeth comments

Published October 1, 1998

Ian Ritchie – religion professor and member of Essentials movement in Canada.

What we’ve seen is a shift in the centre of Anglicanism to the African church. There are 80 million Anglicans worldwide and 65 million are in the Second and Third Worlds.

Conservatives in Britain and North America may be marginalized at home, but now they know they’re in the Christian mainstream.

Western Report, Aug. 24, 1998. For once, the conspiracy theorists are right. A close relationship had been forged before the conference between bishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America and conservative bishops in the U.S.

The fact that homosexuality became the dominant theme of the conference is troubling, especially since, according to many of the African bishops, it is not an issue in their countries. The West is now routinely accused of sexual perversion, and Anglicanism, for the moment, continues to be associated with the West. In asking the conference for ammunition against this attack, the African and Asian bishops were allying themselves with it, however unwittingly. Despite the reference to `irrational fear of homosexuals’ in the final resolution (begging the question of what a rational fear might be), there was little conception that homosexuals could be victims of prejudice, oppression and violence, and therefore worthy of the church’s protection and support. Instead, they were depicted as activists.

Editorial in Church Times, Aug. 14.

Stephen Noll – board member of the American Anglican Council

You say that the politics of Lambeth was dominated by the politics of the American Episcopal Church. Not so, in the main. The Third World bishops’ convictions were fully formed long before they came to Lambeth. At most, we provided them a venue to organize.

Conservative Episcopalians have learned to assume that the machinery of church convictions will be unfairly apportioned. Indeed, it is controlled by liberals, often high-handedly. So we know that in order to have a voice, one must actively provide a counter-balance to the bureaucracy.

letter in Church Times, Aug. 28, in response to preceding editorial Simon Bazley – Bishop of Chile

I find most puzzling the letter reported to have been signed by 146 bishops who wished to apologize to the homosexual community.

What are they apologizing for?

Are they apologizing for voting against the final resolution, which opens the way to liberation and healing to people in their sexual brokenness and sets forth the biblical truth about marriage and singleness very clearly? Or are they apologizing for having abstained and thus not prepared to nail their colours to the mast? Or are they apologizing for having been absent when the vote was taken ? It seems strange that 70 bishops voted against but 146 signed the letter.

letter in Church of England Newspaper, Aug. 21

Terence Finlay – Bishop of Toronto

It was not easy to be there. Bitter, hate-filled language was used. Even our conservative Canadians felt like “flaming liberals.” Our subsection was not well served by the conference: the organizers had greatly underestimated the division that occurred. We had no resource material, no adequate process.

But we managed to come up with a document that was broad enough for general agreement in our very diverse subsection. It was when it went to the larger group that it was torn apart. The vehemence spilled out of the discussion room on to the street in front of news reporters and photographers. It was disgraceful behaviour by bishops who saw gay and lesbian people as less than human.

Toronto Anglican, September 1998

Ronald Ferris – Bishop of Algoma

“Lambeth Conference 1998 was for me, a lifetime highlight, bringing personal refreshment, renewal, and recommitment. I believe it was also a watershed in the life of the worldwide Anglican Communion … There was a strong sense of consensus and convergence at the conference in spite of some press reports to the contrary. Close votes did not happen on the major issues. There was no geographical grouping that could dominate the conference.

Algoma Anglican, September 1998

John Baycroft – Bishop of Ottawa

Probably the most important issues facing the conference surrounded international debt and economic justice.

At the heart of it is the conclusion “that substantial debt relief, including cancellation of unpayable debts of the poorest nations under an independent, fair and transparent process, is a necessary, while not sufficient pre-condition for freeing these nations, and their people from the hopeless downward spiral of poverty.”

Crosstalk, September 1998

David Crawley – Archbishop of Kootenay

The Bible studies were well set up and everyone enjoyed them. There was an impressive list of speakers for the plenaries but the format was poor. Too long in a hot gym with no breaks and no chance to question or respond. The real work was done in the sections. Unfortunately, they were the orphans of the conference, inadequately planned and under-staffed. My subsection (on human sexuality) had the most controversial subject matter and our 50 members agreed that its meetings were the most gruelling we had ever endured.

High-Way, September 1998

Michael Ingham – Bishop of New Westminster

It was clear that there is a passionate and intractable conviction among the majority of bishops that homosexuality is not to be tolerated. Some bishops claimed it was unheard of in their country and they had never met a homosexual person. Nevertheless, they felt free to denounce them, and to prevent gay and lesbian Christians from addressing the subsection dealing with them. The plenary debate never reached the level of sophistication or charity – by either side – we experienced in our own synod in May.

But what emerged in the conference, both before and during this issue, was something far more worrying to me. There was a clear tendency toward biblical fundamentalism, a use of Scripture in uncritical and even uncharitable ways that was evident in sermons at the daily Eucharist and in discussions at the daily Bible studies.

Topic, September 1998

Gary Woolsey – Bishop of Calgary

Our Christian community at Lambeth was developing into a rich spiritual community. We were sharing our experiences of church and faith in the context of our Bible studies and themes. Then came time to present resolutions from our sections to the main plenary. We moved into tension, struggle, labelling “You in North America,” “We in Africa” etc. … and our community as the body of Christ seemed attacked by forces wanting to break that community. In our Bible study, the bishop of Nevada said he had banned motions at synod because the procedure destroyed community by putting people in adversarial roles, creating winners and losers.

Sower, September 1998


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