Gay Issues Left Undecided at Lambeth Conference

Rebekah Montgomery | Contributing Writer | Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gay Issues Left Undecided at Lambeth Conference

Whether or not you are Anglican or Episcopal, you will want to take notice of what happened—or didn't happen—at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, southeast England. Regardless of denominational affiliations, the same issues chaffing Anglicans worldwide are demanding the attention of nearly every group of believers and very well may affect your church's direction now and in the future.

Some 650 bishops attended the 20-day conference, which ended July 31, for intensive sessions of worship, study, and discussion. Yet, about a quarter of the Anglica Communion's bishops—including most from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda—opted to stay away after the Church of England, the Communion’s mother church, okayed women as bishops.

Regardless of their boycott, the ordination of practicing homosexual clergy and same-sex union blessings/marriages remained the bigger flashpoints of the Lambeth Conference. Voices pro and con discussed these issues. In the end, Anglican leadership placed a moratorium on making any decision. Neither side won. Or lost. And nobody was happy.

Yet, according to some, avoiding taking a stand doesn't mean nothing will happen.

Reverend Peter Frank, spokesman for Anglican Communion Network, an evangelical renewal movement, said that by design, the Lambeth Conference was structured to forestall any decision-making.

“It was depressing for those who hoped the Anglican Communion would return to mainstream Christianity,” said Frank.

Further, because of the moratorium on decisions concerning ordination of gays and same-sex unions, Frank foresees a widening in the present divisions between liberal and conservative factions.

“Nether side will wait for another 10 years to act,” said Frank. “The moratorium will empower the innovative to be freer to act because they know that nothing on the radar will happen to them. However, it (the lack of any official decisions) will empower the defenders of the faith to be realistic, not count on the leadership, and organize within the structure. And they are in the majority.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, upon whose invitation Lambeth Conference conferees attend, attempted to sidestep directly confronting issues concerning gay bishops and same-sex unions by not inviting Reverend Gene Robinson, a homosexual bishop of the New Hampshire diocese who recently married his partner. Robinson was elected to the bishopric June 7, 2003, sparking action between opposing factions in both the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church.

Frank says that even before the Robinson ordination, the church was drifting theologically, promoting goddess worship, selling books of spells, and “lots of crazy things.” For those maintaining a traditional view of Anglican worship and the authority of scriptures, Robinson’s election was, said Frank, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Subsequently evangelical renewal groups formed to stem the trend.

While Robinson was not invited to Lambeth and thus could not attend the conference, nevertheless, his presence was felt. And his voice heard. While delivering a sermon at a church in south London, a lone protester denounced Robinson as a heretic and repeatedly called on the bishop to repent. Robinson’s supporters clapped to drown out the protester's voice.

The question remains: Will the Anglican Communion hear the voice of protest?

Frank fears that unless there is a heeding to the call for repentance from the renewal movement, in another 50 years, the Anglican Communion will be centered in Africa and Asia; while in the United States, it will dwindle to half or a quarter that it is today and be less Christian.

But Frank also sees hope on the horizon as Anglican leaders meet at the end of August. “We may not solve or deal with every issue. But we can get on to being an Anglicans and Christians.”