John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has become quite vocal on the current crisis facing the Anglican Communion. Most recently, he was interviewed by Stephen Crittendon of the Australian Broadcasting Company. Here are some highlights from the transcript of the interview:
Stephen Crittenden: On another issue, Archbishop Sentamu, where do you stand in this seemingly endless debate about gay clergy and gay bishops that’s breaking the Anglican communion apart?
John Sentamu: I think, for myself, that the 1998 resolution was very clear on where the church stood, and it actually invited everybody to engage in the listening process to gay and lesbian people. I still think it was not a good thing for the Episcopal church, while we are still in conversation, to proceed the consecration of Jim (sic) Robinson. I happen to think they actually pre-empted the conversation and the discussion. Now what I don’t think should happen now [is] that the whole question of gay and lesbian people — when we said we should listen to their experiences — should now become the kind of dominant theological factor for the whole of the communion. Because really the communion, at the heart of it, has got to do a number of things. While on one hand upholding Christian teaching, [it] must also be very loving and kind towards gay and lesbian people because that’s part of the resolution. And it must also continue to listen. And I’m not so sure, when some people speak as if the debate has been concluded, or we cannot engage with this, you’re being very faithful to the resolution.
Secondly, the Windsor Report has made it very clear that the four instruments of unity — that is, Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Primates Meeting — should be the kind of instrument that actually allows all of us to talk. So those who now say, for example, that they don’t want to come to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 because there may be people from ECUSA , well all I want to say is that church history has always taught us that churches have always disagreed. I mean, over the nature of Christ, the salvation of Christ, there were bitter, bitter, bitter disagreements in the early church, but everybody turned up at those ecumenical councils to resolve their differences. So my view would be, if you’re finding this quite difficult, please do not stop the dialogue and the conversation.
Stephen Crittenden: Well indeed, you’ve warned — just in the last few days –warned the conservative bishops of the global south that if they don’t come to Lambeth, they’d effectively be severing themselves from the rest of the communion. That’s a bit tough, isn’t it?
John Sentamu: Well, the Lambeth Conference is an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to all bishops of the Anglican Communion to come to Lambeth and talk of matters of common concern. Now if there is already a fracture within the communion, I would have thought everybody would want to turn up in order to work out how we as a communion are going to go forward. Secondly, the Primates Meeting in Tanzania set out a fairly clear way ahead in its communiqué, as well as the whole question of the covenant. Now if we’re going to continue to talk about the covenant at Lambeth Conference, and some people absent themselves from this, what is it that actually they think they’re going to be achieving? You see, again I want to challenge them in terms of the debate about the nature of Christ and the salvation of Christ — no church in the seven Ecumenical Councils absented themselves from it, because they were trying to represent the faith as they saw it. And only by people meeting around the table and having a conversation are you likely to find some kind of thing. I think the thing I was reacting to was a question that some people were planning an alternative Lambeth Conference, and my view was there can be no alternative Lambeth Conference, because the Lambeth Conference is always at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in line with the four instruments of unity. And I cannot see an alternative, actually, for another Lambeth Conference. I mean that’s the logic for it.
Stephen Crittenden: Or if you’re going to have an alternative Lambeth Conference, you can’t pretend at the same time that you’re not pushing the whole communion towards schism, can you?
John Sentamu: You can’t. You just can’t. That to me is the logic, and the Windsor process was very clear of the need first of all for the Episcopal Church as well as the church in Canada, to actually express regret. But you know it went on also and said that those Primates in other provinces should also desist from going into the other people’s provinces, and that hasn’t actually been observed yet, and it was re-emphasised again at the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania. So my view is to say to both sides, ‘Come on, hold your fire. Let’s get together the communion and gather at Canterbury and go through our conversation properly with Bible study, prayer, and reflection. And don’t cut yourself off at this particular point, when what is needed is listening, is discernment, is holding on to the very basic beliefs which we’ve all got.’ And I want to say the only way that I may not turn up to a meeting is if suddenly everybody was saying that the Lambeth Conference is going to redefine the doctrine of salvation or the doctrine of the nature of Christ, or the doctrine of creation. Those are not on the agenda. Everybody believes those truths.
Read the entire trasncript, and listen to the interview here.
With the Archbishop of Canterbury on sabbatical, one wonders if the Archbishop of York is carrying Rowan Williams water on these issues.