The Lambeth Reader

Over the past couple of days there have been a number of stories about the “The Lambeth Reader” papers. These were distributed to the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference, but not made available to the larger public. Copies of the documents have been passed along to reporters covering the conference. The Church Times blog has some extended quotes in its overnight coverage.

The most striking thing about the articles are that, while they discuss the difficulties being caused to the Communion by the actions of the North American provinces to move to fully include gay and lesbian Christians, they also speak directly to the problems being caused by Provinces moving to send bishops to minister in areas outside their boundaries:

“‘There are occasions when a church falls out of sympathy with its bishop on matters of doctrine or conduct. It must not be the case that the mere fact of ease and communication of travel become the excuse for choosing a leader in another territory to be one’s chief pastor. In the case of serious and extensive conflict, it becomes the duty of diocesan bishops to provide pastoral support in particular congregations. When a diocesan bishop fails to undertake his duty, the matter becomes a provincial responsibility.’

(NB: a provincial responsibility, not a communion responsibility.)

Reflections offered to the Primates emphasise mutual accountability. ‘The cost of genuine dialogue is considerable… If conservative voices are not to be driven out, it must be possible for an admonition about recent issues to do with homosexuality to be delivered, clearly argued from biblical sources. Not all such arguments are well expressed and would be supported by scholarly writing; but it is a mistake to dismiss all of them as if their sole basis was literalism or naive fundamentalism.’

The paper continues: ‘On the other hand, if progressive views are not to be ignored, new knowledge has honestly to be confronted. Though there is still much uncertainty, it is evident that the existence in some people of homosexual inclinations has to be understood in a way not available to biblical writers. It has to be recognised as a cost of the engagement of the gospel with the world, that Christians remain open to changing ideas with their attendant uncertainties and controversies.’

The paper also includes a willingness to promote the role of the Primates within the Communion and uses Bishop Robinson’s consecration as an example:

The documents grapple with how the church judges which things lie closer to the heart of the gospel than others. With specific reference to Gene Robinson’s consecration, it asks how significant that was for Christian faith and practice? If the primates decided it was a matter of great weight, ‘then it would seem that an innovation of such significance requires the broadest consideration and endorsement by the rest of the Anglican Communion.’ If they decided it was neither ‘commanded not forbidden’, then it could be determined at provincial or local level. Primates were not necessarily to be the ‘first port of call in such disputes, but the report suggests, ‘Many are looking to the Primates to hear the call of the churches for the leadership that befits those who hold such a high office.’”

Read the full article here.

Our previous coverage of the Reader is here.

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