Rather surprisingly, I’ve not said much about the Lambeth Conference since it closed. The truth is, we were rather distracted at St Mary’s at the time.
People are still asking me what happened. What was the result?
Well, the result was not as bad as it might have been. I still wish that our bishops from Scotland had not gone though I don’t find it difficult to understand why they did go.
So what happened?
Well, the gathered bishops of the Anglican Communion met and talked and then published a document of reflections on their discussions. They did not pass motions. They did not vote. They just reported a discussion. That in itself does not seem too bad a way of proceeding. My only reservation is that it did not allow the bishops to undo any of their previous misdoings of 10 years ago. We cannot really be expected to take Rowan Williams seriously when he maintains that Lambeth 1.10 is the “official” teaching of the Anglican Commnion when there was no opportunity to reexamine it this year. Not that we have official teaching as Anglicans anyway. Don’t we just believe in the Christian faith?
I don’t have much sympathy for Rowan Williams at the best of times these days. (In order to dredge up any sympathy for him I have to try to imagine who he would be replaced by if he did go). No doubt many bishops fell in love with the internationalist scene whilst in Lambeth and no doubt many felt great affection for the Archbishop of Canterbury whilst they were there. None of that excuses his performance at the final press conference when he seemed to undermine the Reflections docucument by presuming to speak about what the bishops really meant by it.
He seems hell bent on a Convenant. Looking over Rowan’s shoulder at what might come next, I think there might be quite a few of us in Scotland who would want to work quietly, gently and firmly to ensure that our Scottish church remains free from the jurisdiction of the throne of Canterbury. Coming under Rowan’s Rule would be bad enough. What might follow is unthinkable.
Archbishop Rowan is claiming that the communion needs three moratoria. Firstly a moratorium against any new partnered gay bishops being consecrated, secondly against authorising same-sex blessings and thirdly a moratorium against bishops crossing borders and acting within the jurisdiction of others. (Oh the irony!)
I’m happy to be corrected by anyone who has better information than I have, but I think that none of these are in force today in Scotland.
There is today no moratorium against consecrating a gay bishop in Scotland. There was a moratorium in place but it expired a fortnight or so ago. In any case there is no need for one as the bishops can consider every candidate for every episcopal election on their merits and vote whether or not to veto them. (They do this anyway and we should manage everyone under the same process).
So far as I know, there is today, no moratorium against the authorisation of same-sex blessings. There are no plans that I know of to authorise such a blessing in General Synod. We’ve no real need of a moratorium as the Faith and Order Board have not asked the liturgy committee to prepare such a document. Presumably they judge there to be no need for such as service at this time. I agree with that, though if we really did produce another prayer book, I might then change my mind. So no moratorium here that I know of. Our ministry to lesbian and gay people continues apace and I’m happy to take enquiries for people for same-sex blessings in St Mary’s Cathedral.
I don’t think there has been any talk of the third moratorium. Notwithstanding a recent rather ill thought through press release from one of the bishops concerning services in two other dioceses, I think a moratorium in this area would be heavy handed. Sadly, I fear we don’t yet have the stomach to interfere in England and I must conclude that if we are not going to rescue people from the Bishop of Carlisle, we are probably not going on any rescue missions at all.
If you listened to Rowan Williams, you might think that the Lambeth Conference called for these three moratoria. It didn’t. Very precisely it did not do so. The Lambeth Conference this time around had no mechanism for calling for moratoria. It was itself a moratorium against making moratoria.
In Scotland, we would be wise to respect the council of the gathered Anglican Bishops at Lambeth. A moratorium against moratoria will do for us too.