Global Implications from Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1:10 and Actions Since
This is an abridged version of the address given by Bishop Keith on Tuesday 18th April at GAFCON 4 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Let me begin with the global implications of Resolution 1:10 from Lambeth 1998.
It is important to remember that 1998 was the last time all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion met together as one body to take counsel together. They followed the pattern of earlier conferences, praying under the word of God and sought to express the mind of the whole Anglican Communion, as part of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.
In Resolution 1:10 they sought to express that mind in relation to human sexuality. The whole resolution was passed overwhelmingly by 526 to 70. Given the overwhelming numbers and the clear summary of the teaching of Scripture, there might have been reason for confidence that this Resolution would now shape the life of the whole Anglican Communion. The main reason for confidence, however, was that 1:10 did no more and no less than attempt to faithfully summarise the teaching of scripture in relation to human sexuality.
It spelt out;
- In view of the teaching of Scripture (the basis of all that follows), upholding faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, believing that abstinence is right for those not called to marriage.
- What biblical holiness meant especially for those ordained and the authorised prayer ministry of the Church;
- It said we “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”;
- It recognised and committed the whole Church to “recognise(s) that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation” and “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons;
- The bishops wished to assure these people “that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ” AND
- And “while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture”, they called, “on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex”.
These were bold statements even then, and rightly based on Scripture and the gospel. They called the church to be full of truth and grace built on the word of God.
The resolution in the matter of human sexuality was calling the whole church to the obedience of the whole gospel as revealed in the whole of scripture for the blessing of the whole world.
Brothers and Sisters if we are to commend this Resolution today as expressing the truth and grace of God in the Bible, as I hope we will, let us commit to fully live this truth and grace ourselves wherever we live and whatever our cultural context, acknowledging humbly our own sin, even as we call upon the whole Anglican Communion to live fully in this grace and truth now.
COUNTER CULTURAL CALL
I hope you will agree that Resolution 1:10 gives expression to the call of Romans 12:1-3 in relation to our obedience of faith in matters of human sexuality. All of us are called to remain faithful to the gospel and the word of God.
All of us may find that difficult in different ways according to our own culture.
Different parts of Lambeth 1.10 will challenge our different cultures in different ways, sometimes in difficult ways, but that is what will happen when we do not conform to this world but allow the Spirit of God to transform us by the renewing of our mind.
At all times and in all places we will find we have to be countercultural, including in relation to sexuality.
As we are faithful and where necessary counter-cultural as Lambeth 1:10 invites us following on from Romans 12, then we can by the grace of God transform our own culture.
But faithfulness and cultural transformation is not what happened after Lambeth 1998.
We have heard already of the reaction to this resolution in North America and the consequences in relation to the Instruments of Unity, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the admonishing response of the Global South, and the creation of GAFCON. We have heard of the necessity of drafting and approving the Jerusalem Declaration in 2008.
The well-known words of the Primates meeting of 2003 bear repeating, not least in considering the recent decision of the General Synod of the C of E, 20 years later, and the Lambeth Conference in 2022, when there were for the first time ever in the history of the Anglican Communion bishops present in same sex unions.
This was the Primates in 2003 in response to the consecration of one bishop and the blessing of same sex unions then “At this time we feel the profound pain and uncertainty shared by others about our Christian discipleship in the light of controversial decisions … to authorise a Public Rite of Blessing for those in committed same sex relationships, and by the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) to confirm the election of a priest in a committed same sex relationship to the office and work of a Bishop.”
And then “If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.”
We appear to be in a place where the Church of England is now proposing to do on the recommendation of the English House of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury what the Primates said in 2003 should not be done.
INSTRUMENTS OF UNITY TO 2008?
Before we consider briefly what has happened now in the Church of England, it is worth asking ourselves how throughout the intervening period the so called instruments of unity have tried to find a way to repair this tear. Has there been an attempt to find a way to walk apart given that the divisions on both sides recognise this as not being adiaphora?
It soon became clear in North America before and after the consecration of Gene Robinson, that those arguing for a change in the doctrine and practise of the Anglican Communion believe this to be a matter of justice, invoking all the prophetic words on the subject in scripture in support. Those Provinces following TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, in New Zealand, Brazil, Scotland, Wales have rejected Lambeth 1:10, and declared that the blessing of same sex unions is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture and those in such unions may be ordained and consecrated as Bishops.
A Commission was established in October 2003 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Anglican Primates. As we now face the continuing consequences some of the Commissions’ comments still make for salutary reading; it said in 2004 “However, if realistic and visionary ways cannot be agreed to meet the levels of disagreement at present or to reach consensus on structures for encouraging greater understanding and communion in future it is doubtful if the Anglican Communion can continue in its present form.”
“Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.”
But these words were not heeded; the moral authority of Resolution 1:10 was not recognised and the tear worsened.
INSTRUMENTS OF UNITY 2008 TO LAMBETH 2022
What I find extraordinary is that since that time, nearly 20 years ago now, and with another Lambeth Conference in view (even delayed by the pandemic) there has not been another attempt made to repair the tear, no intra Provincial commissions to find a way forward even if it means finding a way to walk apart. Rather after the Primates Meeting in 2016 the Archbishop of Canterbury appealed to “good disagreement” which seemed to mean that both these convictions about the “teaching of scripture” could be permitted within the Anglican Communion without any decision being made between them. This view became explicit during the Lambeth Conference 2022. A call to reaffirm Resolution 1:10 seems to have been introduced into the Call on Human Dignity (at the last minute) only to be hastily withdrawn after protest.
Here is John Stott in his book “Same Sex Relationships” quoting Wolfhart Pannenberg (Professor of Theology at Munich) with approval “The biblical assessments of homosexual practise are unambiguous in their rejection!” He (Pannenberg) therefore concludes that a church which were to recognise same sex unions as equivalent to marriage “would cease to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”.
For a tremendous assessment of the Lambeth Conference 2022, please see the superb Communique from the Global South and its reaffirmation of Lambeth 1:10 in its entirety, its call for a resetting of the Anglican Communion and its call for visible differentiation from those Provinces which have impaired communion by departing from the biblical faith.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
What of the Church of England?
It seems that what was permitted at Lambeth 2022 is now being promoted within the Church of England. The plea for unity is made constantly without regard for the truth which is at the heart of Resolution 1:10, the teaching of scripture.
There are however still many orthodox and evangelical voices in the Church of England who uphold that truth and have not accepted the claim that unity can be divorced from it.
The church which God used to bring the gospel to so many parts of the world because of her faith in that scriptural revelation, now seems to have succumbed to the very cultural captivity it appealed to so many to renounce.
Formally it remains to be seen how the Bishops’ will respond to what has been said globally and in England. At the Lambeth Conference 2022 the Archbishop said “the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, 1:10 is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence.” The question on the lips of many in England and around the world is “valid to whom”? If this is still true, then surely the revised prayers and guidance which the Bishop’s will bring to Synod, must explicitly demonstrate they are within Resolution 1:10, which must mean there can be no blessings of sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage. We are praying that the Archbishops and Bishops will draw back.
We await the final proposals, pastoral guidance and prayers in July or later this year. We are told that what is proposed is not a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England. The General Synod have required the Bishop’s to ensure that this is the case.
Let me finish with words from the prophet Jeremiah who has become a bit of a familiar friend over these last years. These words became something of a watchword for Bishop JC Ryle first Bishop of Liverpool. I am sure he would echo them now in relation to the Church of England and the whole Anglican Communion
Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it and find rest for your souls.
Bishop Keith Sinclair has just finished up as the National Director of the Church of England Evangelical Council and is an EFAC Global Trustee and retired Bishop of Birkenhead.