The common desire that Frank [Griswold] and I share is for a strong Anglican Communion, living the faith and sharing it with all.
The reality is however uncomfortable for Anglicans. At the institutional level we have never been as divided as we are today. We look across the world and the evidence of fragmentation is for all to see. We see it in this great land of America with the proliferation of Anglican congregations; we see it internationally with the GAFCON churches and the sharp divisions between the strong provinces of Africa and the structures of the ACC; we see it in England the uneasy stand off between Reformed and traditional catholic congregations and the institutional church. In recent days we have had news that the diocese of South Carolina is ”˜disaffiliating’ from The Episcopal Church over moves to depose its Bishop, Mark Lawrence.
Now, we should state upfront that both Frank Griswold as the former Presiding bishop and myself as the former Archbishop of Canterbury have had key roles that have partly led us to the present predicament. For myself, there has been much criticism in TEC and elsewhere that the Lambeth Conference of 1998 witnessed the overwhelming consensus of bishops in affirming the traditional view of sexuality. For Frank, five years later the Province of the Episcopal Church of the United States affirmed the legitimacy of same sex relationships in the ministry of the Church. Both events have been questioned severely. Lambeth 98 has been censured for creating the crisis and the events leading up to the ordination of bishop Gene Robinson has also come under severe criticism- particularly why TEC went ahead against the wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates Meeting Both events have been discussed ”˜ad nauseum’ and there is no point in going over old ground.
Nevertheless, there are two fundamental questions that have not been satisfactorily dealt with. The first concerns the role of the scriptures in the Church. Where there is deep disagreement concerning interpretation of scripture not only within Provinces but especially between Provinces how does a Communion handle differences that affect our relationships? Where there is no Magisterium to referee disputes, and where our much vaunted Instruments of unity seem unequal to the task, how do the Primates exercise their leadership on behalf of the Communion? To put it more bluntly: where to so many people in the Communion the bible’s teaching on homosexual is so univocal, what justification is there for rejecting it? Indeed, we have to recognize that for many Anglicans around the world what they see as the rejection of scripture by some western churches does indeed separate Christians.