by Jan Nunley
Lambeth Conference Communications
In the final daily press briefing of the Lambeth Conference, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey Friday (August 7) pronounced his belief that the Anglican Communion is "significantly stronger than when we began" because bishops from around the world were able to meet, share stories and worship together.
Archbishop Carey thanked the press for their "stamina" and for the quality of their reporting, while challenging those who have questioned the ultimate usefulness of a Conference engaged in prayer and study. "I hope that few people will take any gathering of Christians to task for that," Carey rejoined, citing the Conference's resolutions on international debt and human sexuality as positive achievements.
"The voice of the churches has certainly encouraged the G8 nations to look seriously" at international debt, Carey said, promising to press governments in the developed world to look seriously both at outright debt forgiveness as well as the World Bank's HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) instrument.
Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Lemombo added that churches in developing countries must also press their governments to engage in moral decision-making about debt. Sengulane said that what developing countries need is "not just cancellation of debt but a monitoring group" to keep a close watch on the debt issue. "The Church has an important role to play to avoid corruption, not just on one side but on all sides," said Sengulane.
"On human sexuality, we have been quite open about acknowledging our differences," Carey stated, praising the resolution adopted by the Conference. "We specifically included the commitment to continue to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian Christians. I am sad that our resolution has caused them such pain. I can only try to assure them of my commitment to continue to listen, to try to understand more of their experience of the Church, and I invite them to continue the journey with us, however painful, and I ask them to listen to the voice of the Church as much as the rest of us must listen to them."
Mind of the Conference
Carey maintained that "the mind of the Conference" was expressed in the resolution. He added that he thought the resolution would help Anglican mission in Muslim countries, as well as assuring ecumenical partners of Anglican "theology and moral commitments."
Carey likened Anglican dialogue with homosexual Christians to interfaith conversations with Islam. "I'm fully committed to the uniqueness of the Christian revelation, but I can debate with Muslims and others on that basis because we know there are firm views on either side. That's also my basis for discussing homosexuality," he said.
But that prompted a question about whether that analogy implicitly puts homosexual Christians outside the Anglican Communion, which Carey denied. "Anyone who names the name of Christ are full members of his body," he emphasized. "All are called to obey our Lord, and to obey the tradition we have received."
Asked whether the Lambeth resolution would have any effect in parishes and dioceses that now welcome homosexual relationships, Carey answered, "If we are a Communion and not just a collection of independent churches, then we will pay attention to the voices of the Communion."
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of the Episcopal Church in the USA, responded, "We'll go back and live with the Lambeth experience and see how it becomes part of our experience." Griswold, who as Bishop of Chicago ordained homosexuals in committed partnerships, said that now that he is the primate of the American Church, "I only ordain bishops, not priests" and so far the question of ordaining an openly-homosexual bishop hasn't arisen in the American church. "I'll simply have to wait until it does," he said.
Asked to sum up their experience of the Conference, the episcopal communicators team offered a variety of responses. "I've been stretched by the profound differences in worldview and culture," remarked Presiding Bishop Griswold. Archbishop Harry Goodhew of Sydney (Australia) was "humbled by the faithfulness" of persecuted Christians and encouraged by the "reassertion of biblical foundations" in the vote on human sexuality. The resolution affirming those opposed to women's ordination as loyal Anglicans was applauded by Bishop Paul Richardson, assistant bishop of Newcastle (England) as "putting bitterness and discord behind us."
"God is smiling as he looks at the Lambeth Conference," added Bishop Sengulane.