+Cate of Indianapolis, Lambeth survivor, whose very existence challenges the traditionalists.
So what did the Lambeth Conference mean, anyway?
The Anglican Communion didn’t split apart, it held together.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is going to be promoting an “Anglican Covenant,” some kind of belief statement, beyond the Nicene Creed, that may be required in the future for full participation in the Communion. This anti-Gay doctrinal statement will probably spell trouble; we’re moving to a two-tier system of “distant friends” and “good friends” depending on who agrees to subscribe to the new decree, and Americans may be kicked into the outer ring.
The ties between the North American churches (USA, Canada, Mexico) may strengthen, while our ties with other churches in Africa, Asia and England will likely be weakened over time. This could present a real opportunity for Episcopalians to move away from historic Anglophilia to embrace our native traditions and immigrant populations, as well as to deepen existing ties with other churches in the Western hemisphere, including Haiti, the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala and Brasil.
Canterbury will expect the U.S. Church to pay more but get less than ever. Attempts to cut this spending will be met by accusations of bad faith. But it is unclear why Americans should pay for someone else’s extravagant party, other than “we’ve always done it before.”
The Archbishop has publicly scapegoated LGBT Christians in general and Bishop Gene Robinson in particular. We will lose a small percentage of Gay parishioners because of this, and LGBT evangelism will become yet more difficult.
Yet we will persist. The U.S. Church will reaffirm its position on the full inclusion of LGBTs in every aspect of the Church’s life and ministry. Since Lambeth has no power to enforce its “moratoria” on Gay bishops and same-sex blessings except by invoking the “distant friends” clause, our Churches will continue to drift apart.
Episcopalians will elect a Lesbian bishop, then a third Gay one. Same-sex blessing rites will continue to be written, circulated and performed, but without official adoption. It may be easier for us to hew to the “no weddings” moratorium than to deny a person’s valid call by the Holy Spirit and a diocese to episcopal ministry. No one can see fully into the hearts of lovers, but an episcopal election is an objective fact. New Hampshire wanted Gene Robinson, so they got him.
I hope U.S. bishops will work to unify our dioceses and the national church, re-focusing on mission. The sexuality issue can now recede in the U.S. The crisis mentality forced upon the Communion by schismatics may start to fade away, and we may see a new burst of energy in the U.S. as we go about “being the church.”
However, the crisis in the Church of England is likely to get far worse, while Americans pay less attention to England altogether.
If another Lambeth Conference is held in the future, fewer Americans will attend. We won’t be motivated to send bishops to a monthlong, multi-million-dollar Bible study and tea party. Why should we pay our bishops to pollute the air on a 757?
Now that Lambeth is over:
Bishops, come home! Rest up for a few days. Go to the beach, see the grandkids, hike in the hills, celebrate mass with the birds and woodchucks. Go to a comedy club, catch a ballgame, read a novel. Let the e-mail pile up, then delete it all. Don’t let anyone but your spouse even mention the word Lambeth, and only for less than three minutes. Let all these experiences percolate in your soul.
Then come Labor Day, get back to work, refreshed, recharged, refocused. Tell people what you think happened at Lambeth, but only if they ask about it. Let them tell you what they think happened, but don’t ask about it, they may have other things on their mind.
Meet with your evangelism committee. Look over the bookkeeping. Procrastinate about writing anything. Visit a prison. Send your computer out for a tuneup, then forget to pick it up. Accidentally cancel the cable. Tune out the culture wars and the political campaigns. Snuggle a child. Comfort the dying. Empower some teenagers. Keep your mouth shut and your heart open. Pop in at choir practice unannounced. Put on your work clothes and show up for the altar guild workday at some parish where you’re least expected. Walk the dog, just her and you for an hour. Read the Psalms in Spanish. Send a friend a hand-written note. Laugh every day and pray every night. Make some love. Eat all the peaches and tomatoes you want.
And when you’re called upon to preach, rise up and talk about your relationship with God—not doctrine, not Lambeth, not Gay stuff, not the last movie you saw, but about having a relationship with the One.
That’s really what we want to hear about, the Living God who relates to us in our bodies and personalities, our ups and downs, our daily life, our struggle to unite with the Immortal One, our times of distance and times of closeness. Sharing your story may be the biggest help you can give us. It’s all a listening process, after all. To hear God’s voice we have to listen for it.
We are now post-Anglican, but we are only beginning to discover the Beauty of God. If you have found a path, then raise your shepherd’s crook high so we can see it. Then use that brass crozier as a walking stick and let’s get going.++