Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lambeth Reflections -- "A Lambeth Happened"

The one "official" document being put out by Lambeth is not any of the WCG "lead trial balloons" circulated for discussion, but the "Lambeth Reflections" document which is expressly designed simply to report that open-ended unresolved discussions took place:
Indaba is open-ended conversation, which doesn't begin by looking for results or feedback. The final document must be faithful to the indaba process: it will therefore be descriptive of the totality of the engagement which the bishops have undertaken under God.
And now the "first draft" -- sort of a brainstormed outline and list of statements, describing the discussions, to include -- has been released.

The first portion (6 sections of 15) simply says that a Lambeth Conference happened, thanks people for helping a Lambeth Conference to happen, and describes the schedule and processes by which it happened. In other words, Canterbury Anglicanism's usual approach of "progress by stating the status quo".

Then, having been told that a Lambeth occured at which things were discussed, we get a list of some of the things discussed. A number of these are simply stating the obvious. Another Anglican passtime.

Here are some additional highlights. If you aren't yet ashamed to be affiliated with a "church" group whose highest levels can't produce anything more substantive or Christian than this garbage, then you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not being ashamed of it.

On Scripture:
We believe the scriptures to be primary, but read them informed by tradition and reason and with regard for the cultural context. We find biblical scholarship a helpful tool to unpack the scriptures, but cannot avoid a divergence in interpretation, which leads to confusion.
I.e. we agree that Scripture is primary, but disagree completely on how to read them, what assumptions to bring to that study, and what the Scriptures actually say. How typically modern Anglican: "we all agree to statements on the meaning of which we disagree, but that's okay because we've agreed to disagree about what exactly what we've agreed on means."

On Worship and Belief:
Anglican worship encourages local freedom and inculturation, but values common structure and common prayer across the Communion. We recognise the relationship between liturgy and doctrine - worship shapes belief.
We agree to value a common structure as long as we can freely put completely different things within that structure. Those culturally-influenced differing contents, in turn, shape differing beliefs.

On Communion Relationships:
There is a strong desire to stay in communion with one another... There is a strong view that the way forward lies chiefly through deepening: person to person relationships, diocesan partnerships, a sense of belonging and mutual affection.
We value our relationship, which is a relationship based on having a relationship.

The proposed Covenant:
There seems to be a general acceptance that we shall have a Covenant.
Consistent with the above, I predict that this will mean having a Covenant that covenants people to having a Covenant. The interpretation or meaning of anything that Covenant actually says or suggests will, of course, differ wildly from place to place; but that's okay, since everyone agrees to disagree about what is actually meant by that to which they've agreed.

The mission of the Anglican Communion:
We value the “five marks of mission”, though we would wish to see greater emphasis on ecumenism, peace-making and global mutuality. We recognise that to speak out for social justice is a part of mission.
So much for the Gospel.

These "five marks of mission", by the way, have been circulating for decades now as part of official Anglican-speak. They are:
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Of course, we've already seen that what the "Good News" actually is thought to be will - like the meaning of Scripture - differ wildly from place to place. Meaning, of course, that the religion (or lack thereof) into which new believers are being baptized and indoctrinated will also differ wildly from place to place. But that's okay -- we agree to disagree about what we agree on.

But the majority of the concern -- as is clear from the relative weight these points get in the draft Reflections -- is on the issues of social justice. (Environmentalism will come soon... they just haven't had those indabas yet.) Which is probably why the revisionists wish that the "five points" would speak more about globalism and political/secular issues and less about these piddling spiritual and theological things we disagree about anyway.

Evangelism: as part of its concern to live out this secular non-religious "mission", here are some of the concerns about "evangelism" which are raised:
Reconciliation [there's that Episcopal buzz-word for their current trendy un-scriptural and bankrupt theological crap, which replaces spiritual concerns of sin, salvation, and relationship to God with social justice issues]... The Church needs to be watchful of the migration policies of governments... Demographics and economic decline were identified as factors in some situations. The need to welcome immigrants and those in the urban drift was expressed... The needs which confront the church are many but there is inadequate income for undertaking the mission of the church [yeah... especially those places like the Episcopal church, whose membership is declining faster than any other Christian group, which is driving out and suing members, and which is spending millions of dollars annually on the legal fees required for that self-immolation]... There must also be a compassionate community, the enabling of others by the leadership of the church, and the marginalized must be kept in focus [we all know who the "marginalized" in PEcUSA are... they're the ones who have been kept in focus for 30 years now while others (e.g. traditional and orthodox Anglicans) are driven out. This isn't about bringing the "Good News" to those on the margins, this is about making the abandonment of that Good News by certain marginal groups the central focus of the institution]... HIV and AIDS and other pandemics – The church needs to be involved in advocacy, awareness building, pastoral care, and the provision of health care facilities for those affected...
You'll look in vain for any sense in this section of Evangelism as bringing a clear Gospel message of salvation and the Lord Jesus Christ to all the world. No, the "prophetic voice" of this particular mission is:
human rights, environment, migrant workers, HIV and AIDS, and others;

One of the "best" suggestions for "evangelism" in this pathetic document is this one: "Reconciliation within faith communities through our common identity". Ah, that would be reconciliation between groups which don't have a common identity based on their common identity. I get it. Just like the Covenant and the authority of Scripture. Right.

The less said about the vision of what role the "Anglican Communion" is supposed to play in this "evangelism" and "mission" the better. Besides, you can sum it all up as "To facilitate communication and interaction between different groups doing social justice work, peace work, and preaching contradictory religions."

There is one thing which the Communion is supposed to be against, however, as part of its contribution to "evangelization" of this new Anglican "mission":
Support those who are isolated in their dioceses by initiatives such as that by Gafcon
(I guess this explains the ABC's new 'Global South' group designed to undermine GAFCon) and one positive statement of the substance to which the Communion is supposed to contribute:
Make support for the Millennium Development Goals and support for HIV and AIDS ministry a primary focus.

Section D, "Social Justice", gives a clear summary of Lambeth's Vision for what being an Anglican Christian means, what its "evangelical" message is, and how it is to live out the "mission" of bringing this new emptied-of-Christian-spiritual-content gospel to the world. But don't despair about the one obvious glaring omission in this statement... the Conference hasn't gotten to its indabas on environmentalism yet, so that's sure to get included as well in the final "Reflections" document.
The MDGs are seen as a very good framework for engaging with social justice issues across the Communion at Provincial, Diocesan and Parish level... Through education at every level (in the Diocese, Parish, Theological institutions and Schools), formally and informally, social justice issues should be addressed regularly and systematically. As Bishops, we must model and encourage others to live out their faith in Christ in a way which demonstrates our commitment to these issues. Taking due regard of local contexts, we commit ourselves to advocating and lobbying (government, agencies, business, ecumenical, inter-faith partners and any other appropriate agencies or bodies) on the many issues of social justice we find in our world. We commit ourselves to discerning and interpreting local needs in a way that leads to action, because this is being prophetic. The Bishops role in all of the above is to enable communities of faith to be agents of transformation and reconciliation.

Of course, none of these things are, themselves, un- or anti- Christian (though the way certain folks may chose to implement some of them -- e.g. PEcUSA's homosexualist heresy -- certainly are)... but neither are they the heart of the Christian message. The Good News of Christ's divinity, His resurrection from the dead, our redemption from sin, our salvation to eternal life, and the coming of the Kingdom of heaven are all totally absent from this "Canterbury Anglicanism", whose members cannot agree on any of these beliefs.

We have, instead, removed the root, trunk, and most of the branches of Christianity... and now eagerly focus on particular fruit on the remaining branch. Well, I can tell you what's going to happen now that you've removed the root and trunk... that branch is going to die and the fruit is going to rot. (Though, of course, rot is a good thing according to Dr. Schori...)

Welcome to the Brave New World of Lambeth-Anglican -- Lamblican -- "Christianity".