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LAMBETH CONFERENCE

LAMBETH CONFERENCE

The Church of England has lost its way, and since the Church of England is the mother church of the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Communion has lost its way too.

Indeed, there is no such thing now as the Anglican Communion. The Lambeth Conference, delayed because of Covid but recently reconvened, simply demonstrated the loss of communion between different parts of the global Anglican network. A third of the bishops of the world's Anglican churches refused to attend at all. Of those that did, a number stayed in their seats and refused to take communion at the opening service, and held separate Eucharists amongst themselves later. A group of bishops from the Global South, publicly distanced themselves from the official line that differences of opinion and practice over homosexual relationships were a matter of secondary importance.

Actually, it did not take the Lambeth Conference to demonstrate that the Anglican Communion is now irrevocably divided. In 2009 the Episcopal Church in the United States split over the issue of homosexuality: a number of dioceses and parishes left, to form ACNA, the Anglican Church in North America which now also includes churches in Canada and Mexico. ACNA is not invited to Lambeth Conferences, but is in full communion with the churches of the Global Anglican Futures Conference, GAFCON.

A similar split to that in the Anglican churches in the USA and Canada is now taking place in Australia, and it is only a matter of time before it happens in England. To pretend otherwise, as successive archbishops of Canterbury seem to have done, is to bury our heads in the sand. There is an irreparable division between two groups within the Church of England, as amongst Anglicans in other parts of the world: those who hold to the teaching of the Scriptures and of the church through the ages on matters of sexuality, and those who have signed up to LGBT Pride. It is not negotiable.

Such a split in the Church of England will of course be much more difficult to resolve here than elsewhere in the world, because of the Establishment of the Church in the national Constitution, and because of legal issues over historical rights and the ownership of property. But the nettles will have to be grasped, and with goodwill on all sides they could lead to an improvement and clarification in the church's relationships, both internal and external. I am not going to try to preempt solutions to all these problems, only to emphasise that there can be no 'good disagreement' over the core issue. We cannot go on pretending that we can 'Live together in Love and Faith' when our faith about issues of sexuality is radically different and requires us to act in radically different ways.

The Christian faith is about redemption: the redemption of the world, and of ourselves as God's creatures, from all the things that have gone wrong since we turned away from God and ignored his guidance about how we should live. God created us male and female for the purpose of reproduction, and the sexual act forms the bond of union between husband and wife. Outside this relationship the sexual act can only be a source of trouble in our lives, and even worse trouble in the lives of the children who will inevitably be born without the love and care of the father and mother that they need.

As for homosexual acts in particular, it should not need to be pointed out that these are a perversion of our sexuality, whether we believe in a Creator God, or just in the mechanics. When I was a small boy I was given my first Meccano set. It did not take me long to work out that nuts were made to screw onto bolts, and bolts were made to screw into nuts. If I persisted in trying to screw two nuts or two bolts together I was not going to make anything. Two men do not physically fit together, nor do two women.

That does not mean that we do not love people who, for some unnatural reason are sexually attracted to people of the same sex. God loves us all, but his will is not to indulge us, but to redeem us. We all need to learn somehow to curb and control our sexual impulses. We all fail, in one way or another, to one degree or another. But that does not mean that we should continue to do so.

When some Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman taken in adultery, he challenged them: "Let him who is without sin among you, caste the first stone." They all went away, convicted. Jesus then said to the woman, "Neither do I condemn you." But he did not say, "Go, and continue to commit adultery." He said, "Go, and sin no more." He says the same thing to all sexual sinners, including homosexuals, and including ourselves whoever we may be.

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Next week I hope to be looking at Games and Goals.

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