Bloggers and reporters innumerable are churning out reports and commentary on the ongoing Lambeth Conference, and I’ve been dutifully reading as much of it as I can stand. My job, you see, is to spend too much time on the Internet, so that you don’t have to. (At least, that’s how I justify it to myself.)
Reading it all is a bit like wading through a marsh, or picking one’s way through a thicket, except with more pointy bishop’s hats and English accents. Much of what’s out there is either of little use, strongly biased, or hopelessly misleading (especially in the British press), but every now and again one runs into something truly worthwhile. Herewith my guide to must-read Lambeth news and comment:
1) Rowan Williams’ presidental address is an excellent sum-up of where things stand, and concisely expresses his hopes for the conference. I sincerely hope that it succeeds in setting the tone. Forget all of the pundits out there writing stories about what Williams “really” thinks, and go read it for yourself. (There’s also a great Q&A with Williams.)
2) A brief piece by Philip Turner is a revealing expose of the American bishops’ strategy at the conference. Essentially, he says, the publicity machine at ECUSA headquarters in New York is trying to keep all the Episcopal bishops “on message” and in step with the liberal party line. What’s more, they’re explicitly playing to the media. As Turner puts it, the whole thing represents a “hardened position on the part of TEC’s episcopal leadership that runs counter to the spirit the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked to guide the bishops in their deliberationsa spirit of mutual subjection in Christ that is open to correction.” No kiddin’.
3) Most of the GAFCON crowd isn’t at Lambeth, but that hasn’t kept them from throwing in their two cents. On the GAFCON website, you can find two pieces responding to the current form of the Anglican Covenant proposal or could, until one of them was removed. To put it mildly, they don’t like it: “theologically incoherent,” “unworkable” and having “no prospect of success,” they concluded. But most of their specific criticisms of the new draft covenant are very, very far off the mark, at times even bizarre. Andrew Goddard’s incisive critique of the GAFCON pieces is severe, penetrating, and deeply disturbing. I’d say it may be one of the most important and revealing essays to date on the entire Anglican crisis. Essentially, Goddard shows that GAFCON’s critique is deeply misinformed, wildly inaccurate, and both theologically and biblically shallow. In fact, they exhibit a near-complete failure to listen and respond to conversation partners, perhaps even to the point of bearing false witness. It’s enough to give even sympathizers of GAFCON ( such as myself ) great cause for concern. My opinion: GAFCON has to repudiate this fast, or risk being discredited as a movement. (Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone already has disowned them; apparently the documents were produced without his knowledge.) Go and check it out for yourself. It’s really that bad.
Beyond that if you want to keep up with general goings-on, Kendall Harmon’s blog is always a good first place to stop. The Church Times blog is English and center-left in perspective, with the added bonus of Dan Walker’s hilarious cartoons. StandFirm is as conservative as it is thorough (quite a bit, on both counts). The Living Church is always professional, and reliable as clockwork. The Covenant blog is consistently thoughtful and theological, featuring regular input from the Fulcrum/ACI crowd. And, last but not least, the Lambeth conference official website posts a useful daily round-up.
Finally, if you’re looking to step back a bit and put the entire hullaballoo in perspective, I strongly recommend Oliver O’Donovan’s new book, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion , just out from Wipf and Stock. I’d try to sum it up, but Prof. O’Donovan is at least twelve times smarter than I am, so I’ll leave that to the professionals. Suffice it to say that the book is profound, deeply learned, and well worth the effort. (You can also find the whole thing online at the Fulcrum website . . . sorry, Wipf and Stock.)
So . . . happy reading, to one and all. And remember reading Internet sites is all well and good, but no substitute for prayer. Our bishops need it, and so does the church. In the words of the BCP:
Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us forever: Bless, we pray, with his grace and presence, the bishops and other clergy and laity assembled in your name at Lambeth, that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.