A tricky one for Welby

Lambeth Palace

Source: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, (aka Willie Wonga of the Payday Loans Factory) has cancelled or postponed the 2018 Lambeth Conference. This is no small beer. It’s as if the prime minister should cancel budget day.

First held in 1867  at Lambeth Palace, the Conferences have gathered the bishops of the Anglican Communion every ten years to discuss the common issues facing the whole church. The conferences were postponed only twice. The 1918 gathering was postponed until 1920 owing to the First World War, and that of 1940 was postponed until 1948 because of WW II.

News of the cancellation was made public by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, the terrifically radical, talkative and bossy feminist, the Most Rev. Katharine Schori. She informed a meeting of the House of Bishops gathered in Taipei, Taiwan, that she had been told by Archbishop Welby that Lambeth 2018 had been cancelled.

According to a report of the exchange printed by the Episcopal News Service, the Presiding Bishop said Archbishop Welby “…had been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present.”

She further stated that “as he continues his visits around the communion to those primates it’s unlikely that he will call such a meeting at all until at least a year from now or probably 18 months from now. Therefore I think we are looking at 2019, more likely 2020, before a Lambeth Conference.”

The decision to postpone Lambeth because of internal dissention is unprecedented. Highly controversial doctrinal issues – about the nature of Holy Orders and the authority of Scripture – have been a prominent part of earlier agendas.

So why cancel this time? It’s sex again – specifically the long argument about homosexuality. in 1998 the Conference restated the church’s formal view that homosexual activity is immoral and this occasioned the largest boycott in the conference’s history. At the centre of the debacle was the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to invite the American, Canadian and Central American bishops who consecrated the Bishop of New Hampshire, the openly “Gay” Gene Robinson to Lambeth. This was the reason given by 214 traditionalist bishops for absenting themselves from the Conference of 2008.

It’s understandable that Welby wants to avoid a repetition of such an embarrassing shambles. But it goes further than that. What if this time the traditionalist bishops decide to turn up and tell the Arch of Cant and the rest of the “liberal” episcopal elite who run the church that they are being unfaithful to biblical teaching on sexual morality? It is well known that since 2008 pressure from this radical elite in favour of the acceptance of homosexual behaviour as normal has intensified. In his last sermon before he retired, the former Archbishop Rowan Williams declared, “The church has a lot of catching up to do with secular mores.”

To which the traditionalists – that is the Christians who uphold the teaching of the Bible and the church universal over 2000 years – would reply, “Whatever happened to the New Testament’s commandment ‘Be ye not conformed to this world’?”

Since the formation of the great missionary societies in the 18th and 19th centuries, the usual way of things has been that European Christians would go out into Africa, Asia, South America and the whole world and make of all men Christ’s disciples. But now the disciples are promising to return and chastise the faithless heirs and successors of those who first preached to their ancestors.

And the faithless heirs and successors don’t like it one bit.

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