Fr. Christopher T. Cantrell, SSC Church of the Holy Apostles Fort Worth, Texas
(See press release below also)
We 45 bishops and 4 archbishops from 16 nations gathered to take council together in Dallas from September 20-24 1997 as part of our preparation for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. We shared commitment to orthodox Anglican faith in a fast changing world and came together to affirm our common concerns and strengthen commitment to orthodox faith in the Anglican Communion along with others committed to the same process. Within the context of the areas which will be addressed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference for Bishops, we have sought to address critical issues facing the Communion, in particular the issues of International Debt and Human Sexuality.
We seek to identify the particularity of Anglicanism in the diversities of our cultures. The sources from which we have received our Anglican distinctives are Scripture, prayer, experience, tradition and worship as focused in the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Ordinal. In earlier times, the commonality we shared was imposed through our common heritage from the Church of England. In recent decades the process of contextualisation, inherent in the Anglican concept of being a "national church" or "church of the nation" has quite naturally produced increased and increasing diversity. As we seek to express our being as churches which are part of a global communion with orthodox distinctive, we also seek to affirm our unity in the Anglican Communion. The question arises how we may express our unity as part of a contemporary and culturally diverse communion. We seek a common, coherent and consistent orthodox witness which takes the diversity of cultures very seriously, and which will strengthen our unity and commend our witness.
We identify and affirm the following components as contributing to a shared and coherent orthodox Anglican framework for considering these issues and for building consensus. (1)
Jesus Christ is the one Word of God. He came in human flesh, died for our sins and was raised for our justification. In the flesh he lived for us a life of obedience to the will of God; on the cross he bore God's judgement on our sin; and in his resurrection our human nature was made new. In him we know both God and human nature as they truly are. In his life, death and resurrection we are adopted as children of God and called to follow in the way of the cross. His promise and call are for every human being: that we should trust in him, abandon every self-justification, and rejoice in the good news of our redemption.
The Spirit of Jesus Christ bears witness to the Gospel in the Holy Scripture and in the ministry of the people of God. He directs us in the task of understanding all human life and experience through the Scriptures. And so, guided by the Spirit of God to interpret the times, the church proclaims the Word of God to the needs of each new age, and declares Christ's redeeming power and forgiveness in mutual encouragement and exhortation to holiness.
The Father of Jesus Christ restores broken creation in him. For he himself is its fulfillment: in him the church learns by its life and witness to attest to the goodness and hope of creation. The Spirit gives us strength and confidence to live as men and women within the created order, finding peace and reconciliation and awaiting the final revelation of the children of God.
The Christian creedal inheritance, expressed in these principles, provides Anglicans with the framework in which to address contemporary questions concerning our faith, witness and life together. We identify the following as requiring particular and further reflection at this time in our communion.
1. The centrality of the authority of the scriptures in our understanding and interpretation of the world and the renewal of biblical study at all levels.
2. The importance of the ministry of the obedient Christian community, empowered by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, as bearing witness to the power and adequacy of this understanding and interpretation of the world.
3. The share which the whole of the Christian community throughout the world and throughout history has in the interpretation of the world through the scriptures and in the ministry of obedience and witness.
4. The need for faith in the power of God's Spirit of grace to equip and empower the Christian community in these tasks.
A Christian moral stand on the issue of international debt and sexual ethics is founded in a biblical ethic that takes seriously the social good and stands against unbridled liberalism. It is precisely unbridled economic individualism that has led both to the break up of families and the escalation of international debt. A concern for the social good of nations to be relieved of debt cannot be separated from a concern for the social good of nations through the promotion of strong healthy families through faithful monogamous heterosexual relationships.
Christian moral reasoning must be founded on theological reasoning for Christian behavior and action and therefore proceed from the knowledge of God given in the gospel.
In describing the contexts within which our action is set and the problems which it is to address, we cannot accept a "view from nowhere" as though there is an innocent and neutral account of the state of affairs. We must also avoid merely echoing the views expressed by the culture within which the church finds itself, otherwise the church is in no position to offer or witness to any salvation. We must remember our theological categories of sin as an explanation of how the world goes, and of the deeper reality of grace as we seek to formulate our Christian obedience so that we can as an obedient community see then the transformation the grace of the gospel will bring.
We are grateful for insights we have already gained through regional preLambeth meetings and through the Anglican Encounter in the South in Kuala Lumpur with its concern for the place of Scripture in the life and mission of the church. By recounting these opportunities and obstacles to the advance of the gospel in the south, those at Kuala Lumpur could also see how the integrity of our common witness is called into question because of new teaching and lapses in discipline relating to human sexuality occurring in parts of the North. We fully endorse the statement on human sexuality which came out of this conference.
The Lambeth Quadrilateral speaks of Holy Scripture as "the rule and ultimate standard of faith" From the days of William Tyndale, Anglicans have believed that the Bible is sufficiently clear for God's people to understand those things necessary for salvation in matters of faith and morality. The Church itself is called to expound the Bible's complex harmony and to obey its plain teaching (Articles VI and XX). To be sure, some matters are clearer than others in Scripture, and the question of how to harmonize one passage with another may require careful study and reflection..
A biblical theology of sexuality must reckon not merely with specific texts but with the whole biblical story, which tells of God's purposes for human life and identity from creation to new creation. It is not from isolated texts but from the consistent teaching of the whole of Scripture that lifelong heterosexual monogamy emerges as the God-given norm for sexual relationships. Scripture offers no positive examples of non-marital sex; and it contains specific condemnations of fornication and homosexual practice as sin. Biblical teaching thus protects the sanctity of sex within the marital commitment and liberates humanity from unrestrained sexual obsession and abuse. (2)
In both Old and New Testaments the generational family of father, mother and children is understood as the matrix in which healthy human relationships are formed (Genesis 2:24). Full humanity has consisted of two genders from the very beginning ¤ male and female. The created order comprises sexual differentiation as God-given and good. Together, both man and woman were given the commission to pass on new life in fruitfulness and to rule over and care for the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). This is why only both genders together can mold the world in a humane way. The good society, according to Scripture, is ordered to help families flourish economically, socially, and spiritually (Leviticus 25; Isaiah 61:1-3). Although the family may be distorted by the brokenness of sin or become a false priority in the life of discipleship, it derives its graceful potential from the Father, from whom all families in heaven and on earth are named (Ephesians 3: 1415). The Church as the new family of God must be the place that supports families and those who lead the single life so that each believer may be fully equipped to serve God in his or her particular calling, so that families in turn contribute to the strengthening and healing of society at large.
We thus place the specific issue of homosexuality in the context of God's loving purposes and the distortion of those purposes by sin, which infects all human beings. We share in the affirmation that the biblical sexual norm is clear, and, in the context of pastoral care and healing it is helpful to people tempted by homosexual desires, by setting limits. Furthermore, we agree that the Church has no authority to set aside clear biblical teaching by ordaining non-celibate homosexuals or authorizing the blessing of same sex relationships.
God's dealings with his world is a story of sensitivity and compassion. The church needs to reflect God's love to all people. The story of God's concern offers hope for all of us, that all of us become progressively more human as our lives unfold in response to his Grace. With such encouragement the church must welcome all in pain. The persecution and ostracism of homosexual persons as well as sexual hypocrisy are evils and have no place in the church.
A distinction must be made between the terms "gay" and "homosexual". "Homosexual" describes a sexual orientation which has been present since ancient times. In contradiction to most other cultures, Judaism and Christianity did not permit homosexual acts as they were seen to contradict achieving full humankind. "Gay" on the other hand is a socio-political identity. It is only one way of dealing with homosexual fantasies and desires. But it is an ideology not more than a hundred years old which draws from a non-Christian anthropology where in the end our sexual differences, our maleness and femaleness, have been reduced to insignificance. Forgotten by the church were often those homosexually orientated men and women who want to change. More and more Christian resource groups have developed and many individuals have found with the help of God a way out of a destructive lifestyle.
It is not acceptable for a pro-gay agenda to be smuggled into the church's programme or foisted upon our people and we will not permit it.
This body realizes the concern of God Almighty for all his creatures, especially the poor and needy. We are fully aware of the devastation wrought by poverty, resulting in disease and death, occasioned in a large part by the growing burden of international debt on debtor nations. The progressive impoverishment of debtor nations threatens the harmony, peace and stability of the whole world. We recognize the responsibility of the Church, the body of Christ, to assist her suffering Savior in the alleviation of the pain and suffering of the poor.
This body therefore wholeheartedly supports the initiative of the Lambeth Conference 1998 to address the issue of international debt and its disastrous consequences for the whole world. Although some of the debtor nations are trapped under the heavy burden of debt because of their "kleptocratic" and dictatorial governments that are accountable to no one, those who suffer are the poorest in these nations.
The issue of international debt must be seen in the light of the globalisation of the world economy. In the globalised economy, the fate of the economy of individual poor nations or even groups of nations has no impact at all on the overall performance of the world economy. It is perfectly possible though reprehensible to have globalisation with no attempt to include nations or even large parts of continents. Christians, rooted in the Bible's affirmation of the call to all to be stewards, and in its concern to protect the poor, must never accept this.
The issue of international debt is one element of a biblically rooted concern that should motivate the church to deal with issues of poverty. It is the poor who continue to bear the harshest burden of international debt. Any process of debt reduction must ensure that it is the poor who are helped and not the "kleptocrats" who are allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains.
Realistic debt reduction must be marked by passion and realism, founded on ethical principles and guided by biblical directions. In order for the poorest nations to overcome their debt, of course, we must do more than simply talk about canceling that debt. For long-term success we must address the balance of trade issue.
A first step in this process should be that a clear line be drawn under the current indebtedness, and that the hemorrhaging of national economies through debt repayments is staunched. This is the reason for the call for jubilee, cancellation of debt so that stabilization can take place and a basis for investment for the future established.
We encourage our fellow bishops to engage in dialogue and work with our national political and economic leaders to develop a national debt relief programme that we can bring to Lambeth to contribute to a global plan. The entire Communion should then articulate proposals for massive debt alleviation schemes to be negotiated with creditors.
Accountability, for Christians, begins with the submission of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That submission is the pathway to true liberty (John 8:32).
We are convinced that God has called us to effective mutual accountability. As we seek to make a contribution here to the Lambeth process, we are glad to note that our Primates want to exercise enhanced responsibility and make their meeting a more effective instrument of unity. This need was foreseen in Kuala Lumpur. We call upon the Lambeth Conference to empower the Primates' Meeting to become a place of appeal for those Anglican bodies who are oppressed, marginalized, or denied faithful episcopal oversight by their own bishops. In such situations, a way must be found to provide pastoral support, oversight and formal ecclesiastical relationships for faithful people.
We look to our own role as bishops to act as leaders who teach, defend and pass on the historic Christian faith together. Accountability and authority include and affirm the doctrinal convictions of the faithful people of God and is not the sole preserve of the episcopate, much less that of individual bishops. Discipline is a necessary corollary of accountability as a means of discipleship and correction.
Accountability also calls us to provide a clear understanding of the bounds of eucharistic fellowship within the Anglican Communion. Those who choose beliefs and practices outside the boundaries of the historic faith must understand they are separating themselves from communion, and leading others astray. Sadly, that reality of broken fellowship can extend to individuals, congregations or even whole dioceses and provinces. Where this happens, we call for repentance and return. (3)
(1) These three components are taken from the St Andrew's Day Statement prepared in 1995 by a group of 7 Anglican pastors and theologians chaired by Rev Dr. Timothy Bradshaw, published among other places in Anglican Life and Witness, a Reader for the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops, edited by Chris Sugden and Vinay Samuel, (London, SPCK, 1997). Our use of these three components does not indicate as such an endorsement of the whole statement for the reason that it was not discussed as part of our agenda.
(2) Further resource material on this topic is available in Striving for Gender Identity, by Dr. Christl Vonholdt, also available to bishops from Box 70, Oxford.
(3) Our discussions were resourced by the following material
1. Scripture and authority ¤ Professor Richard Bauckham, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
2. The bishop as leader and teacher ¤ The Most Rev David Gitari, Archbishop of Kenya
3. Christian Ethical Reasoning ¤ Professor Michael Banner, King's College, London
4. Pentecostals ¤ who are they? ¤ Dr Douglas Petersen, Assemblies of God, Costa Rica
5. The Enlightenment gone to seed. Rt. Rev Drexel Gomez, Bishop of the Bahamas
6. International Debt and Christian Response ¤ Canon Chinedu Nebo, Nigeria
7. The Handwriting on the Wall, Dr. Stephen Noll, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
We have summarized our findings from our interaction with this material in a report. This is available from the co-hosts, the Bishop of Dallas or Archbishop David Gitari of Kenya. The papers presented will be published in Transformation, in March 1998, available from Transformation, Box 70, Oxford.
I am giving out a press release from the Anglican Life and Witness Conference last week. Feel free to circulate it to any news sources you know. Stephen Noll
On September 20-24, 1997, 48 Anglican bishops and archbishops from 16 nations met in Dallas, Texas, and issued a "Dallas Statement" denouncing the religious and cultural drift and apathy of the Western churches. The Third World bishops, representing a majority of Anglicans worldwide, sent a wake-up call to their fellow bishops, who will meet at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in England in 1998. =
The bishops in Dallas warned that serious issues threaten to divide the Church and must be addressed. The first of these is homosexuality, which has been openly endorsed by many bishops in the American Episcopal Church. The bishops at Dallas stated: "It is not acceptable for a pro-gay agenda to be smuggled into the church's program or foisted upon our people and we will not permit it."
International debt was the second issue addressed. The Third World bishops pointed to the connection between widespread poverty and overwhelming debt, often incurred by U.S.-backed dictators like Mobutu in Zaire. The bishops at Dallas called their fellow bishops "to engage in dialogue and work with our national political and economic leaders to develop a debt relief program."
"The conference combined alarms and alleluias," said one observer. The bishops sternly rebuked "revisionist" church leaders, charging that "those who choose beliefs and practices outside the boundaries of the historic faith must understand they are separating themselves from communion and leading others astray." Turning from threat to hope, the bishops fanned out later in the week to preach and evangelize at ten Dallas-area churches. =
"This conference may well be a critical moment in the history of the Episcopal Church and even our worldwide fellowship," said Bishop James Stanton of Dallas. =
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