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bowing to the inevitable, but not too fast

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 27, 2008

 The burning question that divides the Anglican communion is homosexuality. At the Lambeth Conference, Anglican divines discussed how they could resolve that question-- or, better, agree to leave it unresolved. Looking back upon those discussions, the Archbishop of Canterbury observes:

Second, on the controversial issue of the day regarding human sexuality, there was a very widely-held conviction that premature or unilateral local change was risky and divisive, in spite of the diversity of opinion expressed on specific questions.

The question, again, is whether the Anglican communion, as a body, should agree to scrap 2,000 years of Christian teaching that homosexual acts are immoral. Conservative prelates, particularly in Africa, worry that their European and American colleagues will take that leap into the moral void, if they haven't done so already. The Lambeth discussion was intended to ease those fears, reassuring the conservatives that the world's Anglican leaders really haven't made up their minds. 

Notice that the proposed answer to the Africans' complaints doesn't really address their fears. The fact that English bishops might not forsake the Christian tradition is hardly an assurance that the tradition will be preserved intact. ("Are you going to blow up this house? You haven't decided? Oh, good; then I can continue living here in confidence.")

But the Archbishop of Canterbury goes even further. The problem, he instructs the Anglican faithful, is with "premature or unilateral local change." Although his statement is designed to be placatory, he clearly conveys the notion that a change in Anglican doctrine and discipline is coming; it just shouldn't come prematurely. And when it does come, that change should be made on a universal, rather than local, basis. 

From the perspective of the African conservatives, then, the Anglican ship is definitely headed for the rocks. It's not all that promising to learn that the captain has ease back on the throttle without altering the course. Nor is it comforting he really really wants you to stay on board. 

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