Defending the Faith
The walls are crumbling and the roof is leaking at Canterbury Cathedral, one of Western Christianity's most renowned worship spaces. Two years ago, church leaders began to raise £50 million ($100 million) to restore the historic cathedral where Archbishop Thomas Becket was martyred on December 29, 1170.
So far, the cathedral has only raised $15 million. But it is asking individuals to donate as little as $10 per month to sponsor blocks of newly quarried Caen stone, which was used in the original construction. Earlier modern renovations were made with cheaper, less durable stone that quickly eroded. This summer, during the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference for Anglican bishops, attendees could hear the sound of masons hand-sawing and hand-chiseling large blocks outside the cathedral.
Restoring Canterbury Cathedral may prove to be easier than restoring orthodoxy and unity to the 78-million-member Anglican Communion. This summer, global Anglicanism faced enormous controversy over homosexual ordination, same-sex blessings, and ongoing disagreements about ordaining women as priests and bishops. At least 617 of the world's 880 bishops attended Lambeth at the University of Kent, about two miles from the cathedral. Though not invited to Lambeth, Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, an actively homosexual bishop whose 2003 consecration drew a firestorm of criticism, was on campus to meet with top Anglicans, as were many other gay activists.
But some 230 bishops, mostly from Africa, declined the invitation of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to attend Lambeth. Instead, conservatives rallied about 1,200 bishops, pastors, and lay leaders in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).
Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi, a leading conservative, explained in the London Times, "We believe that our absence at this Lambeth Conference is the only way that our voice will be heard. For more than ten years we have been speaking and have not been heard. So maybe our absence will speak louder than our words."
Both conferences issued statements. Lambeth released 44 pages of the bishops' often-contradictory theological reflections, which resulted from daily small-group discussions. Williams also reaffirmed three prohibitions: no more gay bishops, no more public, wedding-like services for same-sex couples, and no more boundary crossing by bishops to provide sanctuary for conservative dissidents. At GAFCON, leaders issued the four-page Jerusalem Declaration. That document condemned as a "false gospel" any church teaching that would undermine the authority of Scripture or the uniqueness of Christ, or that would normalize homosexual relationships. The declaration called for the creation of a new advisory body (Primates Council) to return Anglicanism to its orthodox roots, and launched the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans to organize conservatives. Orombi publicly read the declaration, reciting this line twice: "Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion."
A Humpty Dumpty Moment
With a formal schism rejected, conservatives face enormous obstacles, including many internal differences over strategy for their ultimate goal of reunifying global Anglicanism without establishing a rival global body.
A key figure in this process is Archbishop of the Southern Cone Gregory Venables, based in Argentina. Alongside African archbishops, he has given refuge to bishops, clergy, and individual churches resisting litigation and censure by the left-leaning Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.