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Canterbury Crackup

Eschewing church discipline has come back to haunt Anglicans.
2004This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Anglicans have been waiting for the arrival of the Windsor Report like Tolkien fans panted after the movie premiere of The Lord of the Rings. The difference is that the Windsor Report, read instantly by Anglicans worldwide on the internet, has flopped. At least according to conservative Anglicans—and in their profound disappointment, there lies a lesson about weak accountability, a lesson all churches are wise to ponder.

The world's top Anglicans (known as primates) in October 2003 instructed the Lambeth Commission to recommend how the Communion, with 70 million baptized members worldwide, might hold together. The presenting problems? The American church had just elected an active homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop, and both American and Canadian dioceses were going ahead with official ceremonies to bless same-sex couples. All this despite the broad Anglican consensus that heterosexual marriage is God's normative design for a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman.

Failure of nerve

How did it come to this point? Let's focus on the American church: The problem began in the 1960s when a bishop of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA), James Pike, began publicly doubting doctrines like the Trinity. His fellow bishops, afraid that church discipline would seem medieval to the rest of America, only mildly rebuked him and dropped the issue.

This failure of nerve gradually opened a hole in the church that truckloads of aberrant clerics have since driven through. They have endorsed everything from premarital sex (during the values clarification sex-education era) to homosexual sex (beginning in the 1970s) to the worship of pagan deities (a service for which was posted briefly on the church's national website in late October)—not ...

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