Ezekiel 13 v10-12
They lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
The word of God is uncompromising. Like a sharp double-edged sword, it is intended to cleave truth from error, cutting beneath our obfuscations, our evasions, our deceits and outright denials. It is intended to bring us face to face with the truth, the reality we hide from day to day. And it is only after we are confronted with the truth of who we are, in sharp painful honesty, that it offers us hope – a hope beyond all hope.
Where do we, as Anglicans, stand in relation to this? It is a tragedy that Lambeth – where the Church called the Anglican Communion, faced with a crossroads, gathered together for counsel – should have failed so deeply in purpose, in leadership, in clarity and in moral courage. Rather than discerning the truth through the uncompromising word of God and then acting upon it, the ‘truth’ discussed was weak, distorted and nuanced, and no courage was found to act upon it.
2 Corinthians 6 v14
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What does this passage teach us other than, having discerned between righteousness and wickedness, we should act upon that discernment? Or do we not have the courage of the convictions that our faith lays upon us? Jesus said His yoke is light – but a yoke it is nonetheless. Those who profess faith in Him must wear this yoke.
We should not love the organisation so much that we forget that the organisation exists only at the pleasure and for the purposes of God. A comfortable time for Bishops, a collegiality expressed, may be all well and good, but if it is at the expense of the body of Christ, it is little more than soothing platitudes offered to a sick patient by those who have the ability and authority to direct the cure.
Revelation 3 v15-16
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Revelation 2 v5b
If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
The words of the gentle Christ – meek and mild. Far be it for Him to overturn the money tables, and whip the interlopers out of the temple! Which Christ would we follow? The real Christ as revealed in the Bible? Or would we prefer a Christ who would hide behind platitudes, behind circumlocution, behind collegiality, behind committees and behind an organisation?
We are told that the Lambeth conference was expressly designed not to make decisions, but to rebuild trust and confidence in Anglicanism. Well, what do we make of this? Regarding the first aim, we must adjudge it a success. No decisions could have been passed in a meeting so manipulated to achieve nothing of significance.
Regarding the second aim, rebuilding ‘trust and confidence’, perhaps we may answer with a question. On what foundation is Anglicanism based? Should we rejoice in the friendship amongst Bishops, or should we desire the friendship of Christ? Without the Cornerstone, the rest is mere chasing after the wind.
Let us submit then, that in as much as the conference aims were towards a lukewarm outcome, they were remarkably successful. As an example of an abdication of responsibility and authority, Lambeth ended on a high note.
So what now? It is hard to escape the conclusion that the lampstand now passes to others who will be willing to make the hard decisions and difficult choices that will lead to the restoration of the sick patient and the eventual repair of the tear in the fabric of the life of the Church.