February 23, 2007
Thirty eight heads of the national churches belonging to the Anglican Communion finished a conference in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, earlier this week. It has exposed, once again, latent tension over deep-felt social issues. The conference issued a communique demanding that the Episcopal Church U.S.A. accept the orthodox position that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Scripture," setting a deadline of September 30 for American bishops to pledge to stop blessing same-sex couples and consecrating gay bishops. Conservative priest Martyn Minns, of the Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, was cheered by this action, saying it gave the U.S. church "one last chance." But some liberal American bishops, including Steven Charleston of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said they are ready to accept an outright schism rather than concede on what they view as a basic principle. See Washington Post.
The fact that they cannot accept the fact that many others in their denomination see traditional moral standards as a basic principle is a troubling sign of arrogant, dogmatic self-assuredness, which is the opposite of what a "liberal" minded person is supposed to be. If a schism does take place, there will be little doubt as to which side is primarily to blame. But there are signs that the majority of Episcopalians are realizing that their defiant stance is a dead-end that would leave them cut off from the rest of the world. (Rather like the Bush administration! )
Indeed, this conference also highlighted an interesting "tectonic shift" that is taking place in global church politics: the vibrant Third World churches are gaining influence and becoming more confident in their positions, while the complacent, staid old English and North Americans stagnate. Rev. Kendall Harmon cited an article, "Anglican Winds of change," from R. William Franklin:
So instead of long-predicted schism, the Tanzania meeting helped create a different kind of Anglicanism of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The developing world is coming to the fore as a mature power within the Communion in this decade.