Lambeth 2022: Communion at a Crossroads
By the time this edition of The English Churchman lands, hundreds of bishops of the Anglican Communion will have arrived for the 2022 Lambeth Conference. The majority world will gather at Kent University and it will not look as it did the day before.
This decennial conference has been postponed for one reason or another since 2018; this year there is great potential for good or ill. Whatever the outcome, it shall not surprise our omniscient Lord. Another comforting thing is that his will shall not be thwarted. Any appearance of it being thwarted is ultimately mere illusion brought on by lack of biblical perspective.
We realise that many are rather at their wits’ end about the direction of things within worldwide Anglicanism. There is every reason to be upset. But we suggest that the cure for such unsettledness is a quiet confidence engendered by a biblical worldview.
Humanity has a very impressive record of messing things up, yet God has an even more impressive record in keeping his plan on track. Truly he plays a long game.
Consider the redeemed Israelites’ response to the fast-approaching Egyptian army in the Book of Exodus. God had visibly and obviously delivered them from Pharaoh time and again. But when they found themselves literally between the devil and the deep blue sea, it looked hopeless in their faithless eyes. Panic set in—then God used Moses to demonstrate his control over the circumstances. His plan had to be fulfilled; rather than destruction by the Egyptian army or drowning in the Red Sea, the children of Israel walked across on dry land. Not one was lost. Those who sought to thwart God’s plan faced a different destiny.
Some will say: Look at the rot within the Church! Look at the false teachers and their false teaching! It is indeed a problem. But it has always been the case.
From apostolic times, the Church has had to struggle against false teaching. The magicians who opposed Moses in Egypt were seen as prototypes for the dangerous teachers Paul warned against (2 Timothy 3:8).
Jude, in calling the redeemed to ‘earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’ also pointed out that such false teachers would creep in unawares. One doesn’t have to look around too far to realise such is still going on.
Saint Paul had to deal with people who crept in to church life after him and caused trouble in Corinth. The Corinthians took a cheap view of grace in the way they were handling sexual immorality in the Church. Sound familiar? It was so bad that the Apostle had to chastise them severely. We should point out that then only years had passed—not centuries as in our current situation.
Similarly, the Apostle John had to address false teaching, declaring that those who had left the apostolic fold did so because they had never really belonged (1 John 2). They had been poseurs from the beginning. The nerve of such is astounding—pretending publicly to be something they were not is simply not cricket.
So what should be our response? To do as Jude instructs and contend for the faith, never backing down but trusting our omnipotent Lord to set things right. The Church is his. He walks among the golden lampstands and sees what goes on in his congregations. He will not tolerate false teaching forever; he has a timeline and a plan that he will fulfil to perfection.
Righteousness will win because Jesus has won. Such perspective is helpful and needed.
Our Anglican Communion is a wonderful thing. It is part of the Church which our Lord bought with his own blood. The risen and ascended Jesus is the supreme Head of his body.
Inevitably we face great obstacles but Jesus is greater. We pray that the assembled bishops will place themselves under the jurisdiction of the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls in leading the provinces his way.