Lambeth 2022: the Elevation of Experience
The Lambeth Conference is finally over. Thanks be to God! Its completion was about enough to turn the most emotionless soul into a pew-jumping Pentecostal. Hallelujah!
However, this most recent gathering did bring clarity. It visibly demonstrated the separation of the wheat from the chaff in the Anglican Communion. No one need wonder any longer where theological lines are drawn.
Most Anglicans worldwide acknowledge that sexual relations are only permitted between one man and one wife within the context of a life-long marriage. It is a very simple concept that is very readily understood from scripture.
The Archbishop of Canterbury demonstrated that he could simultaneously accept two contradictory positions as equally valid. One recalls the quip about the man who “had a mind so fine as to be incapable of understanding contradiction.”
On the one hand, he acknowledged that 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 was still the theological standard of the overwhelming majority of the world’s 80,000,000 Anglicans. On the other, he accepted the revisionists’ view within the church as valid without the need for censure. He pronounced that the revisionist minority arrived at their view after much prayer and study as If that were the unassailable argument in its favour.
But this is not just prayer and study; this is Revisionists’ Prayer and Study. The Archbishop’s entire rationale for permitting the faddish doctrine of the liberal provinces is that they have come to their position through prayer and study. What special pleading is this? Does this mean that only the revisionists pray, or that there are no scholars to be found at their studies on the conservative side?
Would this argument have held sway at the Council of Nicaea? “We must permit Arian teaching because it was arrived at through prayer and study.” Can the Anglican Communion really be hamstrung by such facile reasoning?
But this is not just prayer and study; this is Revisionists’ Prayer and Study. Revisionists’ Prayer and Study is not the study of Scripture as the final source of authority, submitting to it as God’s Word written. Rather, we have seen them seeking God’s voice in experience, and particularly the lived experience of homosexual people. This sustained reflection on experience has been elevated to a sacred and authoritative status in the Archbishop’s thinking. The mystical term “Prayer and Study” ought not be challenged or questioned; it validates any opinion.
The Archbishop’s pronouncement has elevated and added Experience (or the liberals’ reflection on it) to become the ‘fourth leg’ to the Anglican Way of doing theology. For centuries, Hooker’s three-legged stool has held sway—with the Bible being the final authority over Tradition and Reason.
What Archbishop Welby has done is move from this stable three-legged stool to the wobbly coffee table of John Wesley’s Quadrilateral. The Bible, Tradition and Reason are joined by Experience as the operative means of exegeting and understanding theology. By this means he allows strange and erroneous doctrines to be seen as equally valid as divinely revealed propositional truth.
Unsurprisingly, 107 bishops from The Episcopal Church in the US sided against Christ’s teaching. All the bishops in Wales and Scotland hold to this perfidious position also. Thankfully, not all bishops in these Isles agree with the Archbishop, that Prayer and Study act as sanctifiers of false doctrine. Why should the Revisionists’ Prayer and Study be any more special or valid than any other Christian’s, that it be given such hallowed status in a worldwide communion?
The majority of the Anglican Communion disagree with their elevated reflections on experience, as does the Bible, as do the Articles of Religion. It is wrong; most of all, it is sinful. If any bishop thinks that such false teaching deserves equal acceptance in the church they should admit they are play acting. One does not follow Jesus by embracing sexual immorality. Our minds are called to the warning of Isaiah 5:20; “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.”
No matter how elevated Revisionists’ Prayer and Study remains in Archbishop Welby’s mind, no matter how many times he refers to it as a basis for false teaching to be tolerated, the truth of Article XX stands: “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”