A brief examination.
Following the decisions of the Canadian diocese of New Westminster, to approve 'same-sex blessings', and the appointment by the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) of a practising homosexual to be bishop of New Hampshire, the Primates of the Anglican Communion at a meeting in Lambeth Palace in October 2003 not only condemned such moves, but also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a commission to look at the theological and legal issues that surrounded these dangerous innovations. However, the decision was taken for the subsequent Lambeth Commission not to rule on whether or not the Canadian and American innovations were unbiblical, but rather to focus primary attention on how best to maintain the institutional unity of the Anglican Communion.
In fact, Windsor's tacit acceptance of these innovations is underlined in the report itself by its suggestion that, through a process of reception, these ungodly innovations may actually become acceptable! Far from offering a biblical solution to the problem, the Windsor Report, released in October 2004, has added to the problem by its deliberate failure to address the real underlying issue, which is the ungodly nature of the decisions by the Canadian and American provinces. In this article, the problematic nature of the Windsor Report is analysed through the opening question of its Chairman, Archbishop Eames, namely, 'what do we believe is the will of God for the Anglican Communion?'
The first point of concern about the report is its suggestion that Scripture may not have the last word on homosexuality. The report makes the point that Scripture shouldn't be seen to function as a 'court of appeal', and suggests that God may exercise his teaching authority outside of Scripture, namely through (Anglican) bishops, who are able to bring new insights (not available to the compilers of the Bible), to these matters. The implication is that we ought to leave judgement on this matter to episcopal councils, and the collective wisdom of the communion as represented in 'the instruments of Unity (The Archbishop of Canterbury, the meeting of Primates, the Lambeth gathering, and the Anglican Consultative Council). In other words, Scripture does not necessarily represent the will of God and we should not expect it to have the last say on the matter of homosexuality.
This suggestion about the 'insufficiency' of Scripture is very worrying to say the least. Not only has God been divorced from his Word, and his will divorced from Scripture, but also it seems to repeat the age-old question, '…did God really say…?' (Genesis 3:1). By making such suggestions, it also reverses the classical position of Anglicanism on the Bible and ecclesiastical councils on discerning the will of God, which speaks clearly of the sufficiency of Scripture and the possibility of councils promoting error (See Articles 6, 20, & 21 of the 39 Articles of Religion)
Secondly, if, as the report suggests, the will of God for the Anglican Communion on this matter is not necessarily to be found in Scripture, it may well be that the will of God is more perfectly revealed in a process of 'reception.' This is a mechanism that has been devised to 'test the waters' about the acceptability of the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion. The report easily assumes that this mechanism has successfully resolved the debate, whereas the reality is that the Anglican Communion is still deeply divided over the issue. In other words, this process of reception has failed to discover the will of God over the issue of the ordination of women. As a failed and flawed man-made mechanism, it is just as likely to fail to discern God's will over homosexuality and to lead to even greater and more serious division in the Anglican Communion.
Ultimately, the report suggests that the answer to the Archbishop's question concerning God's will for the Anglican Communion, is to be found in giving increased power to the Archbishop of Canterbury to be the final judge on disputable theological matters. Assisted by a Council of Advice that would reflect the breadth of view in the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury will pass judgement, and his judgements would be given legal force in the Anglican Communion by means of canon law and an Anglican covenant. Understandably, the Primates' answer to this suggestion in their meeting in February 2005 was decidedly negative, as it unduly focuses too much power into the hands of a small group of individuals. This recommendation of the centralisation of power within the Anglican Communion would seem to be the final acknowledgement that neither Scripture, nor a common doctrinal inheritance as outlined in the 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are sufficient to achieve a common mind. If Scripture and a common reformed doctrine have failed to help us understand the will of God, it seems unlikely that an Anglican papacy will fare any better, for no man's conscience will be bound by imposed ecclesiastical edicts.
'What do we believe is the will of God for the Anglican Communion?' This is a question to which the Windsor Report, as we have seen, has given some very disturbing and dangerous answers. For faithful Anglicans, the answer lies as Anglicanism has always upheld in the Word of God. Those provinces of the Anglican Communion that have acted unfaithfully and disobediently to the plain teaching of Scripture are called to repent. This is even more urgent in the light of ECUSA's submission to the ACC meeting in Nottingham in June 2005, which underlined its commitment to same-sex blessings and the appointment of Gene Robinson to New Hampshire. Faithful congregations within ECUSA and Canada that are seeking to uphold biblical teaching in the face of strong opposition and persecution by revisionist bishops should continue to be supported by the rest of the Anglican Communion. 'The instruments of unity' within the Anglican Communion should insist on the supreme authority of God's Word and uphold the kind of godly discipline enjoined by Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer. It is our sincere prayer that the soul-searching of the Anglican Communion over this issue may lead to a renewed confidence in the Word of God and a firm re-commitment to the reformed doctrinal standards that have historically shaped Anglicanism.
16th November 2005