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Style over Substance

Archbishop Robin Eames addressed the crisis within the Anglican Communion in two recent lectures given in the USA. One eyewitness commented that 'style won over substance' in both of the lectures. Having viewed both lectures online, Reform Ireland would wholeheartedly agree with such a description.

Of the actions of ECUSA and the Canadians, Archbishop Eames states:

I think that while we cannot ask them to say what they have done is wrong, I think we can and were justifiably correct in saying, "Can you say to the rest of the Anglican Communion, this big world family, that 'We regret the misunderstandings and pain because of what we've done'?" And I think they've done that, and I believe it was what my commission was looking for.

This is the core of his two lectures. ECUSA and Westminster, Canada were not wrong to ordain an openly gay man to the episcopate nor to bless same sex relationships. Archbishop Eames goes on to state that he believes that they both have fulfilled all that was asked of them from the Windsor Report and from the Primates meeting in Drumantaine. In fact he goes further when he says:

"In my opinion the decisions of the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church (USA) met that request. In fact looking at the precise wording of Windsor and the statements of the House of Bishops it is arguable the reaction exceeded what was asked for by the Windsor Report. They have gone so far as to express their 'repentance' at the damage caused to the Anglican Communion by a failure to consult adequately -- a mode of language the Lambeth Commission felt unable to ask of them.

This must be read carefully because it does not say what one might think it says. ECUSA 'repents' of the damage it caused to relationships within the communion but not the actions it took which damaged those relationships. The 'regret' and the 'repentance' are for the consequences and for not consulting before action was taken. Nowhere in the two lectures does Archbishop Eames address the issue that their actions were unbiblical and therefore sinful. This is clearly seen in the statement below where he leans towards the acceptance of their justification that a 'new thing' is happening:

"This means that any development needs to be explored for its resonance with the truth, and with the utmost charity on the part of all - charity that grants that a new thing can be offered humbly and with integrity, and charity that might refrain from an action which might harm a sister or brother."

Archbishop Eames then states that "Careful study of Windsor will show that the Lambeth Commission did not choose to condemn the decisions per se."

and further to this

"…if the Anglican Communion is to remain united there can be no blanket condemnation of an on-going process of discernment about the right way, under God and in the spirit of the Gospel, to accommodate the reality of faithful Christians who happen to be homosexually orientated within the life of the Communion. To do otherwise is to court schism."

So ECUSA and Westminster are not condemned for their unbiblical actions, rather they are commended for regretting the consequences of their sinful actions. Those who live in the North of Ireland have heard Archbishop Eames condemn such words from the mouths of others in relation to the conflict of the past 35 years. His moral stance on that issue cannot be questioned but it would appear that his moral stance theologically on same sex relationships is open to question.

Archbishop Eames is right when he states that: Much of the current crisis in Anglicanism turns on attitudes to the authority of Scripture. What a pity he does not address the crisis from a biblical stance. He commends ECUSA's response to Windsor, going as far as to call it 'scholarship' despite the fact that it has been shown to be far from 'scholarship' by other leading theologians within the Anglican. Communion. Archbishop Eames qualifies his support for those who have taken the biblical stance when he states: Interpretation of Scripture itself and its relationship to tradition and reason is one thing -- it is quite a different matter when it is allowed to become an integral part of the process of cultural approach to communion. Here is the classic liberal agenda in the human sexuality debate - 'it is all to do with cultural interpretations and traditions.' IT would appear that Archbishop Eames supports this viewpoint and that the new authority within Anglicanism is 'cultural relevance.' Such 'cultural relevance' will lead to a church which conforms to the patterns of the world and one which will have abandoned the Scriptures in order to be accepted by society.

There is one very telling sentence in his lectures when the veneer slips: "While we don't agree with every page of your report, we agree with what we say is 'the spirit of Windsor,' and that's more important than even the words we use. So 'the words we use' are not important but the 'spirit of Windsor' is. What is this 'spirit of Windsor?' Well taking what Archbishop Eames has said in these two lectures it would appear to be a spirit of compromise and conformity to a liberal revisionist agenda. Such a 'spirit' is encapsulated in the following sentence:

I think we have helped Anglicans to see that there are some things that should be vital and important, and there are other things that are of lesser importance and which we can go on being Anglicans together but disagree over.

Once again we are being encouraged to accept what ECUSA and Westminster have done because remaining within the Anglican fold is of more importance than taking a biblical stance on human sexuality (which is of lesser importance). Archbishop Eames hits the nail on the head when he asks: Is the real question about authority rather than sexuality? But in answering his own question he shows how willing he is to compromise the authority of scripture in order to maintain unity within the Anglican Communion:

They question the assertion which faced the compilers of the Windsor Report that there can be no compromise on a deeply held principle such as the authority of Scripture. They confront the element which says 'If you are not with us then you must be against us.' Does this mean the current sickness at the heart of the Anglican Communion cannot be addressed by any process of reconciliation? Does it means there can be no compromise on questions of deep principle?

In response to the last question Reform Ireland would say that there cannot be, there should not be and there will not be any compromise on questions of deep principle such as the authority of Scripture and its teaching on human sexuality.

The two lectures reveal the shallowness of the debate within the Anglican Communion on this issue. Archbishop Eames, the self-styled 'divine optimist', reveals himself to be in fact a 'chameleon.' Ever the consummate diplomat he stayed far away from controversy in his two lectures. He never engaged with nor did he confront the liberal revisionist agenda of those who would lead Anglicanism away from its biblical foundation. He failed to live up to his consecration promises to 'chase error from the church.'

Reform Ireland are disappointed with the content of the two lectures and also with the answers Archbishop Eames gave in the Q&A sessions. By not stating clearly the biblical (and therefore the Anglican) position on this 'current crisis' he has given encouragement to those within the Church of Ireland who are promoting the same liberal revisionist agenda as ECUSA and Westminster. On this occasion the Archbishop failed to stand for biblical truth and for that the Church of Ireland is the poorer.

14th Oct 2005
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