When the top brass of the Anglican Communion convene for their decennial Lambeth Conference in Canterbury England next month, the elephant in the room will be The Episcopal Church of the USA (TEC).
The Lambeth Conference is a convening of archbishops and bishops who meet for worship, study and conversation every ten years at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the Anglican Church. The communion has been roiled of late by the TEC's ordination of the openly homosexual, non-celibate bishop, Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire and by the affirmation of same sex unions by a number of dioceses.
Many were hopeful that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, would signal his firm opposition to the TEC's embrace of homosexual behavior by declining to invite the church's bishops to the conference. No such luck. Only Robinson got the cold shoulder, but even that small slight was offset by the Archbishop's refusal to invite Martyn Minns, newly appointed bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans of North America, a group that splintered off from the TEC in protest of the American church's drift toward heresy. Minns' status with the Anglican Communion is deemed "impaired" by Williams because of certain "canonical technicalities" associated with his ordination, but many feel that he was shut out from the meeting because of his refusal to go along to get along.
Hopes that the conference will speak in a definitive way to the rogue actions of the TEC are growing dim. The chance that the conference will expel the TEC with the goal of causing it to repent is low. The likelihood that there will be endless discussions accompanied by much furrowing of brows and gnashing of teeth with no decisive action is high. Williams has shown himself to be anything but decisive, and he speaks in obtuse terms about the issue that is causing so much angst within the Communion.
But if Williams lacks clarity in his statements on the issue of homosexuality in the church, the same cannot be said of Scripture. Homosexual practices are strongly condemned in the Old Testament: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." (Leviticus 18:22 NIV) The New Testament is equally clear: "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV; see also, Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Timothy 1:10)