Okay, now Archbishop Welby is claiming that English law prevents the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) from discussing his decision to exclude same-sex spouses from Lambeth 2020. Apparently, Welby thinks his exclusion of same-sex spouses is a matter of doctrine and the ACC is not permitted under English Law to discuss doctrine.
Honestly, this appeal to English law in an effort to stifle debate is ridiculous. It’s almost too easy to take apart. I’ll limit myself to three things.
First, invitations to a Lambeth Conference are not a matter of Christian doctrine. Please forgive the self-reference, but I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology and have taught Christian doctrine for many years. Christology is a Christian doctrine. The Trinity is a Christian doctrine. Ecclesiology is a Christian doctrine. I have yet to read a Christian theology of conference invitations. Perhaps, Welby thinks Christian marriage is a matter of Christian doctrine. Debatable, but let’s grant that it is. Even so, it’s a bit of newspeak to elide from invitations to a Lambeth Conference to the doctrine of Christian marriage in an effort to claim that English law forbids its discussion at the ACC.
[For the record, I’m in favor of inviting people with widely different views of Christian marriage into debate and discussion. Makes for better conversation. I say, let everyone make the best arguments they can and then let’s see where it leads us. Then again, I rather like a good theological argument!]
Second, the ACC has, in fact, discussed doctrine at previous meetings. It took me about three minutes to go to the ACC website, click on the documents from the last ACC meeting in 2016, and find the following resolution:
Resolution 16.17: Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
The Anglican Consultative Council
- welcomes and affirms the substance of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification(JDDJ), signed by Lutherans and Roman Catholics in 1999; and
- recognizes that Anglicans have explored the doctrine of justification with both Lutherans and Roman Catholics; and
- recognizes that Anglicans and Lutherans share a common understanding of God’s justifying grace, as the Helsinki Report stated that we are accounted righteous and are made righteous before God only by grace through faith because of the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and not on account of our works or merits; and
- recognizes that in 1986 the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) produced a statement Salvation and the Church, which observed that our two Communions are agreed on the essential aspects of the doctrine of salvation and on the Church’s role within it.
One does not need a Ph.D. in systematic theology to see that the “Doctrine of Justification” is obviously a matter of … you guessed it … doctrine. Which raises the questions: Was this discussion of the doctrine of justification at the 2016 ACC meeting a gross violation of English law? Are the members of the 2016 ACC still subject to prosecution for their flagrant violation of English law? Or is Welby’s claim that the ACC cannot under English law discuss matters of Christian doctrine just foolish?
Third, I’m not too sure Welby has thought through the implications of claiming that the ACC, one of the four so-called instruments of communion in the Anglican Communion is subject to English law. First of all, I must say I’ve never really been terribly impressed with the Anglican appeal to the instruments of communion. In particular, let’s recall that the ACC held is first meeting in 1971. Forgive me, but the seventies also gave us leisure suits and disco. [Okay, that was a bit of a cheap shot, but sometimes sarcasm is the best way to point out the pretentions in institutional claims to authority.] Second, and more importantly, does Welby realize he just announced to the whole Anglican Communion that one of the so-called instruments of communion that supposedly governs our life together is subject to English law? Just take a moment to ponder that claim. . . . Enough said.
I’ll stop now. I could easily point out more flaws and fallacies in Welby’s statements. It’s almost too easy. A bit boring as well. But quite frankly his newspeak/churchspeak needs to be critiqued. I wish there were a more vigorous religious press that would take him to task.