‘It may be time to pull the plug’ on the Lambeth Conference

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Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the history of the church at the University of Oxford, says it may be time to pull the plug on the Lambeth conference.

He says it gives the illusion that there is an Anglican church worldwide with a leader in the Archbishop of Canterbury, but “that’s an entirely wrong way of looking at Anglicanism and that’s why it may be time to pull the plug on Lambeth conferences, because they’re inclined to give that illusion.”

In an interview with Roger Bolton for the Religion Media Centre, he says there is enormous value in the Communion, but it is a valuable, fragile structure. “You don’t mess with it. You don’t use it as a football.

“It has this rueful quality of being able to hold people, be hospitable to people, with entirely different opinions. This has actually been the case since its very early days in the 16th and 17th century”.

He said the issues were different now, but basic questions, such as the nature of Eucharist, had engendered violently opposed views in the history of the Communion.

“My experience of bishops is that they are basically good things. But get them together and the timidity, the stupidity and the blockishness of the collective is a very bad thing. And you must multiply that by a factor of ten when you put them in Lambeth or Canterbury”.

He said the questions that really matter are issues such as world inequalities, poverty and climate change. Sexuality will go its own sweet way. But the way this dominates discussions implies the church has nothing to say about big issues and therefore appears irrelevant to people. “That’s one of the reasons why churchgoing has become a minority pursuit”

Read it all at the Religion Media Centre