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The Communion bureaucracy has been complicit in this failure of discipline. In fact, these same practices are being condoned in the Church of England, where the Government has legalized same-sex marriage and enforced LGBT rights and promoted them across the Communion. Within a few years, the CofE will formalize these practices, and the Communion bureaucracy will insist that other Anglicans accept these practices in terms of “good disagreement,” along lines of the “Living in Love and Faith” exercise.


Common sense and family and civic life confirm the truth that doctrine without discipline is a recipe for a community in chaos. This applies as well in the community in the church where doctrine, discipline and worship aim to combine in glorifying God. According to the Book of Homilies:

The true church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God’s faithful and elect people, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone. And it hath three notes or marks, whereby it is known: Pure and sound doctrine; The Sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution; And the right use of ecclesiastical discipline.  

Thomas Cranmer’s vision was to reform the Church according to each of these marks, and he did so with the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. He was cut short of reforming church discipline by Queen Mary; nevertheless, the existing customs and canons of the Church and the common law of a Christian commonwealth kept the Church of England on an even keel well into the twentieth century. The same may be said of the Episcopal Church USA, whose Prayer Book and Constitution and Canons remained conservative until the progressive revolution in the 1960s. From that time on, a gap widened between official doctrine and actual practice, and attempts at discipline failed, as in the case of open heretics like Bishops James Pike and John Spong.

So it was the spirit of the Sixties rather than the Spirit of godly council that prevailed after Lambeth 1998, as a strong majority of Episcopal bishops returned home to denounce Resolution I.10, while promising to continue promoting and institutionalizing homosexual ordinations and same-sex blessings. The Episcopal bishops reminded the rest of their fellow bishops worldwide that each Province was autonomous, that “mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ” had its limits (namely, when it interferes with my agenda), and that none of the Communion Instruments had any power to stand in their way.

This posed a dilemma and challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular, who had been declared the “focus of unity.” It also posed a challenge to the Primates Meeting, which Lambeth 1998 had reaffirmed as having an “enhanced role” in doctrinal, moral, and pastoral matters (Resolution II.6.a). Canterbury – Archbishops Carey, Williams, and Welby – failed repeatedly to uphold the inherent authority of the office and ultimately overcame attempts of the Primates to exercise discipline of those churches that openly defied the teaching of Lambeth I.10.

As reported in my Diary from Lambeth 1998, I was exhilarated with the passage of the Resolution on Human Sexuality, which Archbishop George Carey had endorsed. Two days later, I was deflated when I heard Carey fend off the sneering secular media by assuring them that the Resolution was just the first step in an ongoing consultation. Consultation is not what one offers to a rebellious teenager who has been found with pot – or a young lady – in his bedroom. Sadly, “consultation” and “listening” became watchwords of the Lambeth Establishment to the present day.

Archbishop Carey made an even more egregious error two years later, when it had become quite clear that the Episcopal Church was in open rebellion. Two Global South Primates – Drexel Gomez and Maurice Sinclair – had presented to the Primates Meeting an eminently reasonable proposal on church discipline called “To Mend the Net.” Archbishops Gomez and Sinclair, invoking their enhanced role, offered a thoughtful and careful nine-step process of discerning and dealing with false teaching and practice in a rebellious province, calling for repentance but culminating, if no repentance was forthcoming, in a replacement jurisdiction. George Carey relegated discussion of this proposal to a “fireside chat,” and from there it was deposited in the maw of the Lambeth bureaucracy, from which it never reemerged.

A three-way tussle now was enjoined between the dissident churches in North America, the Global South Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury. This conflict became volatile in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly practicing homosexual, as diocesan bishop. By this time, Rowan Williams had become Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was confronted by an indignant group of Global South Primates at meetings in London (2003), Ireland (2005), and Tanzania (2007). Williams responded to the Primates’ call for discipline by establishing the “Windsor Process,” which concluded with a mild “tut, tut” for the offenders and no accountability or change required. When the Primates at Dar es Salaam finally called on Archbishop Williams to disinvite the Episcopal Church to Lambeth 2008 – a call he signed on to – he reneged and intimated that their authority had been enhanced too much. Since 2007, Primates Meetings have been orchestrated by the Communion Office.

Rowan Williams’ defiance led proximately to the Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008 (see Theses 6-10). His successor Justin Welby has followed the same script, snubbing the Primates of the Global South and the replacement province, the Anglican Church in North America, and welcoming the increasing radicalism of the revisionist churches in terms of “good disagreement.”

Now of course the Church of England itself has joined the North American club. Justin Welby’s two-faced professions – “joyfully” welcoming same-sex blessings but refusing to perform them himself in faux deference to his role as “focus of unity,” then sheepishly claiming in Ghana that “Parliament made me do it” – would be farcical if we were not dealing with a righteous God and His Holy will.

In a strange way, the actions of the Church of England and of Canterbury confirm the maxim that doctrine, discipline and worship go hand in hand. The replacement of the biblical two-way doctrine of marriage and abstinence has led to a new discipline propounded by the English bishops and a new liturgy to accompany it. Already we begin to see a new code of conduct coming whereby open opponents of the same-sex regime will be shunned.

For those Global Anglicans who have revered the heritage of the Church of England and the See of Canterbury, this is a sad progression of events. For faithful members of the Church of England, an even more painful choice is to be faced: conform with the spirit of the age or forfeit your status and property. This was the choice faced by the first Anglican martyrs, as expressed by Thomas Cranmer when he gave his final testament in Oxford:

This shall be my first exhortation: That you set not overmuch by this false glosing world, but upon God and the world to come. And learn to know what this lesson meaneth, which St. John teacheth, “that the love of this world is hatred against God.”

Cranmer’s final testament embodies the true love and faith that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).