Thoughts during the Synod on 'Thoughts after Lambeth'

Bradley J. Birzer posted an edited version of T.S. Eliot's 1931 essay 'Thoughts after Lambeth' at The Imaginative Conservative. As you probably know, Lambeth Conferences are, or perhaps now were, the periodic meetings of the bishops of the Anglican Communion at which they would attempt to reach agreement on various topics of concern and express such agreement in resolutions. In the essay, Eliot reviews the Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1930.

The 1930 Conference is most-remembered for Resolution 15 on marriage and birth control. Eliot says,

"The Resolution shows pretty clearly both the strength and the weakness of the Report, and the strength and weakness of the Anglican Church. The recognition of contraception is, I feel sure, something quite different from a concession to 'modern' opinion. It was a courageous facing of facts of life; and was the only way of dealing with the question possible within the Anglican organization."
Guess the next word.
"But before asserting the distinct character of the Anglican Church in this way, the bishops must have taken a good deal of thought about it; all the more astonishing that they did not take a little more thought, and not proceed to a statement which seems to me almost suicidal. For to allow that 'each couple' should take counsel only if perplexed in mind is almost to surrender the whole citadel of the Church. It is ten to one, considering the extreme disingenuity of humanity, which ought to be patent to all after so many thousand years, that only a very small minority will be 'perplexed'... ."
Or, as he had put it in the previous paragraph,
"Certainly, any one who is wholly sincere and pure in heart may seek for guidance from the Holy Spirit; but who of us is always wholly sincere, especially where the most imperative of instincts may be strong enough to simulate to perfection the voice of the Holy Spirit?"
To help guard against this, he suggested that married couples dealing with this issue take it to their pastors.
"the Church ought to be able to enjoin upon all its communicants that they should take spiritual advice upon specified problems of life; and both clergy and parishioners should recognize the full seriousness and responsibility of such consultation."
This wouldn't have been a perfect solution.
"I am not unaware that as opinions and theories vary at present, those seeking direction can always find the direction they seek, if they know where to apply; but that is inevitable. But here, if anywhere, is definitely a matter upon which the Individual Conscience is no reliable guide; spiritual guidance should be imperative... ."
And such opinion-shopping would entail a second level of rationalization, which might have given some couples pause about a first.
"Even, however, if the Anglican Church affirmed, as I think it should affirm, the necessity for spiritual direction in admitting the exceptions, the Episcopate still has the responsibility of giving direction to the directors."
That is, it would involve more responsibility not only for Anglican priests but also for Anglican bishops.

1 comment:

  1. Capitulation and responsibility it seems are irreconcilable and seeking annulment.


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