Magazine article Anglican Journal

History Shows the Church Can Change, and It Will Survive

Magazine article Anglican Journal

History Shows the Church Can Change, and It Will Survive

Article excerpt

'GLACIAL' IS A term occasionally used to describe the pace of change in the church.

Certainly, to people who are advocates for change, the wait can feel like an eternity.

But, others remind us, change usually happens in God's good time, not ours. As the Anglican Journal prepares to cover this summer's Lambeth Conference, the meeting every 10 years of all bishops of the Anglican Communion, we compiled a chronology that we think will be a helpful resource (please see p. 14-15) to show Anglican readers how the church has been challenged by the issues of the day, how it has wrestled with and responded to changes in societal norms and evolved over time.

While combing through a Canadian church database ( lambethsearch) of all of the Lambeth resolutions since its inception in 1867, it becomes clear that the Anglican church worldwide has repeatedly undergone major upheavals. Each of those changes was monumental at the time, yet their significance--like the remarriage of divorced persons--faded as popular culture moved on and carried on as if the innovation had always been so.

As the research of staff writer Marites Sison shows, Anglican bishops (and the church at large) have wrestled over the years with many contentious issues including divorce, contraception, abortion, polygamy, and the ordination of women.

In some cases there was a 180-degree turnaround in attitude: in 1888, for example, polygamists could not be baptized, but by 1988 they could be. This was a recognition of the realities of some cultures Where women outnumber men due to disease or war; they also acknowledged in 1958 that the introduction of monogamy into polygamous societies "involves a social and economic revolution and raises problems" which the church had not yet solved. The problem of polygamy, they said, was "bound up with the limitations of opportunities for women in society," and they urged the church to improve the status of women, especially through education.

Typically, the changes came in increments.

Tracking the issue of women's ordination over the decades is instructive. While the worldwide church was examining the role of women in the church as early as 1920, the Lambeth Conference of 1942 appeared to squelch debate on the matter of women priests. …

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