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A Fallible Church: Lambeth Essays

Darton, Longman & Todd (London) 2008
RRP $33.95

In the preface to this collection of essays put out before the Lambeth Conference of October 2008, the Bishop of Portsmouth, Kenneth Stevenson, writes that the unifying feature of the essays is a desire to pay far more attention to history and common narrative than many Anglicans – and others – are ready to do at this moment.

With these essays, eight learned men of the Anglican Church (do we note that there are no women contributors?) try to quieten the strife that is marking the Anglican communion at the moment, and also to awaken a deeper and more tolerant discipleship within the church. To put it shortly, A Fallible Church seems to be saying ‘there have been crises before, keep hope, the Church will survive’.

The authors of the essays in A Fallible Church stress the importance of realising that the Anglican Church has faced crises before, but that a crisis can be both a painful hiatus and a moment of renewal.

By visiting some of the stories of the Anglican Communion in action in our present day, and by exploring the history of the Communion, these essays try to confirm that whatever the differences of opinion that exist between member churches of the Communion, there should always be space for genuine dialogue. There are many lessons to be learnt about how to develop one’s own insights, admit one’s mistakes and try to continue an open dialogue which are important for every church leader, no matter where their theology lies.

Unfortunately, reading A Fallible Church after Lambeth 2008 concluded only highlighted the need for the book in the first place – as again the Anglican Communion has not been able to move past the differences to embrace their common heritage.

Reviewed by Peter Harvey, Frontier Services – Flinders Patrol