"A liberal expression of Christianity is not Christianity [as we know it]," Bishop Venables said. Addressing this gap needs to take place before structural or legislative solutions are imposed on the church.
There are a small number of debriefing videos from Anglican TV Ministries. The one with Orombi and Venables is quite revealing as they claim their own orthodox calmness and clarity at the Primates' Meeting sat around tables with a realism from the beginning that they had a "broken Communion". Venables wants to see "gracefully" that "we are not a part of the same faith". Venables put it:
"It is quite obvious that we are talking about the Christian faith and something that is not the Christian faith. Whatever it is we could speculate, but it is quite different.
In this meeting in the Bible studies we were actually able to sit there and to say in a caring way that we don't agree. We believe different things. We don't believe what you believe and you don't believe what we believe. That sort of honesty marked every moment of this meeting we have just concluded, and we found that refreshing and encouraging."
Orombi put it like this:
The reason for being together is really trying to seek if we are going to stay together or is this wound going to lead to amputation. ...We know where we are. It's not business; it's a serious encounter with one another.
...What I was very shocked about was Philip [Aspinall] from Australia explaining to me what The Episcopal Church means by repentance. If them repenting is not having ministered to same sex union people, it's a totally different understanding from what I'm expecting them to repent of. I'm expecting them to repent of going out there, ordaining a homosexual, marrying a homosexual; but for them they are saying repentance is that they failed to do this to the homosexual. Now that is a very interesting understanding of it. So you are now seeing two camps here. It's very interesting. And so for that matter when we call for repentance we are not meaning the same thing."
He went on:
...My proposal would have been really (but did not put it out there): let's have two sets of theologians. One on the other side, another on this side. Let them debate this thing as much as possible because I don't think Primates have enough time to even talk a lot about these things.
...The question though to me is whenever we encounter a position of understanding we are actually not the same Church, as it were. ...The point though is will there be a mechanism to drag the debate year after another until everyone is grey and bald-headed...
Venables came in here:
I really think we need to be straight about this. [David Frost asked in October 2003], 'Is this just kicking the ball forward?' ...We don't believe that's what's happened here [in Alexandria]. We believe that there is a recognition that this whole thing has fallen to bits and therefore we have got to honestly get to grips with the theological situation and find how we can deal with the situation that we are experiencing. There are those who say that I hope we will find a way forward because they believe in relativity; they believe that you have your truth I have my truth, you have your Jesus I've got my Jesus, and therefore we can learn to live together. We know that that's not true because if the Jesus you know and the Jesus I know is the same Jesus then we are united. We are united in how we think and how we behave and how we work our Christianity out. But we've got to get to the point where that's stated.
Orombi also wanted talking on the one hand and the mission as he sees it to continue on the other (yes but ACNA cannot prosletyse!). Whilst Orombi's listening was for the orthodox to speak to challenge Fred Hiltz and "the Presiding Bishop"and to know whether this talking should go on or stop because they "cannot" do what the other side wants, Venables later stressed:
"I think the people who are in this other thing that isn't Christianity are blind; I say that with great love and respect but I know I was there once - I can say once I was blind and now I can see. And I believe they think that's what they should be doing. When we talk about mission we talk about preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ: preaching salvation through the cross."
To me, they are not even talking about Communion structures particularly. They are now talking about the legitimacy of forms of Christian faith.
Now let's be clear here. My sort of expression probably is too liberal to be described as Christian. If asked now I would say, "I practise Christianity." I actually don't want the label Christian, one reason being that I do not want to be associated with the likes of Orombi and Venables, but clearly I have moved back to a more religious humanist position.
However, there are many many people who have a critical, middling, expressed in trinitarian form, Christianity who must find this to be incredibly offensive. Venables is seeking to label as not legitimate a huge history of theological enquiry and Christian discipleship. It would be such to exclude, for example, a once Bishop of Monmouth among many others, but while some can appear to become something different according to the role they play, others believe in a consistency that demands its legitimate place around the table. Christianity is broader than that expressed by Venables and Orombi.