UPDATE Episcopal Lead, 3 Oct 2014, reports that a Church of Ireland Gazette interview (MP3, not transcript) has ++Justin saying this about the prospects of Lambeth 2018 going ahead:
"As to the Lambeth Conference he say[s] that upon his installation he would visit all the communion churches by the end of 2014 and after that the primates, collectively would decide whether or not to go forward with Lambeth."
Thus the following post should be read in the light of that uncertainty.
ORIGINAL Anglican Ink is now reporting what has been emerging around Communion traps since an exchange at the recent TEC House of Bishops' meeting in Taiwan in which ++Jefferts Schori said that ++Welby had told her that the Lambeth Conference scheduled for 2018 is postponed indefinitely.
That there will be no Lambeth Conference is wise. The point of the conference is to gather all Anglican bishops together, each of them bringing their dioceses in spirit with them to form a great council of Anglicans. The Communion of Anglican churches has few meetings, some of those meetings stand out more than others, the Lambeth Conference being the greatest of them, the one with the most legitimacy to give an expression to 'what Anglicans believe' if we are interested in what we believe together globally.
That there will be no Lambeth Conference is chilling for Anglicans who believe we are one of the great branches of the universal church of God. The so called branch theory has been sawn off (by saw wielding Anglicans). We are now NOT a global communion. Just a bunch of people who like to call themselves Anglican.
Further, as Christopher Johnson points out, without the Lambeth Conference there is no means of asserting a legitimacy via membership of that conference: consequently, "you’re Anglican if you think you are."
Consider all the Anglican (or 'Anglican') bishops running around belonging to ACRONYM this and ECRONYM that who were not previously part of the Lambeth Conference invitation list. They now have as much legitimacy calling themselves Anglican bishops as the Archbishop of York or the Archbishop of Melbourne because neither of those bishops is invited to Lambeth either.
In turn this means that the Anglican Communion is now a convenient fiction. It was broken a while back. Some (including me) kept saying it was just wounded, it could be restored, etc so we could keep talking about the actuality of the Anglican Communion. Not now. It is over rover.
When GAFCON or Global South next meets it will have greater claim to talk about its bishops in communion with one another being 'the' Anglican Communion than the 'Anglican Communion' which now admits it cannot call its bishops together.
Anglicans in my experience often talk about this or that plan for the future being the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Well, with respect to the future of the Communion, read my lips, "The Titanic has sunk."
There is one way in which this line of thought could be proved wrong. If the long term plan of ++Justin Welby, to keep working on reconciliation 'behind the scenes', without the shipwreck of conferences bishops do not turn up to, yields some commitment to new meetings, then resurrection will take place.
But let's be clear. The Anglican Communion for the time being is a history and a hope which is not a present reality.
In a comment below Kurt makes the pertinent observation that 'communion' re 'Anglican Communion' can also be understood in terms of 'in communion with the See of Canterbury.'
From that understanding then the 'Anglican Communion' exists as a collection of churches remaining in communion with the See of Canterbury. (As an aside, it would be interesting to work out just which churches those were and whether, pace some meetings between the Primate of ACNA and the ABC in recent years, such a definition included ACNA or not).
Nevertheless the objective meeting together is a significant factor in what constitutes the reality of people/churches claiming to be in communion with one another.
Would we consider a parish was still functioning if the vicar told the bishop that no services were being held but every parishioner considered themselves to remain 'in communion' with the vicar (and, indeed, offered signs of this being so by being willing to share in communion with the vicar when she made a home communion visit)?
It could be that we suspend judgment on the continuing reality of the Communion as a formal body if ++Justin declared that (a) Lambeth 2018 was postponed, but (b) the intention remained to hold a meeting of Anglican bishops at a suitable time and place in the future, while acknowledging that (c) if such a meeting were not to take place by, say, 2030, then formal disbandment of the structures of Communion would then take place.