In the background to what I write below, the following links may be helpful:
Global South Fellowship of Anglicans communique towards the end of the conference.
The Tablet report on Cardinal Koch’s address on Christian unity.
The Lambeth Conference website where all sorts of reports on the events and addresses of the conference are available.
A very helpful Church Times article on the course of events regarding sexuality at the conference in relation to the much talked about, twice edited, not voted on Call re Human Dignity.
Also worth bearing in mind as you read below re the future of the Anglican Communion is that while the Archbishop of Nigeria has not been to Lambeth, he has been able to travel recently to the USA dedicating new churches for the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity. This Diocese, in the territory of the USA, belongs to neither ACNA nor to TEC, it is an overseas Diocese of an Anglican church which is a member province of the Anglican Communion. That is, while the Anglican Communion has problems (see below), we live in a strange Anglican world in which a stern critic of the Communion, such as Nigeria’s Archbiship Ndukuba, cannot even trust GAFCON’s preferred alternative to TEC, i.e. ACNA, with the oversight and pastoral care of Nigerians in the USA. In passing, this looks like a culturally-attuned, highly contextual, locally-oriented solution to the care of Nigerian Anglicans in another jurisdiction! Apparently culture and context matter, even in GAFCON oriented churches.
*I happened to meet Ian, in person, for the first time, during the course of last week - a great pleasure!
The whole of Archbishop Welby’s final keynote address which is significant re Anglican missiology and ecclesiology.
The Anglican Communion This Week as #LambethConference2022 Concludes
Potentially there is a very, very large amount of things to say (for example reading the two posts noted above by Andrew Goddard on the Psephizo blog and commenting on them). There is also a lot to say about things which happened at the conference which were very interesting and worthwhile to me, but may not be to you, dear readers. Suffice to say, on that score, that I met a huge number of very lovely people who are very dedicated Anglicans in their respective parts of the Communion; that the conference discussed a range of topics and heard from a considerable number of speakers, so that there was no single issue which dominated the conference (whatever any external observer says otherwise); and that, if there is one takeaway from the conference it is this: no matter what the problems we can describe (see further above and below), the Anglican Communion is in good heart and will remain alive and lively for a very long time to come. It is not on its last legs. Even though some commenters I read appear to wish that into being so.
There could also be a lot to say trying to unravel the tangled knot of what we think we have done at the conference re human sexuality in the context of the Call paper on Human Dignity: have we managed (as I think we have) to formalise the fact that we are a Communion with a plurality of views on marriage? What does ‘plurality’ mean in this context? Is it the same as ‘adiaphora’ or indifference to the consequences of such views in relation to salvation and so forth. (I have had a bit of a go on that score via my Twitter feed @petercarrell if you care to chase that up). But lots is being said about such tthings (again, see, for instance, Andrew Goddard at the links above) and some conversations towards the end of the conference have got me thinking about some other problems the Communion has, which we haven’t really discussed.
If the Communion is in good heart at the end of this gathering of bishops from 39/42 provinces, as I think it is, that doesn’t mean that the heart of the Communion doesn’t need its valves tuned up or its blood supply lines refurbished!
Thus the outstanding, unanswered questions after #LambethConference2022 may not be what you think. They may not be whether the Communion can hold together or not, but what work is yet to be done on being a better Communion.
Incidentally, on the matter of holding together, I have come across this brilliant sentence in an article entitled, “Lambeth 2022: Justin Welby spoke and the great shadow faded”:
“ Lambeth Conference 2022 will be remembered as a watershed when those in favour and those against same-sex relationships accepted they were not going to agree, but resolved to stay in the same Anglican Communion.”
Authority: in a Communion Determined Not To have a Pope or Patriarch (or even resolutions!?), what is possible?
While we are somewhat self-congratulatory that we found a way through the sexuality issue at this Lambeth Conference with a good degree of love and forbearance as well as recognition of difference that has not gone away in 24 years since 1998 - as well as giving due credit to ++Justin for his leadership on the matter, especially on Tuesday last week - listening to conversations, reading some commentary, I see a need to work on the question of authority in the Communion, especially when we are keen on not having authority bound to an hierarchical structure which has a Pope or Patriarch at its apex.
We weren’t even, this past week, keen on voting on resolutions. While that led us away from turmoil on sexuality, as someone pointed out in another context (re our ecumenical relationships) we have granted ourselves no mechanism as bishops-in-conference for saying anything distinctive or decisive in respect of ecumenical agreements which do need some kind of “mind of Communion” if they are to be agreed to, implemented, changed and so forth.
How do we get such mind of Communion on matters which (let’s assume, we are agreed) it would be good to have a mind of Communion on them?
On the one hand, I noticed here and there over the past few days some of the usual criticism of the Instruments of Communion: there is too much made of bishops since there is only one, the Anglican Consultative Council which includes clergy and laity as well as bishops. I find that a strange criticism since it presumes that bishops are incapable of bringing the mind of their dioceses with them to a Lambeth Conference.
On the other hand, we agreed this week that there should be a review of the Instruments of Communion, and that would be a good thing. Wherever that review leads, it would be good if an outcome were that we are committed to acknowledging the due authority of the New or Renewed Whatever in matters where we agree we need interdependence in governance. Such example would be ecumenical agreements between the Anglican Communion (on behalf of its member provinces) and other communions/churches.
On the third hand, do we also need to restate what it means for Scripture to be authoritative in our life as Anglicans? Much of this conference has demonstrated that we are committed to the authority of Scripture. That we heed its directions on matters of justice, of stewardship of the environment, of mission and evangelism, of offering the world the kingdom of God in place of other kingdoms.
Further, the Bible studies, including the commentary on 1 Peter offered to the conference, have shown that there are challenges translating Scriptural injunction into aspects of life today. For example, 1 Peter 3 includes directions re women submitting to men that requires careful elucidation so that we understand its meaning for today in a different world to the first century AD and the dominating Roman Empire. Scripture is authoritative yet it also invites our engagement with it, so that we rightly divine it. Informally, there has been a low key “magisterium” - a commentary, a book of study notes for the small Bible study groups, the teaching of the ABC and the panel of people who contributed via video to his talks - helping us to land in a good place in respect of the authority of 1 Peter over us: how might that be explained in respect of questions of authority and the Communion?
Also worth some deep reflection on is the process of the Calls and their acceptance through this past few weeks (and, on beyond the conference, as feedback is received and reflected upon and possibly absorbed into new editions of the Call papers). Initially we were going to vote one way, then it was directed that we would vote another way, then we settled on no votes but opportunity to signal that collectively we demurred from rather than generally agreed with a paticular Call document. Frustrating though this might have been for those of us who delight in synodical process (moving amendments on the floor of synod, debating matters until such point of exhuastion that we put the motion to a vote, etc), this approach -a team working assiduously before the conference to draft a paper, small group discussion and feedback on the paper, and then subsequent work - has merits, not least in giving the Holy Spirit the chance to work in the cool of the days and weeks such process takes, and to speak through the voices of many making feedback, rather than being suppressed in the heat of the moment when a fiery rhetoricist moves a synod in a direction it later regrets. More simply: how might we discern the leading of the Holy Spirit for the Communion in such a manner that we accept the authority of that discernment as the voice of God for the church today?
Faith, Order and Unity: When Does Actual Ecumenical Change take Place
One theme through the conference has been the unity of the church - the unity of the Anglican Communion, the unity of the universal church of God as critical to the witness of God’s people to the reconciling love of God, the provisional nature of Anglicanism because God’s plan for the church is a plan for the catholic church, not just for the Anglican church or, indeed, for the Roman Catholic Church - all underlined by the delightful presence of ecumenical observers from many churches. Very much, John 17 and Jesus’ high priestly concerns for unity and mission.
Now, I am a little out of date with ecumenical moves on the global level, but apart from the obvious matter of the Anglican Communion not being united at this time, I learned that at the global level there is concern that, to use a technical expression, nothing much is happening. Some kind of ecumenical chill has set in, I gathered.
One of the points made - and, sorry, I cannot recall by whom - is that our reflections through the conference have highlighted the fact that unity is not an optional extra for the keener Christians, the ones who eccentrically think it good to add to their list of meetings by turning out for ecumenical meetings as well as their own local church meetings. It is not even that Christ prayed that we might be one so we jolly well ought to be. The point is that our gospel is a message of God’s reconciling love for the world inviting all into God’s house (God has only one home). To be divided is to undermine the gospel. To be separated is to fail to attest in our own being as church to the character of the gospel.
What is to be done?
Apart from continuing work on our own Anglican “house” at this time (which we will be doing), an unasnwered question from the Lambeth Conference 2022 is what the Anglican Communion might do to play its part in fostering real ecumenical change.
There are, dare I say it, some other questions - questions for the internal life of provinces - about the unity of each of our provinces. Table talk tells me that tribalism is a problem in some provinces, if not in many provinces.
There is, to be sure, a big question about how we go forward as a Communion with difference and intent to remain together in some form or other.
But the outstanding, unanswered questions from this Lambeth Conference may be more than that, and, dare I say it, more significant than that.