Monday, June 24, 2019

Lambeth 2020: "a remarkable, though fragile, gift--a sign of the Church catholic"?

The Living Church reports "Bishops Call for Lambeth Conference United in Faith and Charity" which is about a letter signed by "a group of influential and diverse Anglican bishops." These bishops are:
"The Rt. Rev. George R. Sumner, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Lloyd Emmanuel Allen, Honduras, the Episcopal Church of Honduras (Spanish) 
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa (Arabic)
The Rt. Rev. Manuel Ernesto, Nampula, Mozambique (Portuguese)
The Most Reverend Martin Nyaboho, Primate of Burundi, Diocese of Nampula (French)
The Rt. Rev. Joel Waweru, ACK Nairobi Diocese, (Kiswahili)
The Rt. Rev. Emma Ineson, Bishop of Penrith, Church of England 
The Rt. Rev. Lydia Mamakwa, Mishamikoweesh, Anglican Church of Canada
The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo, Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa."

The Living Church also reports, "“We aim to express what a traditional, irenic center might look like,” said Bishop George Sumner of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, one of the authors. “I think the ground the letter is trying to articulate comprises a significant amount of the [Anglican] Communion.”"

The "irenic centre" may be of special interest here on ADU in view of some recent discussions here in blog comment threads.
The letter has been issued simultaneously on the diocesan websites of the bishops (21 June), in six different languages. Sumner, Waweru and Ineson are members of the Lambeth Design Group which is working on the design of the Lambeth Conference.

In other words this is a potentially important letter, offering a way forward for Lambeth attendance to be very large (including GAFCONites?) and for Lambeth to track the Communion towards the "irenic centre."

But what does the letter say? Its text in English is posted here and reads,

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that it is the ‘acceptable time’ to articulate a vision of what we hope for in the Lambeth Conference 2020.  While all are free to offer their views, harsh disagreement ought not to be the dominant note the world hears from us.  This multi-lingual letter lifts high those things held largely in common in order to build up and encourage.  We claim no special authority, and thus speak to our fellow bishops as their brothers and sisters. 
Though our provincial Books of Common Prayer show many variations, they all witness to the creedal center of our faith: the triune God, the divinity of Christ, His atoning death for the forgiveness of our sins, His bodily resurrection and ascension, and the Holy Spirit’s work in the Scriptures and the Church’s life.  There is agreement, furthermore, in most of the Communion about the received, traditional teaching concerning the nature of marriage, which is in accord with Scripture. It found expression at Lambeth 1998 in Resolution I.10.  Finally, we Anglicans share a common history, for example the See of Canterbury itself, which is a symbol of our apostolic roots and common life.  We hope for a Lambeth Conference where we take this common inheritance of truth seriously and seek to build upon it for the sake of witness and teaching. 
At Lambeth, though a fractious family, we ought still to think of our fellow Anglicans in the best light possible. For example, there have been many important movements of mission and renewal in our Anglican tradition (e.g. the Oxford Movement and the East African Revival), and we can likewise see GAFCON in this way.  We can also appreciate the role Global South Anglicans have played in strengthening the mission of Christ in their provinces. We commend the Primates’ view that only Churches aligned with Communion teaching should represent it in ‘doctrine and polity.’  But we are also willing to listen to our colleagues who hold in conscience dissenting views.  More generally, we all need in our hearts to lay aside old recriminations, as each of us hears these Gospel injunctions: ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ ‘speak the truth in love,’ ‘do not let the sun go down on your wrath’ (Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 4:15,26).
We hope for a Lambeth that is ordered to prayer and the Bible, that nourishes our humility, that opens us to God’s conversion in the Spirit, and that encourages us to renewed forms of teaching and witness which will inspire and attract younger generations in our nations and our churches. It is also crucial that we reject all forms of cultural and racial pride, while listening and deliberating with one another with full respect.  I Peter, upon which Lambeth 2020 will meditate, says it best: ‘have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind…always be ready to make your defense…for the hope that is in you’ (3:8,15).
United in faith, hope, and love, we can at Lambeth confront together the urgent problems in our Communion and in our world.  We all share a worry about what may lie ahead in our common future, for as a divided Church we will struggle to witness to a divided, broken world.  We hold in prayer those among us who face persecution and danger.  We need to be stewards of creation.  We hope for a conference which encourages us all to stand on the side of the poor and those who are maltreated, to call sinners to repentance and to offer forgiveness in the Lord’s name, to walk His way of love, and to seek reconciliation among ourselves and with our neighbors. 
As it did a century ago, we hope Lambeth 2020 will remind us of the ecumenical calling from our Lord to be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:22).  We do so by taking seriously the witness, gifts, and counsel of our brother and sister Christians in other churches.   Within the Communion itself, some have felt frustration with the ‘Instruments’ over the past two decades, as they have struggled to balance autonomy and mutual accountability.  We hope for a Conference that lays out a path ahead in the next decade, and we pray for the patience to walk it.  We hope for a Conference in which we deepen our sense of ‘mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ’ (Anglican Congress 1963), both in the program and in personal friendships.
Throughout, may we be reminded that our truly global Communion is not primarily a problem but rather a remarkable, though fragile, gift--a sign of the Church catholic.
Veni Sancte Spiritus
[signatories, as above]"

I may comment myself on the letter in my next post.


Father Ron said...

With all due respect, Peter, to the compilers of this plea for a united Communion Meeting at Lambeth 2020; a lot will depend on the GAFCON Primates - as to whether they can countenance the FACT that Provinces other than those in the Global South should be allowed to hold their views on gender and sexuality, which may be culturally different from their own.

What is needed, in order to continue as a united Anglican Communion, is a willingness to agree that there can be different understandings of Scripture to accommodate different understandings of these very important issues in the light of modern scientific discovery and social integration. Failing that, I cannot see the GAFCON leadership resiling from its determined effort to separate from the rest of us on these matters.

It seems to me that GAFCON is wanting to include such matters of human development as being 'first Order' issues - equal to those matters basic to the Christian Faith, such as those pertaining to belief in the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. We Anglicans in other places have long abandoned outdated ideas of scapegoating people because of their gender or sexual orientation. We cannot turn the clock back in the interests of maintaining unity at the expense of social justice.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I can certainly agree with you that it is hard to find that irenic centre if the GAFCON Primates (and GAFCON bishops generally) cannot or will not find it in their hearts to make some kind of compromise.

But I am not sure about your last sentence: that sounds pretty uncompromising too!

Surely our challenge as a Communion concerns whether we can (somehow!) move along together. That last sentence sounds like a willingness to separate from those we are in union with, even if it is a very uncomfortable union.

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter. I'm sorry I have not been clear about my own desire for organic unity within the Anglican Communion. Nothing would please me more - but not at the expense of going back on the non-Gafcon Provinces' acceptance of LGBTQI people as full members and fellow ministers of the Sacramental life of our Churches.

One problem I fear may not be resolved is that of the refusal of GAFCON Leaders to share in our Eucharistic Celebration - the one mark of unity that Christ intended for his followers, as expressed in the Liturgy: "We are one Bread one Body, for we all partake of the One Bread". If we deny the presence of Christ together with us in the Eucharist, how does that affect the possibility of organic union as Anglicans?

The aim of those interested in the Unity of the Universal Church is that we should be able to 'Share at the Table of The Lord' - whatever our cultural predisposition. Any movement into what promises (continues?) to separates us at the altar is surely divisive and counter to the work of the Holy Spirit's in the Eucharist? It would be a disaster if any of the participants at Lambeth felt unable to share with their fellow bishops the Holy Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
A necessary condition for a successful Lambeth Conference is that bishops meet together around the table of discussion.
A sufficient condition for a successful Lambeth Conference is that bishops commune together around the Lord's Table.
I would certainly agree with you that we do not have a "Communion" if we do not have "communion"!

Anonymous said...

" is hard to find that irenic centre if the GAFCON Primates (and GAFCON bishops generally) cannot or will not find it in their hearts to make some kind of compromise."

Hi Peter,

Following the Henry VIII Method, we eventually get an irenic centre, not by compromising with pretentious extremists who will not do business except on their own terms, but by marginalising them precisely for their inability or refusal to participate in the Body with due humility.

As you've mentioned, the Tudors employed highly theatrical public executions for this godly purposes, but the authors of this letter expect that the same result can be achieved more directly by hinting that they have the influence, not only to block all for which either extreme hopes, but also to rewrite the rules of future inclusion. I do not doubt the sincerity of the letter's lovingkindness, but it nevertheless describes a polemical centre achieved, not by compromise, but by force majeure.

If they really have it, then what would this mean for That Topic? I suspect that they mainly hope that the Communion will get unstuck from it and start addressing other concerns. In different ways, their robust reaffirmation of I.10 would sideline both TEC and GAFCON for the time being. If that happens, the initiative on That Topic could pass to the non-aligned provinces and could move at the pace at which maturing science influences those rather different societies.