Andrew Goddard writes: The inclusion of a reference to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 in one of the Lambeth Calls issued only last week, days before the opening of the Conference which has been being planned since at least 2018 and reportedly only drafted in May and June, led to a storm of protest. There has now been a major rewriting of the Call but no explanation as to how or why the reference was seemingly added at a late stage without the agreement of the group which approved the Call or why it has now been rewritten. It is clear that the Global South, who are committed to getting the Conference to reaffirm Lambeth I.10, will be very unhappy with the changes, with some believing that it was their publication of this determination that may have led to the Call being revised at a late stage before its release. Their press conference on Friday morning promises to give more information about how they will be working towards this and other stated goals at the Conference.
In order to interpret what is happening it is important to set recent developments within the longer history of the crisis in the Communion. I have already sought to set out a chronological account of some of the key relevant events from the time of Lambeth I.10 under both Archbishop Rowan and Archbishop Justin. What follows seeks to offer a framework to interpret the significance of what now appears to be happening by exploring the distinct but interweaving questions around sexuality and ecclesiology.
The place of Lambeth I.10 in the Communion’s recent history
The reference to I.10 has caused so much controversy in part because a number of provinces have clearly rejected it already and many in other Western provinces which still uphold it would like their church to reject it.
It is important to recall that the Church of England remains formally committed to Lambeth I.10 with General Synod voting in February 2007 to “commend continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion” and recognizing “that such efforts would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth Conference Resolutions (1978: 10; 1988: 64; 1998: 1.10)”.
The original plan to reaffirm the resolution also seemingly surprised many because in recent years the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Instruments have not repeatedly and explicitly reaffirmed it as Communion teaching as happened regularly under Rowan Williams:
- Rowan Williams himself consistently did this from the time of his appointment when he wrote to the Primates in 2002 that “the Lambeth resolution of 1998 declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion, and what the Communion will and will not approve or authorise. I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns or repudiates this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion”.
- ACC-13 Resolution 10 noted that the Primates had “reaffirmed “the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which should command respect as the position overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion” and endorsed and affirmed this.
- Primates 2007 para 11 stated “What has been quite clear throughout this period is that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked. This restates the traditional teaching of the Christian Church that “in view of the teaching of Scripture, [the Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”, and applies this to several areas which are discussed further below. The Primates have reaffirmed this teaching in all their recent meetings, and indicated how a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole”.
- Primates 2009 para 12 said, with reference to Windsor’s 3 proposed moratoria, that “While we are aware of the depth of conscientious conviction involved, the position of the Communion defined by the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its entirety remains, and gracious restraint on all three fronts is urgently needed to open the way for transforming conversation”.
Although the statement from the first Primates Meeting convened by Archbishop Justin in 2016 did not explicitly refer to I.10 (in large part because it was focussed on the further development of same-sex marriage) it did state
- “Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage”
- “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching”.
Since then, however, there has been little or nothing stated on the question of Communion teaching on sexuality by the Instruments or its basis in Scripture and the teaching of the church down through the centuries. In contrast, the Global South and GAFCON have continued to make clear that they see the resolution as important for Communion life. They have continued to support the commitment to that resolution which shaped the recommendations of the Windsor Report (that continues to be one of the foundations for the work of the Communion’s Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO)).
What is The Anglican Communion?
In focussing solely on questions of sexuality and resolution 1.10 in recent days there is the danger of forgetting that the Communion has sought to frame and respond to our differences in this area since 2004 by returning to our Anglican understanding of what it means to be a communion of churches within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. This understanding has been developed down through the decades among Anglicans and in ecumenical conversations and has its roots back in the early church Fathers. Among the key earlier articulations last century were:
- the 1920 Appeal (“We believe God wills fellowship”) found in Resolution 9 and that Conference’s encyclical letter which said the churches of the Communion were “independent, but independent with the Christian freedom which recognizes the restraints of truth and of love. They are not free to deny the truth. They are not free to ignore the fellowship”,
- the 1930 Conference’s work on the Anglican Communion and especially Resolution 48 and Resolution 49.
In more recent times this vision has been further developed in, among other places,
- Anglican-Roman Catholic agreements (ARCIC and IARCCUM) such as The Church As Communion (1990), The Gift of Authority (1998), Ecclesiological Reflections on the Current Situation in the Anglican Communion in the Light of ARCIC (2004) and other ecumenical agreements such as The Church of the Triune God (Anglican-Orthodox, 2006)
- The Grindrod Report (1988) and various Eames Reports relating to women’s ordination such as The Monitoring Group Report (1997),
- Robert Runcie’s Presidential Address on “The Nature of the Unity We Seek” at the 1988 Lambeth Conference,
- The Virginia Report (1997) from the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission,
- The Windsor Report (2004) from The Lambeth Commission also under Archbishop Eames, and the various subsequent reports on its implementation,
- Numerous statements by Archbishop Rowan, most fully his The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion (2006) and also his 2007 Advent Letter and his first Presidential Address at Lambeth 2008.
- the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant
This vision has also shaped the response of the Instruments to the crisis over sexuality up to and including the 2016 Primates meeting under Archbishop Justin. Although this did not spell out the vision in detail it pointed to it as the rationale for its conclusion when it said of moves to approve same-sex marriage that “in keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion” (italics added).
Since then, however, there has been little or no reference to this vision of life in Communion by the Archbishop or the other Instruments. It has clearly been rejected by those provinces which have disregarded Lambeth I.10 and The Windsor Report. They have instead emphasised provincial autonomy as central to their understanding of Anglicanism. There has also been the development of a more purely confessional vision among some provinces which has led to the formation of GAFCON and its 2008 Jerusalem Declaration. Since 2016, however, the traditional Anglican vision has been shaping the work of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches and its Cairo Covenant.
Mapping the Communion Again
As the Communion sought to understand the Windsor Report and churches, particularly the American Church, worked out their responses, it became clear that the differences in each of these two areas – sexuality and ecclesiology – needed to be thought through together. It has been interesting in recent days to revisit how I and others have sought to do this in the past.
In January 2006, along with Peter Walker, I wrote a briefing paper which sketched out a way of understanding the differences and divisions among Anglicans in terms of two axes creating four quadrants. Each axis represented a spectrum: the horizontal X-axis measured a position in relation to sexuality in terms of I.10 and the vertical Y-axis measured it in relation to ecclesiology in terms of Windsor’s account of the meaning of being a communion. The extent of agreement or disagreement with the sexual ethic of I.10 and then with the communion vision of Windsor enabled individuals, groups or provinces to be plotted as they fell within one of the four quadrants.
Following an important speech to the US bishops in March 2006 by Michael Langrish, then Bishop of Exeter, on behalf of Archbishop Rowan, I set out this account. It was subsequently developed by Graham Kings in June 2006 who named the four quadrants as (I) Federal Conservatives, (II) Communion Conservatives, (III) Communion Liberals and (IV) Federal Liberals.
I returned to and developed this model in an article in late 2007 on mapping the Anglican Communion. This distinguished 4 groups across the spectrum on the sexuality axis (Pro I.10 conservatives comprising “rejectionists” and softer “reasserters” and anti I.10 moving from moderate “reassessors” to committed “reinterpreters”) and suggested 3 groups could be distinguished in relation to the vision for the Anglican Communion. Those holding the traditional view (as set out in the documents listed above from 1920 onwards and Communion Conservatives and Communion Liberals in the diagram) were labelled as holding to “communion Catholicism”. One of the key convictions here is that captured in the Windsor Report at para 76:
a body is…’autonomous’ only in relation to others: autonomy exists in a relation with a wider community or system of which the autonomous entity forms part…The key idea is autonomy-in-communion, that is, freedom held within interdependence.
This contrasted with “connectional confessionalism” (part of the bottom right quadrant and, at that time, gestating into what shortly became GAFCON) and “autonomous inclusivism” (the bottom left quadrant of “federal liberals”). Of this I wrote,
This is broadly the vision that each province determines its own actions within its own jurisdiction in accordance with its own canons and constitution and the Anglican vision of diversity, comprehensiveness and inclusion is such that other Anglican provinces should honour and respect those decisions and continue to include one another and maintain bonds of communion even where there are significant disagreements on matters of theology, ethics or practice between them. This understanding of Anglican identity finds expression in large parts of The Episcopal Church in America (TEC) and also some of the wider ‘inclusive church’ networks.
Graham Kings revisited the model in June 2008 just before the last Lambeth Conference (identifying different individuals, groups and churches he thought to be within each of the 4 categories at that time). That Conference sought to move forward the “communion Catholicism” understanding but the subsequent clear failure of the Windsor moratoria and the Covenant left a vacuum where I.10 was increasingly being ignored and the Communion seemed incapable of responding.
After a poorly attended Primates Meeting in 2011 it took extensive personal relationship-building and negotiating by Archbishop Justin to bring together the Primates again in 2016 (a sense of the questions at the time, what it did, and how people responded, can be found from resources here). Their statement was brief and not woven into the previous history (in large part because it was seeking to get beyond that and the dead-end it had reached). Nor did it offer a theological and ecclesiological rationale for its way forward. It did, however, appear to represent a continuation of “communion Catholicism” in a broadly “communion conservative” form. Prior to the meeting, I had summed this up in terms of the following consensus which had been articulated over the previous 11 years but seemingly failed to shape the Communion’s structures:
- Beliefs: As a Communion we have certain commitments concerning what we understand to be God’s will for human flourishing and for the pattern of our life together as the body of Christ. This would include (a) Lambeth I.10 in its entirety as regards human sexuality and (b) the communion ecclesiology developed over recent decades, expressed in various forms and documents, including such elements as upholding both autonomy and mutual accountability and interdependence, non-intervention in each other’s provinces, seeking to maintain and deepen inter-communion and wider ecumenical relationships.
- Behaviour: We recognise that certain actions within the Communion have challenged and undermined these commitments
- Goal: But we wish to remain together and seek to live out those commitments as a Communion
- Response: Therefore, on the basis of our beliefs (1) and to work towards our goal (3) we must seek to reaffirm our self-understanding of who we are and bring an end to those actions (2) which undermine our beliefs (1) and threaten our goal (3). This would include the Anglican Communion Covenant and the three moratoria. Among many examples would be Archbishop Rowan’s letter of invitation to Lambeth 2008 trusting that attending signalled “a willingness to work with” the “set of resources and processes, focused on the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposals”.
The Primates in 2016 gave structural shape to (1)-(3) of this consensus with a modified form of (4) by making clear that unilateral actions against the mind of the Communion must have “consequences” and effecting a visible differentiation within the Communion (rather than expulsion from it as sought by some). This differentiation was between those committed to Communion teaching in how they ordered their province and those using their provincial autonomy to abandon it. It related to both the internal life of the Instruments on matters of doctrine and polity and to ecumenical participation. In terms of the four possible outcomes I had explored beforehand this was “implementing the consensus response” in a new form.
Since 2016, however, little or nothing has been said or done to follow through on the Primates’ consensus or to relate it to these two continuing contentious areas of sexuality and ecclesiology. Instead, a number of developments from the Archbishop have seemed to undermine it (as set out in my overview here). As a result, it has been very difficult to understand what ecclesial vision, if any, is now shaping the Communion.
Alongside this vacuum we have also seen other shifts. One of the most significant has been the almost total disappearance of “communion liberals” from the conversation and from Anglican leadership. Those opposed to traditional teaching on sexuality as summed up in I.10 have increasingly combined this with an abandonment of communion ecclesiology as they use provincial autonomy to secure their goals in relation to sexuality. Perhaps the most prominent illustration of this move of anti-I.10 Anglicans into the autonomy-focussed quadrant IV of “federal liberals” committed to “autonomous inclusivism” is seen in Gregory Cameron’s shift from being a major drafter and supporter of The Windsor Report (who urged the Canadian church not to proceed with same-sex blessings in 2004 warning them that to use their autonomy to do so would mean it “the Anglican Church of Canada refuses to hear the voice and to heed the concerns of your fellow Anglicans in the global south”) to being the leader of the moves to introduce same-sex blessings in the Church in Wales. Alongside this, since Lambeth 2008 (with the exception of the Primates Gathering in 2016), three African provinces (Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda) have ceased to be “communion conservatives” in practice in relation to the Instruments. They have simply refused, out of conscientious conviction, to participate in meetings, including this Lambeth Conference where they would have had about 200 bishops present.
In the light of this mapping we must now turn to try to understand what has happened in relation to the Calls and what this tells us about the state of the Communion and its possible future—which I will do in the next article tomorrow.
Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF.