Lambeth Conference: going from ‘resolutions’ to ‘calls’

Andrew Goddard writes: The question of who will be attending Lambeth which was explored in the first article last week is distinct from, but connected to, the question of where Lambeth is going, what it will do, what outcomes are being sought. The significant recent development here is the announcement that the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided that this Conference will issue “Calls” rather than passing “Resolutions” (as at every Conference from 1867 to 1998) or saying nothing formally at all (as happened in 2008). So far these have been explained in a video, on a web page and in a short booklet and there will apparently be a press conference relating to them in coming days.

How did we get here? The Path To “Calls”

Although there had been whispers for some time that the Conference would return to issuing some form of statement but these might not be “Resolutions”, the announcement that the bishops would be issuing “Calls” has appeared rather late in the day and raises a large number of important and still unanswered questions.

The idea appears to be developing comments made in Towards A Symphony of Instruments: A Historical and Theological Consideration of the Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion which was produced by IASCUFO (The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith & Order) for the 15th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in 2013. That paper was supplemented by a shorter paper (Instruments of Communion: Gifts, Signs and Stewardship) from IASCUFO for ACC-16 in 2016. The longer paper noted:

Although the Lambeth Conference of 2008 was found to be deeply fruitful by the participants, it was in a sense the exception that proves the rule in that it did not overtly address the Church and the world. Lambeth Conferences have a teaching or guiding responsibility. Future Conferences will need to resume this role, and the Anglican faithful look to the bishops for this. (para 2.3.4).

It proceeded to warn, in a section on the future shape of the Conference that seems to have influenced this latest development,

The Conference might be well advised to exercise restraint—a self-denying ordinance— in generating resolutions, so that when it has something rather major to say, the message comes across loud and clear, and is not drowned in a sea of words. At the least, the resolutions could be layered in importance, as the Windsor Report suggested, so that the crucial ones stand out. Even better, the Conference might decide that resolutions were not the most appropriate vehicle for what they wanted to say and that ‘affirmations’ or a pastoral letter (as attempted by Lambeth 1988) might be more helpful (2.4.1, italics added)

It then offered the following reflections:

We might imagine that, at times when tensions were running high in the Communion, it would not be possible for the Lambeth Conference to make any public statement at all. That does not mean that it should not meet. The Lambeth Conference held in 2008 was designed to be without resolutions: it needed to fulfil a different function on that occasion. It is likely that strong tensions will persist in the Communion and in the episcopate for the foreseeable future, but that need not mean that meetings of the Lambeth Conference to come can have nothing to say. It should be possible for them to identify areas on which they can agree and thus to make certain affirmations to the Church and the world on those topics, bracketing out areas of violent disagreement and so avoiding an unseemly and destructive split (2.4.2)

What, if anything, has really changed?

Perhaps the most fundamental question is whether “Calls” is simply a new label on the same old “Resolutions” tin (effectively a rebranding with no substantial change, which Martin Davie has compared to Opal Fruits becoming Starburst) or something that represents a more substantial shift in the work of this crucial Instrument. Could it be a development which (whether intended to do so or not) potentially reconfigures and diminishes the Conference’s authority and alters the underlying meaning of what is to be a communion of churches? 

On the one hand it is being said that “A ‘Call’ represents what the so-called ‘resolutions’ did up to the conference of 1998” (Booklet, p. 6; it is unclear whether this is meant to imply something changed in relation to resolutions in 1998 or is better expressed as “what resolutions have always done”) and yet this announcement is also being heralded at the same time by Archbishop Justin as “a hugely exciting development in the life of the Communion” in his video. 

It is noteworthy that it is being clearly said that this change has been decided (doubtless after consultation) by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It has been announced on the eve of the Conference following a long period of shared conversations, not presented as a proposal for consideration during those conversations or for the gathered bishops themselves to decide upon (as IASCUFO suggested). It may be that some of the Communion’s bishops are concerned that it does alter, effectively diminish, the authority and status of the Conference’s pronouncements and the delicate balance between provincial autonomy and interdependence expressed through mutual submission. It may also be that some who can in good conscience attend a Conference with those they cannot recognise as faithful bishops of the Communion will now struggle with being expected to speak together with them collegially and authoritatively as though they do recognise them as faithful fellow bishops. 

It was these latter concerns that led to one of the “walking together” consequences agreed in 2016 being that representatives of certain churches “while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion… will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”. If this continues to be a concern and a necessary element of any “walking together but at a significant distance” then there appears to be a stark choice. Either these calls will have to steer clear of issues of doctrine or polity or bishops who have (in the words from 2016) supported “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity” which are “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” will not be able to be involved in the framing and issuing of such calls. 

Although a certain amount of information has been released about these calls (such as the 9 themes they will cover) major questions remain about many key areas including their rationale and the implications for authority within the life of the Communion, structure and content and connection to the Conference as a body.

What is the rationale for changing to “Calls” and does this change the Conference’s authority?

The rationale offered by Archbishop Justin for making this change as set out in the recently released booklet and summarised in his video and the website’s FAQs is that “the word resolution implies legal decision which is binding and that goes beyond the powers of the conference” (p. 6). It is therefore claimed that

a ‘Call’ represents what the so-called ‘resolutions’ did up to the conference of 1998. A call is a decision of the conference which comes as an appeal to each church of the Communion to consider carefully, and hopefully to follow it and respond to it in its own situation.

This raises a number of questions and concerns. It has quite simply never been the case that the resolutions of the Conference had or claimed to have or were understood to have binding legal force. Nor is this the only or even the most common use of the term. None of us, for example, see our new year resolutions in these terms. What is the case is that the resolutions have until 1998 been recognised as carrying a significant moral authority deriving from them being the resolutions agreed by bishops of the church after meeting to take counsel together. In the words of “Towards a Symphony of the Instruments” in its discussion of the Conference’s authority: 

The authority of the Lambeth Conference resides in the office and ministry of those who compose it: the bishops of the Anglican Communion. Its authority is not something extrinsic that some external body imparts to the Conference…Their office also reflects something of the four credal marks of the Church—unity, holiness, apostolicity and catholicity—since bishops have a special, though not exclusive, responsibility for the welfare and well-being of the Church, in terms of its unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, helping the Church to be the Church, and all this is reflected in their ordination. As the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) points out, the fact that the Lambeth Conference is ‘a body composed of those who by their ordination to the episcopate have been given apostolic responsibility to govern means that the resolutions of a Lambeth Conference may be considered to have an intrinsic authority which is inherent in their members gathered together’ (2.3.7)

This is why the events since 1998 have caused such a scandal within the Communion. It is why so many bishops of the Communion are so unhappy with the failure to address this properly and with the invitations to the Conference, making them likely either to refuse to attend at all or to demonstrate in other ways their impaired communion with other bishops present. As IASCUFO note (2.3.8, italics added):

Since the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the Communion has witnessed the unprecedented situation of some bishops publicly repudiating, by their words and their actions, particular resolutions of the Lambeth Conference, notably those concerned with human sexuality or the integrity of provincial boundaries. In response to those who have repudiated certain resolutions of the Lambeth Conference out of hand, it is important to re-affirm that the moral and pastoral authority of the Anglican episcopate should be quite sufficient for any faithful Anglican and for any provincial synod of the Communion to accept. ‘The resolutions may not always be perfectly expressed, they may not get the balance of various elements quite right and they may need to be revisited at a later date, but they should never be dismissed out of hand.’ (Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism, p. 61).

The question is whether this understanding of the significant authority of Conference pronouncements is now being abandoned or at least significantly modified by the change to “Calls” and the description being currently offered of them. It may of course be that this authority has already been destroyed, or at least severely diminished, by continuing to grant full recognition to bishops who have in their ministries and own lives repudiated Lambeth I.10 and the consequent conscientious refusal of so many bishops to therefore attend the Conference alongside them. 

In his video Archbishop Justin further explains the use of “Call” rather than “Resolution” by saying that the Lambeth Conference “is not there to order people about” and that when the Lambeth Conference resolves something “it doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen. And that is a bit confusing. It means that it just gets offered to the whole Anglican Communion who are called to consider what it means”. He states that it is so as “to be absolutely clear about that” the decisions to be made will be “in the form of what are called ‘Calls’”. This means that “they will do what they say they are. They will call on the Anglican Communion, the whole Communion, to pray, and to think and reflect and for each province to decide on its response”. 

Although there is much truth in this account of Lambeth resolutions always having a “call” element and being subject to a process of reception in the wider church, this shift in terminology and emphasis and lack of an account of the inherent but non-legal authority of past resolutions (instead presenting the caricature of “ordering people about”) risks destabilising a carefully developed and nuanced equilibrium. The Archbishop’s language of each province simply hearing the call and having to “consider what it means” and “decide on its response” when combined with his failure to offer any vision of the significance of the Conference as a gathering of bishops or the importance and nature of mutual accountability and interdependence should raise some alarm bells. It seems to downplay the weight of moral authority traditionally granted to the actions of the Lambeth Conference and also to exaggerate the degree of autonomy provinces should consider themselves having in relation to the mind of the Communion expressed by its bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference. 

Another factor behind the current tensions is that for decades African Anglicans (on whom see David Goodhew’s recent Covenant article on Lambeth 2022 and African Anglicanism) respected such authority and the collegiality of the episcopate, including in relation to decisions made by Western bishops in relation to polygamy where they worked to persuade the Conference to reconsider its actions and be more pastorally accommodating while upholding Christian teaching on marriage. They finally succeeded in 1988, a century after the first very restrictive resolution was passed. It is not surprising that once certain Western bishops found themselves in a minority on homosexuality at the next Conference and responded by, within a few years, simply disregarding the mind of the Communion and asserting provincial autonomy this was inevitably understood by many, in a post-colonial context, as failing to respect, and seeking to reconfigure, the historic moral authority of the Conference just as it was no longer dominated by the Global North.

The rationale being offered for the change also fails to recognise that resolutions historically have often done much more than offer a call. They have, for example, often taught the faith. As IASCUFO’s report points out: 

As the Anglican ordination services show, it is inherent in the office of a bishop to guide and lead the flock of Christ and to teach and guard the faith…if the bishops at Lambeth are to speak to the Church and the world, it will be in fulfilment of their specific episcopal responsibilities: they will speak words of Christian teaching, guidance, or warning and give encouragement to the faithful to persevere in the way of Christ amid all the challenges of the modern world. In this way the resolutions and perhaps, even more, the section or committee reports help to build theological capacity for the Communion (2.3.4)

Conference resolutions have also ordered the life of the Communion and its relationship with other churches and communions. Neither of these, broadly matters of faith and order, are matters simply left for individual provinces to decide autonomously whether to accept or reject or to claim that rejection of them has no implications for the shared life of the Communion. In the famous words of the 1920 Conference, the independence of the churches of the Communion involves being “independent with the Christian freedom which recognises the restraints of truth and love. They are not free to deny the truth. They are not free to ignore the fellowship”.

What are the “Calls” going to do?

The structure of each “Call” seems to recognise some of these authoritative teaching aspects of past decisions by the bishops gathered at Lambeth. Very little detail has been given though it is rumoured that drafting has been taking place for some time and the “Calls” will, we are told, “include a summary on what the Christian Church has always taught about these matters” (p. 6). The Archbishop’s video says that they will be “carefully structured to talk about Scripture, about the tradition of the Church, and what the bishops assembled feel to be the way that God is calling them”. What is not clear is whether in so doing they can be held to state “Anglican Communion teaching on the subject” they address (to use the words used to describe Lambeth I.10 in the letter to the three Primates). 

If they are providing Anglican Communion teaching then they will indeed be very similar to resolutions in the past and much more than simply an offering for others to consider. They will be an expression of (in the words of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, 3.1.4) “episcopal collegiality worldwide” fulfilling the bishops’ calling of “guarding the faith and unity of the Communion and equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4.12) and mission”. Here again the question arises of whether many bishops invited and present can rightly be entrusted with that task given their past behaviour and its previously stated consequences. 

If the “Calls” do not constitute “Anglican Communion teaching” then this move is a much more radical development. It risks effectively evacuating the Communion of agreed teaching and shared doctrine, diminishing the moral authority traditionally recognised as inherent in the resolutions of bishops at the Lambeth Conference, and creating a much looser form of communion (what some have in the past called more a “federation”) among the provinces. If this proves to be the case it will have major implications both for the nature of the Communion and its relationship with other communions in ecumenical conversations.

A particular concern of course will be what may or may not be said in relation to the questions around sexuality which have caused division in the Communion. This is not directly referred to as an area of any one call although Archbishop Justin at the end of the video has said the Call process will

also deal with some of the contentious subjects, but actually not with the aim of a dramatic change to the church’s teaching, but on bringing us into deeper love for one another, and understanding how God is calling us to be God’s Church for God’s World

If the IASCUFO report is followed there is the possibility that – given the range of views present among invited bishops and the disproportionate number of bishops from the Global North – this will be viewed as not one of the “areas on which they can agree and thus…make certain affirmations to the Church and the world”. There may then be pressure for this to be an example of where there has to be “bracketing out areas of violent disagreement and so avoiding an unseemly and destructive split” (“Symphony”, 2.4.2, quoted above). It may also be the case that any wording proposed to the bishops will simply seek to give maximal room for manoeuvre in the Church of England’s process of LLF discernment and decision-making in coming months and to enable that process, whatever its outcome, to be presented as part of the CofE’s responses to the “Calls” which are being sought from provinces over the next two years.

Who will make the “Calls”?

Finally, in relation to “Calls” there is the question about their connection to the Conference as a body. One aspect of this is whether all bishops present will be involved in their framing despite the earlier decisions about non-involvement in matters of faith and order where provinces have rejected Communion teaching. If every call talks about scripture and the tradition of the church it would appear that every call falls, to some degree, within this category. Another question is what role if any ecumenical partners present at the Conference will have in relation to this process. A third area lacking clarity at present is in what sense these are the acts of the Conference as a whole since resolutions always have been such in the past even if sometimes the recorded vote has been divided. It has, however, been stated that “It may be that not all bishops will want to add their voices to every element of every call” (p. 6). This suggests that the calls may have named supporters and/or named dissenters either for the whole or for parts rather than expressing the resolve or mind of the Conference as a whole body acting as a corporate Instrument of Communion and episcopal collegiality worldwide. This too will inevitably alter their moral authority and the nature of the Conference as an Instrument of Communion.


Back in 2006, two years before the last Conference, Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote his important “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion”. It remains the case as the next Conference prepares to gather that

What our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety…There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment….we need closer and more visible formal commitments to each other. And it is not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far. 

As noted in the previous article, there remains the danger that this Conference, like that over which Archbishop Rowan presided fourteen years ago, will also fail to gather many of the Communion’s bishops. This reality and some of the possible implications of the move to “Calls” explored here raise the serious question of whether Lambeth 2022 may simply end up highlighting the already fractured nature of the Communion, and, either consciously or unconsciously, move it further away from any “closer and more visible formal commitments to each other”. This is more likely to happen if the Conference fails to address the Communion’s recent history, refuses to consider any consequences for provinces which have rejected Communion teaching, or diminishes the authority of its own pronouncements thereby giving greater significance and weight to provincial autonomy and theological plurality. 

If that is to be avoided, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lambeth 2022 need to find ways of once again providing a vision and creating structures for life together in communion. A vision and structures where the restraints of truth and love shape a pattern of interdependent global Anglican life together, one in which it is clear that churches have autonomy but they are not free to deny the truth and not free to ignore the fellowship. If the Archbishop and the Lambeth Conference cannot start charting such a way forward they will doubtless still play a significant role in the decades ahead but it will be a very different one from that which they have played in the past. It will, it seems, then be left to bodies outside the formal Instruments, such as the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans with their new covenant structure and GAFCON (which meets again in Kigali in April next year) to maintain the historic Anglican vision of deepening life in communion among the majority of Anglicans worldwide, a development which should it arise will in turn inevitably impact our life together here in the Church of England. 

Ultimately, of course, neither bishops (attending or non-attending) nor Archbishops, even the Archbishop of Canterbury, control what will happen at or after this Conference. God will work his purposes out and God will build his church which we must never forget extends far beyond whatever particular Anglican structures or borders we establish or recognise within it. Whatever our analysis, our hopes or our fears, we must therefore above all in coming weeks do what UK evangelicals have recently been urged to do by the Resource Group to Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches/Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (GSFA/EFAC) Delegates at Lambeth 2022 and all Anglicans are encouraged to do on the front page of the Conference website: “Pray for the Lambeth Conference”. 

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.

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61 thoughts on “Lambeth Conference: going from ‘resolutions’ to ‘calls’”

  1. Rev Dr A. Goddard

    It seems to me that it is the omega of the Anglican Communion.

    Perhaps God is permitting this to bring us back to Himself. It begins and ends with God:

    ‘God will work his purposes out and God will build his church which we must never forget extends far beyond whatever particular Anglican structures or borders we establish or recognise within it. Whatever our analysis, our hopes or our fears, we must therefore above all in coming weeks do what UK evangelicals have recently been urged to do by therecently been urged to do by the Resource Group to Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches’.

  2. Surely evangelicals (CEEC in particular) should seize the opportunity presented by the upcoming fracas re LLF to openly challenge and rebuke (a la Paul in Galatians) the Anglican Ministers who do not preach both the wrath to come and other terrible warnings alongside the wonderful invitations and promises – ‘The Thing that Matters Most’, it’s eternity stupid. There will never be a better moment to do this. And I suggest that the challenge and rebuke should take place openly at the various levels of Synod, especially the final General Synod. CEEC could co-ordinate that.
    Phil Almond

  3. Andrew, the ‘Anglican Covenant’ was rejected. The Anglican Communion is a loose fellowship, it is not a Global Church. The Lambeth Conference does NOT have authority to order any autonomous national Church to follow uniform views on all issues. Justin is absolutely right to point out this reality.

    “The word resolution implies legal decision which is binding and that goes beyond the powers of the conference…”

    That’s the simple fact. The Lambeth Conference does not have powers to order the Church in Canada, or Scotland, or the US. The national Churches are autonomous, and they engage with the Communion to the extent that they prayerfully choose to do so.

    The very reason ‘The Covenant’ was rejected, was because it was trying to centralise rules and impose them on autonomous bodies, as if there was a worldwide Anglican Church. There isn’t.

    The use of the term ‘Calls’, with its implication of ‘invitation to reflect and consider’ is more realistic than the term ‘Resolution’ which implies a ‘decision to be followed by all’. The term ‘Calls’ more realistically reflects the reality of the Communion.

    Frankly Lambeth 1998 – 10:1 should be understood in that light. It’s an invitation to reflect and consider… not a command to an autonomous Church… because Lambeth does not have powers to command. In that sense Lambeth 1998 – 10.1 is provisional. The reality of its authority is: it’s advice. Suggesting anything more is overreach and delusion.

    I wish, Andrew, that you’d recognise that. The Church of England is not going to re-adopt ‘The Covenant’ or some other drift towards imposed uniformity within a non-existent ‘Worldwide Anglican Church”. It has to pray, decide, and evolve its own response to its country’s pastoral needs.

    You write:
    “It may also be the case that any wording proposed to the bishops will simply seek to give maximal room for manoeuvre in the Church of England’s process of LLF discernment and decision-making in coming months and to enable that process, whatever its outcome, to be presented as part of the CofE’s responses to the “Calls” which are being sought from provinces over the next two years.”

    Well yes. Because the Church of England is not run by Henry Ndukuba (should he deign to show up at Lambeth). It is absolutely right that the Church of England should have ‘room for manoeuvre’ in the LLF process and its outcomes. The Lambeth Conference does not get to decide or ‘order’ the Church of England on its own attempts to handle the LLF issues, pastorally, theologically, culturally, or in any way at all.

    The Church of England is autonomous.

    There are many different ways where people at Lambeth can get together and find things they actually do agree on – with regard to the environment, or poverty, or health. And build bonds of fellowship, through service of the poor.

    I’ll say it again: we’re not going back to a re-launch of ‘The Covenant’ or any quasi-covenant framework that seeks to impose uniformity ‘by order’. It’s unreality.

    Justin is absolutely right (and just being realistic) when he says:

    The Lambeth Conference “is NOT THERE TO ORDER PEOPLE about” and that when the Lambeth Conference announces something “it doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen… It means that it just gets OFFERED to the whole Anglican Communion who are called to CONSIDER what it means”.
    The Calls will call on the Anglican Communion, the whole Communion, to PRAY, and to think and REFLECT and FOR EACH PROVINCE TO DECIDE ON ITS RESPONSE”.

    Read those last 8 words.

    The Church of England will prayerfully decide for itself what its approach to human sexuality will be.

          • I don’t see Justin’s reported comments as ‘fudge’. I see them more as clarification of the reality that the Lambeth Conference cannot tell autonomous national Churches what to do.

            Sometimes people have been tempted to attribute grandiose powers to the Lambeth Conference. I think he’s right to clarify that: there are no such powers, because there is no Worldwide Anglican Church. Rather, there are self-determining autonomous national Churches that may engage with the Lambeth Conference and other Anglican Churches to the extent they decide to.

            ‘Resolution’ lent an erroneous sense of ‘command’ to statements the Communion can make, but not impose on autonomous Churches.

            ‘Call’ is a clearer term, implying invitation to prayerfully reflect and then decide themselves the extent they believe they should take things on board.

            I’d still like the recipe for that fudge though!

          • Which neatly avoids addressing the concerns that the ABps from the Global South have expressed in the letter to him that Andrew Goddard cites in his first article.

          • Because we have already had 164 comments on that topic in the other article (to which I refer you). I believe the 3 archbishops mentioned in that other article would suggest the Anglican Communion needs to ‘enforce’ uniformity on sexual ethics.

            The article on this page is more specific – Andrew is asking what’s behind the shift from ‘Resolutions’ to ‘Calls’. And Justin seems to make clear that Lambeth Conference cannot ‘enforce’. It can only ‘advise’.

            That’s the reality of the Communion. Each Province / national Church has autonomy over how they want to live in relationship to the other Anglican Provinces.

            That’s just how it is.

            The Nigerian prelate can, of course, say that if he can’t force his view on everybody else, he won’t play anymore.

            It could end up being more than just him.

            Or people can try to find the maturity to co-exist, finding other areas of agreement, and handle divergent views on some things, and you have a slightly looser Communion and set of relationships, which I think (possibly) is what Justin is suggesting.

            We don’t have to throw all the toys out of the pram, just because we don’t agree on everything.

            Let’s be friends! even with differences.

            Sort of: a primary imperative – love one another.

            Obviously that won’t be popular with everyone here, but anyway, what will happen to the Communion will happen to the Communion.

            What happens to the Church of England may be a different matter.

          • No. I do not see how you can de-link these articles. The last thing the ABC wants is a bunch of African prelates representing 3/7 of global Anglicans turning up at Lambeth wanting to express their dissension with the schisms originally created by the north American church. They do not see -to quote Andrew Goddard in his reply to you, that-

            ” if the Anglican communion is to to be one of radical provincial autonomy combined with a requirement that all Anglican churches must then, out of respect for that autonomy, accept all decisions of other churches without these having consequences for their relationships with that church or the common life of the Communion”

            They *do* see it as having serious consequences for the common life of the communion and their relationships, that there are limits to that autonomy, and it doesn’t trump all. They want the ABC to address this issue.
            The ABC’s strategy is to effectively ignore and sidestep them.

          • You are avoiding the point. They know they can come – they haven’t been banned but that isn’t the issue. They state in their letter in paras 2 and 7 the reasons why.

            They think the ABC does not wish to to raise or discuss these issues in any kind of detail that have fractured the communion due to the actions of the north American provinces and have had consequences for their own relationships with the Communion. They believe it to be swept under the carpet and obfuscated.

            In short, they don’t believe they will be listened to, be allowed to express their concerns to the wider communion at Lambeth or that any action will taken on them, so see no point in coming.

            It’s stage management.

          • People forget that it was (some of) the African churches who ruptured the Communion, not the North Americans.

          • People forget that it was (some of) the African churches who ruptured the Communion, not the North Americans.

            Really? The African branches ordained bishops in defiance of the moratorium, thus rupturing the communion? When did they do this?

          • S

            The African churches refused to share communion with the North American churches. The latter were happy to share communion with sinners, which is the orthodox position.

            Some African churches trespassed episcopal boundaries. Savi Hensman is good on this, if you can be bothered to do the research.

            Anglican churches are autonomous. The Episcopal church in the US was quite free to ordain whomever it pleased. And churches (including the CoE) have been consecrating actively gay bishops for years.

          • The African churches refused to share communion with the North American churches.

            Only after the American churches had first rejected communion by breaking the moratorium, right?

            The latter were happy to share communion with sinners, which is the orthodox position.

            No, it isn’t. The orthodox position is that those living in open and unrepentant sin should not be admitted to communion. The African churches were acting in accordance with that, totally orthodox, principle.

          • And about the actively gay bishops consecrated in the CoE your response would be?

            Why would I have a response? I was just pointing out that it wasn’t the African provinces which broke the moratorium and thereby put themselves out of communion.

            Which you can’t deny which is why you resort to whataboutery.

    • Susannah York

      ‘The very reason ‘The Covenant’ was rejected, was because it was trying to centralise rules and impose them on autonomous bodies, as if there was a worldwide Anglican Church. There isn’t.’

      From 1867-1998 there wasn’t a centralised body – and yet a remarkable degree of unity.

      From 1867-1998 there were ‘autonomous’ provinces – yet a remarkable degree of unity.

      From 1867-1998 it seems that millions of Anglicans around the globe believed in at least three sources:

      1. God exists;
      2. The Logos entered our space and time; and,
      3. The authority of Scripture as interpreted for 2,000 years.

      Then, post 1998 someone or some people must’ve repudiated at least one of those sources of authority.

      Is that correct?

      • Clark, not York.

        There is a problem with saying “some people must have repudiated at least one of these sources of authority.”

        Very few Christians repudiate the Scriptures as ONE source of authority. The key issue is: how should the Bible be read, and be understood.

        On the one hand you have (for 2000 years and up to the present day) had people who take what the Bible says as literally true… (though even that varies from crude fundamentalism to nuanced evangelicals). But basically in this approach, the Bible is regarded as infallible, and to be understood mostly at literal level of reading.

        On the other hand, and it doesn’t commence at 1998, it goes back centuries… there are people who believe that the Bible is a treasure trove of wisdom and information, and often inspiring… but should be understood and read in the context of people back then “trying” to make sense of religious encounter as best as they could, and writing from within the limits of their own understanding, their own culture, and their shortfall of scientific knowledge at that time.

        So it’s not a matter of repudiating scripture as a source, but some people read it more contextually than others, because people are fallible, and the authors were people.

        I think other sources contribute to faith:

        1. Tradition.
        2. Conscience.
        3. Continuing Revelation in people’s lives.
        4. Encounters with God.
        5. Prayerful reflection.
        6. The Holy Spirit in many of these things.
        7. Nature, music, art, community, illness, loss… all these things may feed into our faith and understanding of God.
        8. The numinous… all the ways God imparts sense of presence while remaining reclusive.
        9. Other people’s compassion, because God is a God of compassion.
        10. Lives of saints and Christian testimonies.
        11. Sense of vocation, and opening to God.

        The list is not complete. Other people might add other ways in which their faith grows and they come to know more about God.

        But no, there was no sudden turning point in 1998.

        PS: I’m not debating this with you or others in endless derailments. Bottom line: Lambeth Conference does not have power to tell autonomous national Anglican Churches what they must believe. It can only invite them to consider, reflect, and decide what they think is right in their Church.

        What’s interesting is the point Andrew makes about: where does this leave us?

    • Thanks for responding Susannah. Not sure how best to pick up on your points as we don’t disagree on what I think is the main one ie that the Lambeth Conference – whatever it does and whatever it calls what it does – has no legal authority over the provinces of the Communion. What I am not clear is whether you think it has any sort of authority at all as a gathering of bishops from across the world and if so how provinces should show respect for that authority in their own decision-making as a province of the Communion.
      The lack of legal authority over the internal workings of any province is also very different from the question of authority to order the inter-provincial life of the Communion and its Instruments especially when a province uses its undoubted autonomy to disregard the Communion’s stated understanding of Scripture and its clear appeals for restraint (the quote about not disregarding the truth or the fellowship).
      While the Covenant is no longer being actively pursued what I was arguing for was the vision of communion (a basic ecclesiology) it sought to express. This has been developed over a long period and combines legal autonomy with interdependence and mutual submission. If that vision has been rejected along with the covenant then I fear we are left with no agreement about what we are as a communion of churches.
      Your own vision appears (apologies if I am misunderstanding you) to be one of radical provincial autonomy combined with a requirement that all Anglican churches must then, out of respect for that autonomy, accept all decisions of other churches without these having consequences for their relationships with that church or the common life of the Communion. That vision has quite a following in parts of the Communion, notably North America, but it has not been the historic view and if it is what Archbishop Justin now believes (the “consequences” of his first Primates Meeting shows it was not his view at that point) then that is a very significant development. If it is not what he believes then it would be good to hear what his vision actually is and how it should shape the response to the ongoing crisis in the Communion.

      • Thank you Andrew. I appreciate your careful and thoughtful response. I should like to reflect on your points, rather than firing off a quick reply.

      • You could argue that regarding sexual ethics the crucial change was the acceptance of contraception at the 1930 Lambeth Conference after many Conferences explicitly condemning the practice. A resolution rejected by many bishops e.g. Bp Charles Gore

        • I think Rowan recognised this. Once you accept that marriage is about more than procreation, it opens up the possibilities of different kinds of (conjugal) relationships.

          • Once you accept that marriage is about more than procreation

            No one ever suggested that marriage wasn’t about more than procreation. Marriage has always been seen as about more than procreation.

            What the acceptance of contraception did was say that procreation was an optional part of marriage — massive difference.

          • Once you accept that marriage is about more than procreation?
            Is that supposed to be some dazzling new insight?
            Who *doesn’t* think that?

      • Dear Andrew,

        I appreciate the care and precision of your response, which I’ve now had a little time to reflect on.

        We agree:

        The Lambeth Conference has NO legal authority over the Provinces / national churches in the Communion.

        Andrew: “What I am not clear is whether you think it has any sort of authority at all as a gathering of bishops from across the world.”

        I believe it has a loose authority to try to influence, and invite reflection. As members of the Communion, I believe it deserves a kind of moral respect that it will be listened to very carefully. It has a kind of fraternal influence to appeal to sister provinces, to try to find areas to agree on, but it has no authority to impose in areas of disagreement. That’s just the reality. The only real authority external to itself is a kind of ‘soft power’ of appeal, influence, and persuasion.

        Andrew: “And if so, how should provinces show respect for that authority in their own decision-making as a province of the Communion.?”

        As I just mentioned, I believe Provincial Churches that want to participate in the Communion owe it to one another to listen carefully to ‘Calls’, and to reflect prayerfully on them. I also think bonds of love really matter so: all provinces need to proactively set out to work together on projects as much as possible, and keep honouring and praying for each other’s flourishing, even or especially if they disagree on certain issues. The autonomous Provinces have a right to follow their own consciences – that’s just a legal fact – but should do so with respect that other Provinces may have different views on certain things. Individual Provinces do not owe the Communion compliance, but may consider compliance if it does not conflict with their consciences and the pastoral needs and situations of their own people.

        THEN… we turn to the present crucial issue you quite rightly mention. You are correct that the Communion DOES have the right to order its own structures and instruments, such that in some cases a Province might be suspended or excluded from the Communion’s business, or ultimately expelled. It obviously has that internal authority. Any organisation does.

        That then leads on to how that would happen within its existing rules and operations, and who might be able to actually bring that into effect, even if they wanted to? In practical outworking, this issue may turn out to be the hub, and obviously concentrates minds. Could you help me out with that one, Andrew? I’d be interested to know how you see those practicalities being worked out, and what vote or consensus could bring such a situation about? Given that no Province can be forced to do anything, are we speaking in terms of the Communion breaking into camps? Has it already? No such mechanism invests the Communion with any additional authority to impose or order doctrine or practice on an autonomous Province, except in the form of a threat that the Province may be distanced or expelled from the Communion. On points of conscience, it seems likely that would be insufficient to deter a Province carrying through what it believes is pastorally best for its people. Inter-dependence and mutual submission is voluntarily adopted, but by choice not compulsion. A lot of it depends on goodwill.

        My vision: is what you correctly understand it to be (see your accurate attempt above to understand it). However, I do not expect belligerent parties to accept that kind of diversity under one big tent. That disappoints me but it may well be the case. However let’s look at the Church of England:

        The pastoral needs of the people in England, as understood by the Church of England and worked out theologically, then addressed, will inevitably in the end supercede the threat of Communion schism or expulsion. The Church of England will ultimately answer for itself, as an autonomous Province, just as the US or Canada or Scotland or Wales respond that way too. The Communion is ultimately not so essential as following conscience, or allowing different parties to follow conscience differently.

        What cannot happen in England is that gay and lesbian people are sacrificed and made to pay the necessary price, for the sake of the Communion. That is no longer pastorally tenable as Scotland and Wales have already recognised. Unity in diversity, and respect for local ‘right of conscience’, become pastorally inevitable. That operation of ‘two integrities’ already happened over women priests, and sets the precedent for what is a real possibility now on human sexuality.

        I’d just add a couple more things. I recognise that the absentee Prelates face their own domestic pressures too, and their own cultural situations. That’s exactly why Provinces are not all identical. Secondly, I very much would like to see the Anglican Communion continue, for the sake of the poor and the desperately needy, and the great benefits of peoples working together for their sake. My own daughter has worked as a missionary in Africa for the past 7 years, with support from her Anglican church, helping malnourished children in a community with dreadful deprivation. We need to love and care with each other and to help those in pitiful need.

        That is why I believe mature Christian polity should be prepared to let different Provinces develop in their own ways, while focussing our shared energies on the things we DO find agreement on. I believe we should seek grace to keep loving one another, instead of this infighting and attempts to dominate with an imposed uniformity.

        We simply don’t always agree. We can still follow God in the best way our conscience allows. We can still love one another.

      • Andrew, I am offline for a few days from tomorrow, so please don’t take it amiss if I don’t make further posts for a while. I will later read with interest. Susannah.

  4. I am stunned by Goddard’s revelations.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has confessed that the Lambeth Conference does not have authority to order people about.

    Then can anyone explain why it has managed to exist for 500 years?

  5. Sir

    I’ve learnt today.

    1. The Anglican Communion has been defenestrated (even before the Lambeth Conference begins).
    2. The Lambeth Conference has no legislative and executive powers.
    3. All Lambeth Conference resolutions are provisional.
    3. They have no legal force; they are not binding.
    4. There appears to be, implicitly attached to each resolution or calll, a duty to consider but no duty to act.
    5. My local golf club is better run than this.

  6. It seems to me that the Anglican Communion is for those who take the Apostolic Succession of bishops (and the episcopal system) seriously, and whose succession derives from the Church of England. That the mother church might fall into serious departure from scripture and its own tradition of many centuries over the definition of sexual sin was never foreseen. This is uncharted territory.

    • It was uncharted.

      But now see above ‘Clark’s’ response to Goddard at 9.23 pm.

      Whoever ‘dictated’ that response has set a course – and it ain’t due North.

      ‘That operation of ‘two integrities’ already happened over women priests, and sets the precedent for what is a real possibility now on human sexuality.’

      When conservative vicars retire – the bishops will appoint liberal priests – ensuring a return to one ‘integrity.’

      If there is a revival on the national scale – it is vital that we inform converts not to enter Church of England churches.

      • There is an error of category in that quotation, of a different magnitude, that forms no precedent at all. It is a one of Holiness, sanctification, of sexual morality. That was not an issue in the ordination of women.

        • That was not an issue in the ordination of women.

          Neither did allowing the ordination of women require abandoning the idea of the Bible as the Word of God: those in favour of women being ordained claimed that theirs was the Biblical position. This is in stark contrast to the sexuality issue where those of the liberal side admit that their position is not Biblical but argue that this means the Bible is wrong. This means that no accommodation is possible because you simply can’t have a denomination where whether the Bible is God’s Word is an optional matter.

          (Andrew Godsall will be along in a minute to claim this is fine and there is nothing to abandon because the Church of England has always taught that the Bible is not God’s Word and is full of errors, and also he will forget the capital on ‘Bible’)

          • Indeed S. No matter how much obfuscation, and top -soil, theology, it returns to the root cause of the fruit
            Time and time again the root of biblical revisionism, has been exposed on this site, with very little digging effort. And your unstinting probing along with spasmodic contributions from others.

          • Actually, they don’t all argue the the Bible is wrong.
            Some, like me, argue that the Bible has nothing to say about homosexuality. Not about heterosexuality.
            And, once again, the Bible isn’t the Word of God. That’s a very modern notion.
            Christ is the Word.

          • Some, like me, argue that the Bible has nothing to say about homosexuality.

            Not very convincingly, though (your doomed attempts to claim that Genesis uses ‘male’ and ‘female’ not as poles on a binary but as ends of a spectrum, for example — if you want to claim people are reading modern ideas back into ancient texts that one really takes the biscuit).

          • It takes no digging at all, as the weeds of biblical revisionism as self seeding pirennialism of higher/ historical criticism now infused with post, post modernism, that now claims the status of absolute truth.
            Not really sure how Ian and James could suggest that is now on the wane, in their most recent you-tube talk-around the lectionary reading, when it seems to me that it remains a highly polutingengine of Holy Bible revisionism.
            Clearly S, you are onto something, when there is an almost immediate response and unsupported denial. Evidence indeed.

          • So, show us you haven’t read much biblical scholarship without

            Okay, I suppose the alternative to them saying the Bible is wrong on this issue is saying, as you do, that the Bible is just a text that we’re can read to mean anything we want it to mean. That’s still incompatible with it being the Word of God, though, so it still leads to the same conclusion that you cannot adopt the liberal position on sexuality without at least implicitly rejecting that idea that the Bible is God’s Word (and you yourself rejected that explicitly at writing ‘the Bible isn’t the Word of God’).

            So it leads to the same conclusion that this is a qualitatively different question to that of ordaining women where accommodation was theoretically possible (though of course in practice due to the bad faith of the pro-ordination side ours hasn’t worked), because there both sides could accept the Bible as the Word of God even as they disagreed about the correct interpretation of it.

            But no such accommodation is possible when one side sees the Bible as the Word of God and the other says ‘the Bible isn’t the Word of God’. Those two views simply cannot co-exist because the disagreement is so fundamental that you basically at that point have two completely different religions.

          • Penelope is treating as simple dichotomies things which are anything but.

            If the Bible talks about men acting sexually with men, then it is sheer and deliberate and calculated sophistry to say it does not talk about ‘homosexuality’. Of course concepts will not be identical, but who cares so long as realities overlap?

            As Christ is supremely the Word of God, how does that make the Bible not be? And in what ways is Christ opposed to the Bible?

            2 slogans, but when asked to expand them into argument they collapse. In fact, sloganising and non-debating are the most typical traits of the secularist opponents I have known in the past 20 years.

          • Penelope is treating as simple dichotomies things which are anything but.

            Yes, and also equivocating. Take for example the comment above on the approval of contraception:

            ‘Once you accept that marriage is about more than procreation, it opens up the possibilities of different kinds of (conjugal) relationships.’

            Note that the implicit claim here is that the approval of contraception was ‘accept[ing] that marriage is about more than procreation’, as if before that the vote was that marriage was about nothing more than procreation.

            But this is not the case at all! No one ever thought that marriage was about nothing more than procreation!

            The change was from seeing procreation as an essential element of marriage , ie, that married couples were obliged to try to have children, to seeing it as an optional thing that married couples might try for children but equally might choose not to.

            Presumably Penelope Cowell Doe know this, but look at the equivocation. She presents ‘procreation is an essential part of marriage’ as ‘procreation is the only thing marriage is about’. As of before the approval of contraception the view was that marriage was about procreation and only that and nothing more .

            But of course anyone with half a brain cell can see that ‘X is an essential element of Y’ does not mean or even imply ‘Y is only about X and nothing else’.

            If the view is that procreation is an essential part of marriage that doesn’t at all imply that procreation is the whole of marriage or even that procreation is the only essential part of marriage.

            This is so obvious that it is difficult to believe that anyone capable of working a computer could make such an error by accident. But the alternative is deliberate mendacity and arguing in bad faith.

          • Jesus is indeed the Word. But he is the Word made flesh, incarnate, whose Bible was what we regard as the OT, to which he referred and quoted and approved and cited as being about him, and fulfilled by him. And if she accepts Jesus is God the Son, alive in space, time and history, what does that say about the authority and inspiration and reliability of Scripture and ultimate authorship by how? By God’s self revelation even through fallible humans?
            But it goes beyond that, degenerating even further than neo -Marcionism with the liberal view of the New Testament.

          • No one said Christ is opposed to the Bible.
            Really. Try harder chaps.
            I didn’t say the Bible was ‘just a text’.
            It isn’t. It’s infinitely more than that.
            It still doesn’t ‘say’ anything about heterosexuality or homosexuality.
            Some texts condemn male/male sex acts in certain circumstances.
            Other things are regarded as abominations such as Egyptians using false scales??
            But hey, let’s base our whole moral theology on a few verses wrenched out of context.
            Or, in Christopher’s case, some social science studies which tell us that many gay men are promiscuous. Wow, who would have guessed?

          • It still doesn’t ‘say’ anything about heterosexuality or homosexuality.

            Yes it does. It says ‘in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’

          • That’s gender. Not sexuality.
            I think you would like Issues; it has the same muddled thinking.

          • That’s gender. Not sexuality.

            No, ‘male’ and ‘female’ are the two sexes. They are not ‘genders’, which is a term to do with how nouns and adjectives decline in certain languages.

          • But that’s hardly relevant to language changing.

            And language changing isn’t relevant to the discussion — it’s another one of the non sequiturs you throw in to try to distract people from the fact you have no arguments — so snap.

        • Of course, that will have no import at all, as the process, itself, formed a precedent that was seen to be effective in embedding the principle and achieving roll-out, gradually squeezing out those who continued to oppose.
          What I find fascinating in the way Susannah writes is how much of an influence an inside track she has, with the CoE hierarchy, for a lay person.

          • the process, itself, formed a precedent that was seen to be effective in embedding the principle and achieving roll-out, gradually squeezing out those who continued to oppose

            But it also made it plain and open that that is the goal, and that the accommodations offered were never made in good faith.

            Fool me once …

  7. The creation of GAFCON and FCA between 1998 and 2008 surely sheds light on what a large number of bishops understood the Lambeth Conference and its Resolutions to be. GAFCON and FCA are not legal structures which control provinces, but do provide the high level of collegiality that those bishops want, and which their people want to see in their bishops.
    The global witness of and mutual support within Anglicanism was sufficiently valued at that time to form these networks and is going/growing strong.

  8. I think we are seeing writ large the reality of the networks most Anglican ministers belong to. I don’t know of many ministers who have no support or interest networks other than what the C of E provides. The diocese is no longer the mothership which provides all the resources needed for body, mind and spirit. Most ministers and lay people reach out to para church organisations. That process is partly driven by disappointment with diocesan provision, but also a healthy desire to belong to the wider church of God (which is what C of E ministers are primarily ordained into). Now we are seeing Primates and Provinces choose their chosen networks, beyond the instruments of communion. I take some comfort that they have chosen to create Anglican networks, rather than dissipating into non-Anglican groups. ++Justin has chosen to place himself at the centre of the attempts at resolving differences. This is a Conference of his making. His successor is by no means bound to follow the same path.


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