Is Attendance at Lambeth a matter of Representative Function?

The Windsor Report paragraphs 134 and 144 included this phrase: "Pending such expression of regret, we recommend that such bishops be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion."

The Windsor Report "process" includes the request that there be an expression of regret by Anglican Church of Canada and Episcopal Church Bishops for allowing for, supporting, or otherwise permitting the blessing of same sex unions, and the Episcopal Church for ordaining a bishop who is gay and in relationship. The assumption is that that regret would be accompanied by pledges to cease and desist. It also asked Bishops and Provinces intervening in the US and Canada to cease and desist and express regret. It did not say that those who continued to intervene consider withdrawing. 

There has been response from both churches to these request, and great debate as to whether or not these two provinces have complied. There has been no response from the churches intervening, except to say that they felt compelled to do so. There has been no regret, rather there has been massive, invasive, and recruiting usurpation. Fr. Jake is on the case here concerning Presiding Bishop Venables. Other gang members of the Southern Cone episcopate, notably Bishop Lyons and Bishop Cavalcanti, are out there wondering around and we will one day have to deal with them as well. The Windsor Report was deficient in not including a recommendation of disengagement for interventionists and its already glaring deficiencies are compounded by its clear bias.

In the case of blessings and ordinations there was a recommendation –that bishops "be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion."

Just what are those "representative functions"? Clearly membership on committees, commissions, etc of Anglican Communion bodies, including the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Certainly the ACC itself. But what about the Primates Meeting? And What about the Lambeth Conference?

The Primates Meeting is not a "representative function" in that the Primates are invited in their person as primates, not as representatives of their churches. They are of course on some level embodiments of their provinces, but they are hardly representatives. Moreover, the Primates meetings have been touted as an opportunity for prayer, reflection and sharing, all highly personal rather than representative activities.

The Lambeth Conference, similarly, is such a gathering. All active Bishops are invited not because they represent Dioceses, but because they are bishops. Of course most do speak for dioceses and they are encouraged to "bring your diocese to Lambeth." But they are there for fellowship, refreshment, prayer and study. They are not there to make decisions on behalf of their dioceses.

So here is the question: If the Windsor invitation to consider withdrawing from representative functions is meant to apply to Lambeth, does this fly in the face of the Archbishop of Canterbury's (and perhaps our) understanding of the character of the Lambeth Conference? And, if that invitation does not apply to Lambeth, why does the Archbishop believe bishops must come willing to abide by the "Windsor Process" and must come willing to enter the process of developing an Anglican Covenant? The first – the process – includes expression of regret and cease and desist orders, the second – the covenant process – involves agreement with the end of the Covenant process, namely an actual document.

In addition, having already invited most, but not all, bishops to come it is the height of rudeness to send out a second missive suggesting that the invitees apply some sort of litmus test to themselves to see if they are really, really, really worthy of inclusion in the gathering. Either the invitation is real or it is not. If it is real, then the ABC has to take the lumps as host and put up with the boorish, the contentious, and the heterodox.

That's the way it is if you try to throw a party for the bishops of an 70 million member fellowship.

And, just so the ABC understands: My sense is the Bishop of Delaware (or any other Diocese) does not represent the Diocese when he goes to Lambeth. The Diocese sets aside monies for his attendance because he is a bishop, our bishop. We are proud of him and glad to encourage his being there. But if you want representatives from the Diocese of Delaware, ask. We might send the bishop as our representative. He's pretty good at it, by the way. But we could send someone else. Delaware is small, but we are not so hierarchical as to believe that our representative needs to be our bishop.

Save the representative stuff for the Anglican Consultative Council and the Commissions, etc. Let Lambeth be a meeting of bishops, period. In which case, Windsor does not apply.


  1. This all sounds remarkably similar to the near deceased Church of England's bashing and critique of the Wesleyan revival in that Church in the 18th century. While people responded to the alternative Church in that Church, the leaders of the dying Church bashed with lables like "enthusiasts" and "methodists". Yet, thank God that the Whitefields and Wesleys of that day crossed the parish borders and reinvograted the autocratic and ill Church of England. A similar history is now being written in America in the 21st century. TEC is dying out with no plan for revival. Those who have the plan are maligned. Nobody remembers the names of the 18th century C of E delegates, committees, and bishops who pouted as the Church went on without them.

  2. An interesting question. I had thought that the original intent of "representative" was representation of the Communion to those outside. In that vein, Bishop Griswold stepped down from the Anglican/Roman dialogues. In the same way, I think it significant that one of Canterbury's arguments for a greater consistency, if not actual centralization, has been the capacity to speak with a unified voice to others outside. In that sense, meeting of Primates, or Lambeth, or, for that matter, the ACC are not "representative" of the Communion to outside bodies.

  3. marshall,
    Perhaps the windsor report was deliberately ambiguous, a not unusual situation in Anglican history. Thus progressives could be invited to view "representatative" functions as pertaining to external representations. Conservatives were left to form the view that "representative" functions included internal committees and the like.
    Is it any wonder that we find it hard to attain unity?


  4. I heard a linguist refer to these as "promiscuous words" -- words which crawl into bed with anyone and take on the particular meaning of the moment.


  5. I think one of the many flaws of the Windsor mistake was its use of assumed definitions.

    So for instance the report, "invites" various persons to act in various ways. On this side of the pond, that means they should think about doing something. In England it was a now violated order.

    "Representative" is I suspect another such word. I doubt the authors were intending to distinguish between Lambeth and ACC meetings.

    In fact, one of the ongoing issues in the controversy between the neo-orthodox and the progressives is that one side treats Lambeth resolutions they agree with as canon. If Lambeth is, as the neo-orthodox insist, a sort of super-legislature, then it is clearly covered under 'representative'.

    So, I think for instance, that the bishops in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Southern Cone, and Nigeria responsible for the incursions into the USA and Canada should be barred from Lambeth. They do not belong at a representative meeting. Want to bet that Dr. Williams lacks the courage to make that call or more specifically to write that letter?



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