The Last Lambeth?

Anglican TV has produced a wide range of interviews at the Lambeth Conference. The lead in to the interviews is almost always the same. The title appears "The Last Lambeth, Canterbury 2008." The message is simple. This is it, the last Lambeth Conference.

Is it? Bishop Venables of the Southern Cone was asked by Anglican TV if there would be a Lambeth Conference 2018. His response was, "if there is it will be a very very different Anglican Communion from the one we have experienced so far." He also suggested that the next Primates Meeting will be the last of those meetings as currently constituted and that the "instruments of unity" are not functioning appropriately. Bishop Venables believes a stronger synodical structure will be in place. (Three guesses where he believes those stronger structures will come from.)

Anglican TV asked if the service tomorrow will be the last service of the Anglican Communion? The bishop said not quite but "I do think this critical moment has just added to the sad reality , or the sad understanding of the reality, that we are not going to be able to put Humpty-Dumpty together again."

This tells us a good bit about the Bishop's practical view of the Lambeth Conference, the current Anglican Communion, and such like. Humpty-Dumpty the image of Lambeth suggests that what being broken, dumped, torn, etc., is hardly worth the effort. After all, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again... and why should they. Broken eggs are broken eggs.

Humpty Dumpty seems at first to have been an image a little clumsy person and later was visualized as an egg. There are other references to the Humpty Dumpty - the name of a canon in the wars between royalists and round-heads is one - but the one that stuck was the dumpy little guy that is mostly an egg. Eggheads come to mind, small clumsy churches that have wandered from the truth of Rome or the truth of Reform, etc. But the best sort of Humpty Dumpty is no slouch, but rather a somewhat contemptuous sharp user of words. Here is the reference from Alice in Through the Looking Glass:

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'" Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"
"But `glory' doesn't mean `a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.
"They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

Perhaps it is not the Anglican Communion, or the instruments of Communion, or even the Lambeth Conference that is Humpty Dumpty, torn, broken and being left behind, but rather the Primate of the Southern Cone, a wonderful man and a good Christian, who has mistaken his mastery of one way of presenting the Gospel for the only way and sees everything through the eyes of an English evangelical ministering far from home.

Well, the only way to find out is to live and live with joy in the midst of it all.


  1. In re: Venables. Aptly put.

  2. I agree. Very nice post.

    Thank you for putting "instruments of unity" in quotation marks. I have never understood why the Anglican Communion as a whole didn't object to the Windsor Report's presumption of these four "instruments of unity"--a formula never discussed or decided (as far as I can tell) outside of the Windsor Report group and the Virginia Report. I'm a little hazy on the details, but it always seemed odd to me that the Anglican Communion was willing to go along with this without any serious debate.

    It may be that they would function "appropriately" if they were being used appropriately. It seems to me that people (largely purple-clad people) are trying to make them do and be what they were never meant to do and be.


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