The Lambeth Conference thread 2022

(The Lambeth Conference 2022 thread from Facebook. These days commentary seems to happen more on Facebook, but here is a compilation of the postings on Lambeth 2022. It turns out a blog is a better place to collect them as a group.)

(7/25) Dancing the Lambeth Two Step:

This is a post for those interested in the Anglican Communion. 

The Lambeth Conference apparently will replace resolution making with a more congenial dance where no one says NO, but politely accepts the call to dance to a given proposition or simply sits out the dance by suggesting further conversation over tea.  

The 2022 Lambeth Conference program to consider several “Calls” - statements for consideration by the bishops gathered is profoundly flawed:  in the generation of statements, in the process being manipulative, and the the questionable proposals about how they might be voted on.  It raises questions about the value of the whole event.  This thing is engineered to promote a myth, that the Anglican Communion is a “church” as opposed to a gathering of Churches, and that therefore it has a “mind” such that you could talk about the “mind” of the communion. 

The discernment of “calls” is a supposed alternative to more contentious resolution making. Resolutions are replaced by calls to commitment and action, Give that bishops will discuss and vote (with only a yes commitment or a commitment to further discussion possible) it’s hard to see the difference between this and resolutions. 

But there is one. In a meeting with resolutions one can vote against as well as for. Here the bishops can only commit to action or to continued discernment.  There is no NO there. 

This revision smacks of the kind of autocracy where you can vote yes now or yest to being convinced later, but you can’t vote no.  So at the front end the Lambeth Conference is clouding the issue of its role as a deliberative body. Robust minority opinion against any of the “calls” is simply not allowed.

The most difficult of these “calls” is the one on Human Dignity, which includes a proposal to reaffirm Lambeth 1998:1.10.  This needs to be explicitly rejected rather than either approved or kicked down the road for further consideration  (the only two choices offered.)  

But I believe it is not only this “call” that needs to be rejected, as if the constrained process for considering the others was somehow OK.  It is not the content of these statements alone that is the problem. It is the process itself. The design of the Conference is at its core the problem.

The bishops are asked to take one of two positions. The Lambeth Call document states it this way:

“For each decision there will be two choices for each bishop to make:

• This Call speaks for me. I add my voice to it and commit myself to take the action I can to implement it.

• This Call requires further discernment. I commit my voice to the ongoing process.”

But the Lambeth process even confuses this choicemaking:

The second of these: “This Call requires further discernment. I commit my voice to the ongoing process.”  is stated in a significantly different way later, “There will be opportunities during the conference to share your answers to these questions before the conference decides on whether to adopt or adapt the Call.”

Is the Conference affirming a Call, which “speaks to me” or is it “adopting” the statement?  Is the alternative to decide that “it requires further discernment” or is it “to adapt (that is to change) the statement?  

Of the two, I believe it is the first that is the guiding notion: The choices are between affirming the call, or kicking it down the road for further discernment.

What would happen if sufficient bishops were to refuse to vote so that a majority could not be reached either to adopt or further consider a call?  If less that, say, fifty percent of the bishops were to step back and refuse to consider a call as it is written at all, what would happen to that call?

Is boycotting a vote the only way to say NO?


 (7/25) The Lambeth Dance just got a bit more civil. This announcement came clarifying that there would be a revision of the Call concerning Human Dignity and a third possibility of voting. Now, the question remains, where did that Lambeth 1998, 1.10 re-affirmation thing come from?

III. (7/27) The second revision of the working document for the Lambeth Conference, the  “Lambeth Calls” document, contains  the striking and immediately useful correction to the Section on Human Dignity, in which Lambeth Conference 1998 1.10 is no longer part of the call, but rather is a reference point for positions held by some, but not all, of the churches in the Communion. 

There are other small corrections to be made

The one  I noticed:  In “Mission and Evangelism,” 1.1 removed a reference to the Anglican church, and made it Anglican churches. This is important because the Anglican Communion is not a church, but a fellowship of churches.

There is at least one other tweak that needs to happen. Perhaps just an editorial footnote. 

In “Interfaith Relations,” 2.4 mentions the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer, but not whose BCP.  It is not in the CofE official 1662 BCP.  Whose churches have this in their service for baptism?  It would be instructive to know.

I’m sure there are more. 

I would hope that without getting into the weeds of “perfecting” the calls, there might be a simple process of making small tweaks as necessary to clean up the edges.

With a bumpy start it still would appear that the Bishops are ready to settle in to real time together to pray and work.  I hope it goes well.

There is still the concern that these documents, good, bad or indifferent, made their way to the table either by design or by accident from material woven together by a small group responsible to the Archbishop directly, or perhaps the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.  So who got Lambeth 1998, 1.10 into the document in the first place?

IV (7/29)

A read on what ever is going on re resolutions at the Lambeth Conference. Obviously a read from outside the circle and therefore no doubt limited in value.

The Lambeth Conference is a wonderful gift to most of the bishops, a time to reflect, pray, discuss, and yes, even resolve, all in a context where it is hard to forget that odd reality of being part of a Church informed by Catholic, national, and reformed perspectives. 

But because it does try to parse out what counts as an Anglican perspective on issues, concerns and theological groundings, it is sometimes a place of contention leading to potential fist-fights.  So it is this time. But there is a difference, one due to a now 25 year old rupture. 

In 1997 a meeting of Global South bishops, at a conference underwritten in part by the Anglican Communion Office, published a report that critiqued the movement in the West towards inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in ordained ministry and considerably widened the role of women in the ordained ministry.  But it was more. It was a first flexing of the muscles of those who were colonized into the Christian Faith against the double standards of their colonizers.  The West brought what seemed to be the sure truth, it was adopted by the receivers, and they were appalled when the West began to change its tune.  

More, they were aided in being appalled by some in the West who were glad to fuel the suspicion that the West was walking away from the very truths they had brought.  Bishops in the Global South could then voice their resentment of the colonialism of the past by both rejecting that, and what they now saw as revisionist thinking by the West.

Within a year that gave rĂ­se to the takeover of the agenda on the report on Human Sexuality at Lambeth 1998. The report of the committee was scrapped and instead Lambeth resolutio 1.10, a substitute, was put forward and passed. 

That was then, and now is now. And a group of Global South bishops will again try to push a substitute for the “Call” on Human Dignity, in which Lambeth 1998 1.10 will be reaffirmed and the call will be for punitive actions to be taken against churches who don’t conform to the proposition that marriage is only between “one man and one woman.” 

Good luck with that. 

Still, depending on how these days play out, the possibilities seem to be:

1. The possibility of a resolution will be squelched.  Some bishops may walk out not to return.  The Global South / GAFCON crowd will have all the more reasons to initiate an entirely separate  world-wide church structure. 

2. The resolution will go forward only to be voted down.  This is less a reason for bishops to leave, but still gives ammunition to the GAFCON crowd to be encouraged by, and helpful to those sympathetic to them in the West (Including particularly ACNA - the Anglican Church in North America). 

3. The resolution will go forward, be approved, and more or less ignored by everybody except the Global South gang, and life of the Anglican Communion will stumble alone. Progressives will move to cease funding anything involving the Global South bishops and , or the Anglican Communion offices.

4. The resolution will be approved and the Archbishop of Canterbury will with caution none the less affirm that this is the “mind of the Church” and remove or sanction those churches who have ordained gay or lesbian persons to the episcopate.  Those churches who do ordain gay and lesbian persons will feel betrayed. 

But in any of these cases, NO ONE will really address the skunk on the table, namely that the moral distinctions drawn in every culture regarding right action are to a large extent culturally determined and that Christian evangelists have always brought those sensibilities with the message of salvation and confused the two: proper moral behavior and salvatioin.

The skunk is that the receiver always resents being dragged into the moral universe determined by the messengers own culture, and that the communities of the messengers seldom deal with that resentment.

Sadly, bishops are not making that resentment clear. Instead, they have allowed their resentment to be used by those in the West whose agenda is about cultural infighting in the West and gaining allies for those battles.  ACNA has everyting to gain by the growth of an alternative to the Anglican Communion as it now stands, where they have no standing.  And, in the good ol’ Church of England, where all the bishops revel in the beauty of really old and very English cathedrals, the evangelical party will find themselves aligned with the “Majority of the Anglican Communion.”

It would be nice to think that if it was simply passed it would be done with. (option 3) but my strong sense is that that is not going to happen.  

Meanwhile, I hope most bishops have a restful time and that none of all this takes place.  This is because I respect and honor what we do when we make people bishops. It’s a hard job and deserving of some supportive networking. And I believe the Anglican Communion is a real gift to us all, for we need friends in Christ throughout the world.  Lambeth can be a context for supporting both deserved time together and building friendships.

This resolution mess is less helpful, filled with unintended consequences, and serves forces outside the community of bishops and their churches.

V. (8/1) Lambeth two-step dance revisited.

In an earlier post I spoke of the “skunk on the table,” - the resentments about colonialism in the mission work of the West. Having sold 19th Century western moral and civil structures along with the Gospel, as a single package, with the approval of the colonial powers, the receivers took it all in stride. Now they see the West changing its moral and civil stance, separate from the Gospel, and resent that they had to give up their own cultures and civil society in order to take on the Gospel, only to be further jerked around by Western churches who claim the moral high ground and who want to change the rules once again. 

Some readers may think this a stretch, but read this from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches- from their “resolution” they are putting forward to the Lambeth Conference: 

“For too long the Anglican Communion has been driven by the views of the West. We often feel that our voice is not listened to, or respected. We invite each primate and bishop to sign up to our resolution, and then with the majority of the Communion in favour, for the Instruments of the Anglican Communion to find ways to put faith and order back at the heart of what the Archbishop of Canterbury describes as ‘walking together’”

They are going to get a lot of bishops to sign a document saying that “our voices are not listened to or respected.” 

At the end of all this, the Lambeth Conference may be considerably changed, and no longer an instrument of unity   - a stretch these last three Lambeth Conferences.  But it can be a place for honest discussion and cooperation. In order to be that there needs to be respect and friendship among the bishops.  I believe there is lots of room for that. When the angers and resentments subside, there is often lots to talk about, share, pray for, contemplate, give thanks for.  

It will mean eating at the table and at the altar without using invitation or exclusion as a tool. It will in fact mean respect and listening. It will not mean agreeing. 

I hope the Conference can move on from this difficult day.

VI (8/2)

The Global South Anglican Churches has reintroduced the text of Lambeth 1998, 1.10 and sent around copies to be signed and agreed to by as many bishops as they could muster.  However the text is different from the original.  That text ended with these two points:

“Notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.”  

The text given to the bishops ends differently: 

“e. notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and

 the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality.

ii. Urges that renewed steps be taken to ensure that all Provinces abide by this doctrine in their faith, order & practice.”

(from the Global South Anglican Churches page.)

That last bit, “urgent that renewed steps be taken to ensure that all provinces abide by this doctrine in their faith, order & practice,” is given the heading (ii). There is no indication about what this means in the document. It is under section 5 of the press release, and is presented as part of the resolution Lambeth 1998 1.10.  It is not.

But it is telling: What was wanted then was indeed punitive action against those who did not abide by this doctrine.  First they gave this resolution “doctrinal” status. Then they were, and remain, committed to punitive action until such time as there is repentence.  It was not part of the original Lambeth resolution, but never mind.  Just a little photoshopping or editorial work and, voila! The doctrine you always wanted for the next great round of punishments.

Shame on GSAC messing with the text of the past resolution and encouraging bishops to sign on to this bit of subterfuge. 

I think the Archbishop of Canterbury did a ]good job threading the needle and stitching things together so that conversations can continue. 

Sometime it  might be good for the bishops assembled in some sort of gathering, to talk about times when they were recipients of oppression or were oppressors. The conversation then might turn to what would count as repair, rather than what would count as retribution.  But we will not know at Lambeth, except one hopes, on the sidelines when bishop to bishop the walls start falling.

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