“Six Resolutions for Lambeth”: A Quick Response to Ephraim Radner

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On 12 February, Dr. Ephraim Radner sought to “clean up the playing field” with “Six Resolutions” for Lambeth” in 2020.

As one who has written extensively on the state of the Anglican Communion – I commented recently on Andrew Goddard’s concerns for Lambeth – I wish now to give a few quick takes on Dr. Radner’s six resolutions.

Preliminaries

Radner writes: “It behooves Lambeth 2020 at least to adopt some simple resolutions, including the following six.”

As I understand them, Goddard and Radner are proposing a radical redo of the current “design” for Lambeth. To begin with, there is no provision at present for any Resolutions at all, but rather for another “Lambeth Indaba” – “God’s Church for God’s World: Walking, Listening, and Working Together” – as in 2008. Even if there were a decision to return to the formats of earlier Conferences, these Resolutions would have to be agreed to and announced in advance by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a condition of invitation(invitations have been sent out but presumably could be withdrawn). If the Resolutions themselves were up for debate in 2020, we would simply see a futile replay of the last twenty years (see my book, especially chapters 4 and 8).

So let me grant the hypothesis that Dr. Radner’s six Resolutions were established beforehand as ground rules of the Conference. As he says: “There is a Holy Spirit.”

The Six Resolutions

#1. This Conference reaffirms the 1998 Resolution I.10.

This would be a huge step forward. Upholding Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality in word and deed has been the main point of contention between both the Global South Anglican and the Gafcon movements from 1998 to the present. However, paying mere lip service to Lambeth I.10 would be hypocritical and suicidal. The two specific contraventions of Lambeth I.10 over the past twenty years have been the ordination of practicing homosexuals and same-sex unions and marriage. Churches that continue to teach and practice these contraventions would ipso facto be asked to “stand outside” (#2). That would include the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) and also others like the Episcopal Church of Brazil, Scottish Episcopal Church and others currently in process.

#2. Those bishops and churches who contradict or contravene this affirmation (I.10), or who punish others on the basis of such an affirmation, stand outside the boundaries of Anglican teaching and witness as this Conference understands it.

Once again, this would be a huge step forward, and in a sense backward. As Archbishop Nicholas Okoh stated in the Gafcon “Letter to the Churches”: “We are merely doing what the Communion leadership should have done to uphold its own resolution in 1998.” It was also one of the two requests made by the Gafcon Assembly this past June of the Archbishop of Canterbury – “not to invite bishops of those Provinces which have endorsed by word or deed sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture and Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, unless they have repented of their actions and reversed their decisions” – requests that have gone unacknowledged and unheeded.

#3. We request that other Communion Instruments of Unity pursue their work on the basis of this teaching and witness.

Ditto above. Such a refining of Communion structures would involve a massive reordering, which is difficult to imagine (see Canon Phil Ashey’s analysis of the proposed Strategic Plan by the Communion Office).

#4. We recognize the missionary and pastoral integrity of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and its related member churches; and we urge serious deliberation, locally and at the international level, over how these churches can be integrated fully into the life of the Communion.

This needs some unpacking, but once again I’ll look at the positive. I’ll assume that this resolution tacitly affirms the intention of the ACNA to be Anglican and to be part of the Anglican Communion (denied by the October 2017 Primates’ Communique). By “missionary integrity” I take it to include ACNA’s wider call to “proclaim Christ faithfully to nations” and also to provide a haven for Anglicans in North America who have been forced by conscience or decree to separate from TEC and ACoC. Furthermore, if TEC and ACoC do “stand outside” the Communion structures, it would seem that the Communion should recognize the ACNA as an alternative jurisdiction, which if TEC and ACoC (and other jurisdictions, e.g., Brazil) decide to “walk apart” will become the legitimate province of the Communion. (Note: Resolutions #4 and #5 reflect the steps of “enhanced responsibility” outlined in the failed “To Mend the Net” proposal of 2001, in which Radner was a collaborator.)

#5. We commit ourselves as bishops to the work of formulating and pursuing extended, coordinated, and coherent formation and catechesis in the Christian faith within our churches and across the Communion.

Absolutely, and I would suggest that the Jerusalem Declaration be considered one piece of that catechesis.

#6. We commit ourselves to gathering again in 10 years, and in the interim to developing ways by which, despite the real differences that divide us, we can fruitfully and honestly engage one another and our service of Christ according to the levels of communion we actually share.

I agree on the need for a “strategy of time” to sort out the chaos in the Communion. This phrase was proposed in the  “To Mend the Net,” which might become the working document to reconstitute an orthodox Communion of churches. This Resolution should be taken to mean that Lambeth I.10 will be upheld as the effective Communion norm during the decade – and beyond – and that those who “stand outside” will stay outside during that period, unless they rethink their stance. (I doubt they would wait outside at all but rather would move swiftly to form their own parallel communion of churches.)

Conclusion: Is There Any Way Forward?

Can any good come out of this creative proposal? Frankly, it feels like a “lifeboats on the Titanic” idea, and I simply cannot imagine it will go anywhere with the Lambeth Establishment. It might, however, force the Establishment to show its hand (as if it hasn’t already). Since Dr. Radner is a close colleague of Bishop George Sumner of Dallas, who is a member of the Lambeth Design Team, I would urge George Sumner to bring these Resolutions to Archbishop Welby immediately and ask for a clear public response. If it is true that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a unique “inviting authority,” he alone can give legs to these resolutions. But they must be set in place prior to the Conference, or they will lack any shred of credibility.

When he was enthroned in 2013, Justin Welby preached on St. Peter stepping out of the boat at Jesus’ command, and he spoke of his vision for the Communion thus: “We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ.” There is little reason to think Archbishop Welby had or has the same vision as Dr. Radner, but who knows, perhaps like his great predecessor Thomas Cranmer he might step up to the fire and say:

This shall be my first exhortation: That you set not overmuch by this false glosing world, but upon God and the world to come. And learn to know what this lesson meaneth, which St John teacheth that the love of this world is hatred against God.

As for North America, is it significant that this proposal is coming from one of the leading spokesmen of the “Communion Partners”? For more than a decade there has been a rift between the so-called “Communion Conservatives,” who stayed in TEC and ACoC, and the “Federal Conservatives,” who left or were expelled (for the terminology, see here). If there is any good to come out of this proposal, perhaps it may be to open the door to more honest discussion among those who hold to the faith once for all committed to the saints. For them indeed, “there is a Holy Spirit,” and we would invoke his guidance as we move forward.