The inclusion of a reference to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 in one of the Lambeth Calls issued only last week, days before the opening of the Conference which has been being planned since at least 2018 and reportedly only drafted in May and June, led to a storm of protest. There has now been a major rewriting of the Call but no explanation as to how or why the reference was seemingly added at a late stage without the agreement of the group which approved the Call or why it has now been rewritten. It is clear that the Global South, who are committed to getting the Conference to reaffirm Lambeth I.10, will be very unhappy with the changes, with some believing that it was their publication of this determination that may have led to the Call being revised at a late stage before its release. Their press conference on Friday morning promises to give more information about how they will be working towards this and other stated goals at the Conference.

In order to interpret what is happening it is important to set recent developments within the longer history of the crisis in the Communion. I have already sought to set out a chronological account of some of the key relevant events from the time of Lambeth I.10 under both Archbishop Rowan and Archbishop Justin. What follows seeks to offer a framework to interpret the significance of what now appears to be happening by exploring the distinct but interweaving questions around sexuality and ecclesiology.

The place of Lambeth I.10 in the Communion’s recent history

The reference to I.10 has caused so much controversy in part because a number of provinces have clearly rejected it already and many in other Western provinces which still uphold it would like their church to reject it. 

It is important to recall that the Church of England remains formally committed to Lambeth I.10 with General Synod voting in February 2007 to “commend continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion” and recognizing “that such efforts would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth Conference Resolutions (1978: 10; 1988: 64; 1998: 1.10)”. 

The original plan to reaffirm the resolution also seemingly surprised many because in recent years the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Instruments have not repeatedly and explicitly reaffirmed it as Communion teaching as happened regularly under Rowan Williams:

  • Rowan Williams himself consistently did this from the time of his appointment when he wrote to the Primates in 2002 that “the Lambeth resolution of 1998 declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion, and what the Communion will and will not approve or authorise. I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns or repudiates this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion”.
  • ACC-13 Resolution 10 noted that the Primates had “reaffirmed “the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which should command respect as the position overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion” and endorsed and affirmed this.
  • Primates 2007 para 11 stated “What has been quite clear throughout this period is that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked. This restates the traditional teaching of the Christian Church that “in view of the teaching of Scripture, [the Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”, and applies this to several areas which are discussed further below. The Primates have reaffirmed this teaching in all their recent meetings, and indicated how a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole”.
  • Primates 2009 para 12 said, with reference to Windsor’s 3 proposed moratoria, that “While we are aware of the depth of conscientious conviction involved, the position of the Communion defined by the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its entirety remains, and gracious restraint on all three fronts is urgently needed to open the way for transforming conversation”.

Although the statement from the first Primates Meeting convened by Archbishop Justin in 2016 did not explicitly refer to I.10 (in large part because it was focussed on the further development of same-sex marriage) it did state

  • “Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage”
  • “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching”.

Since then, however, there has been little or nothing stated on the question of Communion teaching on sexuality by the Instruments or its basis in Scripture and the teaching of the church down through the centuries. In contrast, the Global South and GAFCON have continued to make clear that they see the resolution as important for Communion life. They have continued to support the commitment to that resolution which shaped the recommendations of the Windsor Report (that continues to be one of the foundations for the work of the Communion’s Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO)).

Read it all in Psephizo