If you are just getting to grips with the fact the Lambeth Conference is happening, this blog is designed to help you catch up – with links to individual blogs and articles.
As with all big conferences, there are all kinds of conversations going on, but from the perspective of Anglican Futures there are three big stories:
1. Can bishops get their voice heard at the Conference?
The Archbishop of Canterbury announced a few weeks ago that there would be no resolutions at this conference – instead the bishops are being asked to affirm ten Lambeth ‘Calls‘. They were sent a copy of the Calls the week before the conference, along with details of the voting process.
One of the Calls, about Human Identity, stated that, ‘It is the mind of the Communion to uphold “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” (I.10, 1998).‘, which was deemed painfully unacceptable by many progressives on Twitter. This led to all kinds of questions about how the Calls had been drafted. [Conspiracy Theories.] and then it was announced that the ‘Call’ was to be republished [Human sexuality set to dominate Lambeth Conference]. The new ‘Call’ took a very different position to the first, raising questions about how the ‘mind of the Communion could change so quickly! [Words that have changed and words that have stayed the same and the Thorny Issue].
There then followed complete confusion about how the Calls would actually be adopted by the bishops. At first it seemed that every vote mattered and the Global South would be under represented [One person-one vote], then we were told we should not describe the process as voting [When is a vote not a vote] and then the ‘voting’ machines were put in a cupboard and it was said that the bishops would vote by voice [Does a little quiet chuntering count?].
In some ways, it doesn’t matter whether the bishops vote (or choose) with a machine, a hand or a spoken word, because the underlying process is open to so much misunderstanding and manipulation that it appears to render any meaningful engagement impossible.[How the bishops are(n’t) heard].
Angiican Futures are not the only ones to raise this question.
Andrew Goddard has just written some interesting pieces on the use of power at the Lambeth Conference and warns that the Anglican Communion is in danger of moving from ‘communion catholicism’ to ‘autonomous inclusivism.’ While David Goodhew has asked whether ‘White Privilege’ is making the calls.
2.How will the Conference heal the serious divisions within the Anglican Communion?
It will come as no surprise to most, that the Anglican Communion is divided. About a third of the bishops have refused to come to the Lambeth Conference, and of the 650 that are here another third have strong links to the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) who were clear both before and during the Conference, that they cannot walk together with those who reject the word of God. Many are abstaining from the Eucharist in order to avoid giving the impression that they are ‘one body’ with the progressives who claim that God blesses same-sex unions.[Weaponising the Eucharist?]
The GSFA have asked for the opportunity for the bishops to vote on Lambeth I.10 but negotiations with the Archbishop of Canterbury do not appear to have gone beyond, “mutual listening” according to a press statement from Lambeth Palace.
It seems that there are actually two families meeting in Canterbury this week [Messy Church: Messy Families]. They may share some kind of history but if today’s plenary session on Anglican Identity is all that is on offer, it seems a future together is unlikely.
In a similar vein, Canon Phil Ashey has written about the two faces, two communions.
3. Will the Conference accept a new understanding of the Trinity?
You cannot tune in to any of the activities of the Lambeth Conference without quickly becoming aware of the importance of ‘reconciliation’. Despite the fact that all the attention has been focused on the Human Dignity Call it may well be the case that it is the theology found in the Reconciliation Call that is most problematic.
As our most-read blog post [Being reconciled to God] makes clear, the idea that “We believe in God who is both three and one, who holds difference and unity in the heart of God’s being, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” challenges any traditional understanding of the Trinity. The fact that similar ideas have been expressed from the platform by several different bishops, suggests this is not just poor drafting.
Well that’s enough for today – we’ll provide another catch-up in a couple of days.