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Primates in push to encourage all bishops to attend the 2020 Lambeth Conference

Posted on: July 1, 2019 12:56 PM
Bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 1930 defined the Anglican Communion as “as a fellowship of churches, provinces and dioceses in communion with the See of Canterbury”.
Photo Credit: ACNS

[ACNS, by staff writer] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has spoken of his desire that next year’s Lambeth Conference will “draw together as many participant bishops as possible from all around the communion, not hiding or avoiding our differences, but bringing these differences together under God in prayer and in humility.” Archbishop Justin made his comments in a letter to his fellow Anglican Communion primates as it was announced that the number of registrations for next year’s event has now topped 1,000.

Other Anglican leaders are also making a similar push for all Anglican Communion bishops to attend. In an interview in the UK’s Church Times newspaper on Friday, the Chair of the Lambeth Conference Design Group, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, said that all bishops need to be around the table. And last week, a group of bishops from eight provinces – including two primates – spoke of their willingness “to listen to our colleagues who hold in conscience dissenting views.”

In his letter, Archbishop Justin expressed his disappointment that some bishops had declined his invitation to the Lambeth Conference, and also expressed his concern that “incorrect and misleading information about the Lambeth Conference and the nature of Anglicanism is once again circulating.”

He continued: “much has been made of Resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, however, this resolution is frequently misinterpreted. At no point does the resolution mandate, or even counsel the exclusion of anyone from discussion.

“The resolution stated the received position of the vast majority of the communion on marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, but equally committed the bishops to listen to the experience of homosexual persons, loved by God. It is not possible to listen to those who are excluded from the conversation.

“My own position, frequently restated, is that I remain personally committed to the traditional teaching on marriage and take seriously the requirement of Resolution I.10 to care for, listen to and condemn ‘irrational fear’ of homosexual persons. The position of the Church of England has not changed. It is not possible in law for same-sex marriages or blessings to take place in churches of the Church of England.”

He also restated what it meant for a Church to be an Anglican province, saying: “the member churches of the Anglican Communion are those churches in communion with the See of Canterbury that are listed as members of the Anglican Consultative Council. As long ago as the Lambeth Conference 1930 (Resolution 49) the Anglican Communion was defined as a fellowship of churches, provinces and dioceses in communion with the See of Canterbury.

“There are other churches which derive their doctrine, liturgy and order from the Anglican tradition who are nevertheless not members of the Anglican Communion. For more than a century Anglican churches have held that the basic requirement for communion with another church has been agreement in four areas: the Holy Scriptures; the Catholic Creeds; the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist; and the historic episcopate, locally adapted. . .

“We are in communion because, in our wide diversity of culture and tradition, we hold fast to these four areas of agreement as bishops around the world in communion with the See of Canterbury.”

He concluded his letter by saying that “the criticisms, personal and communal, that have been laid at my door in recent weeks do not deter me from continuing to invite all the active bishops of the Churches of the Anglican Communion to the Lambeth Conference and to leave open the door to those other churches who I have invited to send representative observers but who have declined to.

“I remain hopeful that when, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we come together as bishops in communion in Canterbury next year that the Lord will bless us and equip us to minister to his people in the world he loves and longs to save.”

In his interview with the Church Times, Archbishop Thabo said conversations could not properly take place if bishops associated with the Gafcon conservative movement were not present at the Lambeth Conference. “We need those in GAFCON to be around the table”, he said, “we need those who are in the Anglican Church in North America [ACNA] to be around the table. We need those who have just quietly left, or those who don’t understand what we are talking about, around the table, so we can hear every possible voice; and what is our obligation to God in such a time like this.”

He said: I’m urging everyone to say really, really that boycotts have never helped any of our nations to attain freedom. Boycotts never helped us to agree on the creeds in the Anglican tradition. Boycotts fuel breakages.

“But, if we all come around the table at Lambeth, and African Christians have a say, all other Christians have a say. Let’s all come and sit around the table, acknowledge our pain, try to remedy our brokenness, try to remove the tensions. But we can’t just say, ‘Let’s vote: are you in or are you out?’ That’s not how the Church works.”

Meanwhile, 10 bishops, including two archbishops, from Africa, the Americas, and England have issued a joint statement setting out their vision for “the Lambeth we want”. Signatories include the Primate of the Anglican Church of West Africa, Archbishop Daniel Sarfo, and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Burundi, Archbishop Martin Nyaboho, and the former primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt.

Other signatories include three members of the Lambeth Conference Design Group: Bishop Joel Waweru of Nairobi, in the Anglican Church of Kenya; Bishop Emma Ineson of Penrith, in the Church of England; and Bishop George Sumner of Dallas, in the US-based Episcopal Church.

In it they say: “at Lambeth, though a fractious family, we ought still to think of our fellow Anglicans in the best light possible. For example, there have been many important movements of mission and renewal in our Anglican tradition (e.g. the Oxford Movement and the East African Revival), and we can likewise see GAFCON in this way. We can also appreciate the role Global South Anglicans have played in strengthening the mission of Christ in their provinces.

“We commend the Primates’ view that only Churches aligned with Communion teaching should represent it in ‘doctrine and polity.’ But we are also willing to listen to our colleagues who hold in conscience dissenting views. More generally, we all need in our hearts to lay aside old recriminations, as each of us hears these Gospel injunctions: ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ ‘speak the truth in love,’ ‘do not let the sun go down on your wrath’ (Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 4:15,26).”

They continue: “we hope for a Lambeth that is ordered to prayer and the Bible, that nourishes our humility, that opens us to God’s conversion in the Spirit, and that encourages us to renewed forms of teaching and witness which will inspire and attract younger generations in our nations and our churches. It is also crucial that we reject all forms of cultural and racial pride, while listening and deliberating with one another with full respect. I Peter, upon which Lambeth 2020 will meditate, says it best: ‘have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind . . . always be ready to make your defence . . . for the hope that is in you’ (3:8,15).

“United in faith, hope, and love, we can at Lambeth confront together the urgent problems in our Communion and in our world. We all share a worry about what may lie ahead in our common future, for as a divided Church we will struggle to witness to a divided, broken world. We hold in prayer those among us who face persecution and danger. We need to be stewards of creation. We hope for a conference which encourages us all to stand on the side of the poor and those who are maltreated, to call sinners to repentance and to offer forgiveness in the Lord’s name, to walk His way of love, and to seek reconciliation among ourselves and with our neighbours.”

As it did a century ago, we hope Lambeth 2020 will remind us of the ecumenical calling from our Lord to be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:22). We do so by taking seriously the witness, gifts, and counsel of our brother and sister Christians in other churches. Within the Communion itself, some have felt frustration with the ‘Instruments’ over the past two decades, as they have struggled to balance autonomy and mutual accountability.

“We hope for a Conference that lays out a path ahead in the next decade, and we pray for the patience to walk it. We hope for a Conference in which we deepen our sense of ‘mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ’ (Anglican Congress 1963), both in the programme and in personal friendships.

Throughout, may we be reminded that our truly global Communion is not primarily a problem but rather a remarkable, though fragile, gift – a sign of the Church catholic.”

Bishops from the Anglican Communion are continuing to register for the Lambeth Conference. Last week, registrations topped 1,000 bishops and spouses.