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“The Lambeth We Hope For”

“The Lambeth We Hope For”

A group of bishops from across the Communion, led by Bishop George Sumner of Dallas, today published a letter in which they express their hopes for next year’s Lambeth Conference. This letter is but the latest development in the run-up to the conference, which has already been marked by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposed exclusion of same-sex spouses and threats of boycotts. (See some of the Cafe’s previous coverage here, and here.) An excerpt from the letter:

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.

… 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.

… 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 neighbors. 

The Church Times, in its summary of the letter (it’s behind a paywall), notes that:

Dr Sumner is one of a small number of bishops in the Episcopal Church who, having initially prohibited the use of same-sex marriage rites in his diocese, has delegated pastoral oversight of parishes that have requested it to an episcopal colleague.

On Thursday, he suggested that the letter had secured support from “more traditional bishops throughout the Anglican Communion, in the centre”. 

The Living Church’s article on the letter, while it highlights the charity the letter’s authors show to GAFCON, also quotes Bishop Sumner in noting that,

… [Bishop Sumner] and his fellow authors were concerned that publicity about the event has been dominated by “the TEC side of things and GAFCON.” He said, “It seemed like a good time to have this other voice added to the conversation,” and added that he hopes, “as many bishops as possible will attend so they can be part of the conversation and the fellowship.” The letter’s vision of a hopeful but honest time for engagement could prove persuasive to some who are still undecided.

Sumner said that there are no immediate plans to open up the letter as a statement of common goals for a wider group of bishops, though the group could be open to this development. “If it were to generate people who were to say, ‘yes, me too,’ that’s great. But it stands alone as a statement from this group of people.”

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Simon Burris

Fair enough, Christopher. Here goes:

The letter's authors hope for concord at Lambeth, which in their minds entails that GAFCON will be taken seriously as a movement.

But the authors go well beyond this, to the point of basically taking on major positions of GAFCON as their own:

(1) It is GAFCON (not the progressive branches of Anglicanism) that are working something new through the Spirit in the Communion, and this work should be recognized as epoch-making;

(2) The qualification for full representation at Lambeth should be conformity to "Communion teaching" (and not merely the invitation of Canterbury), i.e., ACNA should participate on equal terms;

(3) The rejection of GAFCON by western progressives is motivated at least in part by racism. Admittedly, this is never explicitly stated, but to me it seems obviously hinted at.

So I must conclude that the letter is not particularly conciliatory, hence the hedging in my original post.

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Christopher SEITZ

Thanks. Good job.

I did not see (2). There seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm for the See of Canterbury (see my comments at The Living Church).

(1) seems a bit over-cooked to me re: ACNA

(3) I did not see.

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Christopher SEITZ

It would be great to see some commentary on the text posted by this site.

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Simon Burris

Not sure what will come of the letter, or whether it possible have any good effect, or what that good effect might be, but...

The first sentence expresses what has been on my heart recently:

"At Lambeth, though a fractious family, we ought still to think of our fellow Anglicans in the best light possible."

I live at the intersection of two worlds in my town, attending St. Paul's Episcopal (TEC) and being friends with lots of guys at Christ Church Anglican (ACNA), so I hear what gets said by each group about the other. There is very, very little charity expressed in what gets said.

I will say this: The ACNA guys tend to criticize others' specific theologies and practices, while my TEC friends are more likely simply to badmouth, evidently from a feeling of having been betrayed and feeling like we are on a decline.

I don't know what can be done to improve things.

(If you insist that ACNA is not Anglican, then I guess you should ignore this post.)

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Cynthia Katsarelis

Plenty of liberal Episcopalians complain about and discuss "specific theologies and practices." And I've read a ton of hideous, hateful, bigoted commentary on conservative Anglican websites. We've had a small discussion before, you can't "disagree" about me, I'm not a position, I'm a child of God and believe in "all the sacraments for all the baptized," including myself and my partner (now wife) of 28 years. "Disagreement" plus all the brouhaha with schism, is simply a hurtful rejection of our humanity and our being as God's children.

What we can do is turn the page and work on the imperatives of the Gospels, which is loving all our neighbors. And perhaps agreeing that the commandment to love God may imply loving God's Creation. Thus the call to better stewardship and work on behalf of the most vulnerable is a potential area of common ground. Maybe that's where we can find charity for all.

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Kurt Hill

As I have suggested several times on this site (much to the displeasure of some), I would have no problem with recognizing Continuing Anglican denominations (such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, or the ACNA) as Associate Members of the Anglican Communion entitled to Voice and Consultative Vote on affairs. However, this must be based on agreeing to Table Fellowship with TEC and each other. The Episcopal Church would retain its status as a Full Member Church of the Communion with Voice and Decisive Vote.

I think it is also time to review our attitude towards the Churches which make up GAFCON. We should finance and support the liberal trends within these Churches, even if it leads to the separation of some from their parent groups. These liberal schisms would also have Voice and Consultative Vote in AC affairs.

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Christopher SEITZ

Conceptually this could be useful. It is close to the kind of two tiers logic the Covenant proposed, and also recent suggestions by Andrew Goddard. However, of course this entailed the reverse outcome to yours. The vast majority of the AC would constitute the main tier and those anglicans wanting to reconfigure marriage would be tier two. Along the lines of present 'disciplining' of TEC, SEC re: representation in ecumenical affairs, but extended to the entire communion for events like Lambeth.

You are certainly correct that absent arrangements like this, anglicanism will continue to engender its own splintering (as previously in England with Baptists, Puritans, Methodists, and now _______).

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Kurt Hill

Yes, it would be a two tier arrangement, but with the historic Anglican Churches (such as TEC and ACofC) maintaining their status as "Official" Communion Churches with Decisive Votes in its affairs. But ACNA, REC, etc. would participate in Communion events, too--as would any minority liberal formations in GAFCON countries. Organized oppositions in GAFCON Churches may very well turn out to be far more significant than people think. Many of these provinces don't have the democratic norms that prevail in the West. Up to now, TEC, ACofC, etc. have not encouraged or financed such oppositions. I think that should change--and soon.

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Christopher SEITZ

I think we can see here a very different set of perceptions in play.

65% of the provinces of the AC--probably 75% on the ground--are in communion with ACNA. These are of course, to use your language, all of them "historic Anglican Churches." This is a hard fact to dodge.

If you are waiting for laity in significant portions of this 65% entity to rise up and embrace TEC/SEC, that wait will of course be on your dime (as they say in Brooklyn!). I wouldn't hold my breathe.

Before that should transpire, I suspect the AC will have divided. This would not be unusual. CofE anglicanism has spun off all sorts of 'denominated' bodies. It may well be in its DNA. By contrast, provinces of the AC in communion with each other could find their future is...in God's hands.

As always it was.

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