Anglican Perspectives

Two Faces, Two Communions

The biblically-faithful, orthodox bishops of the Global South will not be silenced. These bishops will offer their own “Lambeth Resolution” on Monday, August 1, during the plenary session on the “Life of the Anglican Communion.” The Resolution of the Global South (GSFA) bishops will re-affirm Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) as the Anglican Communion’s authoritative teaching which, they say, “is not just about sex and marriage, but fundamentally about the authority of the Bible, which Anglicans believe to be central to faith and order.” The bishops also want the Communion to impose sanctions on provinces that ordain clergy in same-sex relations and conduct same-sex weddings, something which has led to schism in the Church. The GSFA will gather the signatures of orthodox bishops at LC2022 and present the resolution to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his signature. In addition, at the two conference Eucharists in Canterbury Cathedral, orthodox bishops will not receive Holy Communion alongside gay-partnered bishops and those who endorse same-sex unions in the Church. They shall remain seated. (You can read the entire GSFA Press release here).

The question remains, however: will the Archbishop of Canterbury even allow this motion to come to the floor on Monday? If so, will he ultimately add his name to those of the GSFA bishops who represent 75% of the Anglican Communion?  

The GSFA followed up this news with a second press release announcing that on Saturday, July 30, there will be a meeting between archbishops of the Global South and the Archbishop of Canterbury [read it here] to discuss the motion to reaffirm Lambeth 1.10.

Events are moving quickly, and, as the two opposing faces of the Anglican Communion face one other, tensions are mounting towards an unknown conclusion. The differences could not have been clearer at both the opening Lambeth press conference and the GSFA conference only an hour later. The first press conference could have been called, “Walking Together by Dancing around the Elephant in the Room.” It was an exercise in obfuscation. Archbishop Welby made it absolutely clear that the Lambeth Conference is NOT a synod and has no legislative authority over anyone, anywhere, at any time. Period. Bishop Tim Thornton, Chair of the Lambeth Call Drafting Committee, echoed the archbishop, saying, “we cannot use the language of Lambeth Resolutions because that assumes the issue has been decided.” Of course, this misses the point that the Lambeth resolutions have historically reflected the mind of the Church as previous Primates Meetings asserted, and most specifically in regards to Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) [Read the Primates Meeting Statement 2003]. When pressed, Bishop Thornton conceded that Lambeth conferences, and this one in particular, are structured to state what the church believes and to act—hence the “calls,” even if there is no formal voting.  

So it is as clear as mud. In the end, Bishop Thornton conceded that there was, in fact, a lack of clarity. When asked by the Episcopal News Service who was responsible for inserting Lambeth 1.10 (1998) into the Call for Human Dignity, he claimed it was the drafting group, yet this is clearly at odds with other statements from the drafting group itself. So whom shall we believe?  

Broken fellowship at Communion due to violations of Lambeth Resolution 1.10

Archbishop Welby was asked directly about the reports that GSFA bishops are not taking Communion with same-sex partnered bishops due to a refusal to affirm Lambeth 1.10. Archbishop Welby responded, “It [Lambeth 1.10] has not been rescinded.” This is hardly an endorsement. When pressed about the authority of the resolution as the “gold-standard” for teaching on human sexuality in the Anglican Communion, Bishop Thornton simply replied that Lambeth 1.10 is still in the amended Call for Human Dignity. But if one reads the language in the revised draft, one sees that the “mind of the Anglican Communion” is now written as being only about welcoming, caring for, and respecting “all baptized persons regardless of sexual orientation.” The part of Lambeth 1.10 the affirms a biblically-orthodox view of marriage was suddenly nowhere to be found in the Lambeth document. When pressed further, Archbishop Welby said, “It [Lambeth 1.10] exists because it is there.” It actually exists because it proclaims the biblical truth that the Church is founded on. Archbishop Welby’s lukewarm support of Lambeth 1.10 lacks any conviction of its biblical truth and trustworthiness. This is in striking contrast to the conviction of then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey during the Lambeth Conference 1998. He supported the resolution at its creation precisely because of its biblical teaching and authority (you can read this in Steve Noll’s Lambeth 1998 account). Based on his answers, it seems unlikely that Welby will add his name to a resolution that reaffirms Lambeth 1.10 (1998). When he meets with the primates of the Global South tomorrow, will he try to suggest that, as President, he cannot be seen as taking either side by signing the resolution? If so, where will that leave his authority in the eyes of the GSFA bishops?

The elephant in the room: The absence of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and other Gafcon Bishops

Archbishop Thabo Magkoba (S Africa) addressed the following question: what efforts can be made to reach out to those who absented themselves from LC2022? He replied that it will be addressed in the Lambeth Call on Reconciliation and that the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) will follow up with concrete action steps to engage those Gafcon provinces that stayed away. This raises a second question that was never asked: if they are serious about engagement, will Canterbury, the ACC, and other Instruments of the Communion engage the substance of Gafcon 2018’s Letter to the Churches, which explains exactly why so many Anglicans chose to absent themselves from Lambeth and other meetings? Those very reasons caused the “elephant in the room” that, if not discussed and dealt with, will only grow bigger with time. 

In contrast to this self-contradicting debacle was the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans press conference, where it was unequivocally said of the Anglican Communion, “We are gathered together but not walking together.” The press release can be found online, and it outlines the main points that Archbishops Justin Badi of S. Sudan and James Wong of the Indian Ocean made publicly.

They expressed genuine sadness that the drafters of the Lambeth Call for Human Dignity withdrew the original reference to Lambeth 1.10 and substituted a much weaker text. They lamented the actions of churches that either ordained or married actively gay clergy or conducted gay marriages. They further lamented the subsequent breaches of the Windsor Report moratoria by these same churches. They named the provinces that engaged in these practices without repentance: TEC, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. In short, they were clear, concise, and convicting.

A solution was then given: “enhanced ecclesial responsibility,” in the words of the Anglican Communion’s own Windsor Continuation Group Report. Archbishops Badi and Wong noted that the GFSA bishops embrace their vocation to be a “holy remnant” within the Anglican Communion by adopting the Cairo Covenant (2019) and its conciliar structures on the basis of a shared confession of faith, reciprocal commitments, and collective accountability and discipline. This is a move towards autonomy with interdependence rather than autonomy alone.  

Archbishop Badi clearly stated: “The Communion is not well, and it needs surgery.” Their request to present their own resolution, along with the refusal to take Communion with unrepentant and false teachers, is the beginning of surgery, finally necessary for such a time as this. It is a last attempt to call the Church to repentance from teachings and practices contrary to the Bible, its clarity, and its authority. The Global South bishops share an understanding that the most important issue today is the need to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a whole Gospel for a whole person. This whole Gospel mission rests on the clarity and authority of the Bible for all Anglicans everywhere. The significance of reaffirming Lambeth 1.10 (1998) is nothing less than the reaffirmation of the authority of Scripture as the basis for everything in the Communion: faith, order, and mission.

The Lambeth Calls confusion, the elephant in the room of missing bishops, the broken Communion: these are the symptoms of a house divided, of two faces of Anglicanism, two Communions. In one Communion is loyalty to the idea of a messy family complete with infighting and divisions that must be expected, tolerated, and even welcomed. In the other is a vision for a family that strives to “be of one mind,” while doing the hard work of truly disagreeing, discussing, and above all praying for repentance and transformation. This family is a communion of churches held together on the basis of faithfulness to the one Father in Heaven, His Word, and all that He reveals about creation, humanity, and the freedom found in Jesus Christ alone.

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