A Special Report: Lambeth Calls in the Midst of Divisions

Jul 27, 2022 by

by Canon Phil Ashey, AAC:

Divisions grow deeper over Lambeth Res I.10

The American Anglican Council is present at the once every ten year Lambeth Conference of Bishops, meeting July 26 to August 8 at the University of Kent in Canterbury. You can find out more about the Lambeth Conference of Bishops meeting and its history here and the July 26-August 8, 2022 gathering and documents here.
For the next two weeks we will offer our readers a Lambeth Conference 2022 roundup on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We want you to be fully informed of the decisions made by this gathering of all the bishops from all of the dioceses and churches of the Anglican Communion. For the next two weeks, these three Roundups will take the place of our Weekly Update that we usually send you on Tuesdays. Given the unique responsibility that bishops have to guard the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church within Anglicanism, we believe this once-every-ten-year focus is more than justified.
The fabric of the Anglican Communion was ripped asunder in 2002-2003, first by the Diocese of New Westminster’s (Canada) unilateral decision to bless same sex unions and then by the Episcopal Church’s consecration of a same-sex partnered bishop in New Hampshire. Since then, there has been a growing divide between Anglican churches in regards to essentials of the Christian faith, including but not limited to the doctrine of creation, gender, human sexuality, marriage, ordained leadership of the Church, and above all the clarity and authority of the Bible. Broadly speaking, Anglican churches in the West, influenced by secular ideologies, redefined creation, gender, marriage, and qualifications for leadership within the Church in ways that are contrary to both a plain and canonical reading of the Bible, and Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998), which expressly states the boundaries within which the Church is to address these matters:
  1. In view of the teaching of Scripture, it 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;
  2. recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
  3. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex;
  4. cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
Broadly speaking, the majority of Anglicans in the Global South upheld the clarity and authority of the Bible as it teaches creation, gender, human sexuality, marriage and the qualifications for ordained leadership within the Church. The Global South Anglicans rejected the Western redefinition of these essentials on the basis of a plain and canonical reading of the Bible and standing upon Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998), the last expression of the mind of the churches in regards to these essentials.
And this brings us full speed to the conflict at the heart of this 2022 Lambeth Conference of Bishops. The bishops of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA), through the leadership of its Chair, Archbishop Justin Badi of the Church in South Sudan, issued “a clarion call to biblical faithfulness,” with a specific request for Lambeth 2022 to reaffirm Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) as the official teaching of the Anglican Church, accompanied by “limits to fellowship” indicating the non-negotiability of things essential to the faith entrusted to us by Almighty God.” [full text here: https://anglican.ink/2022/07/07/global-south-anglican-leader-sets-priorities-for-orthodox-delegates-attending-the-lambeth-conference/]
To the surprise of many, Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) was cited in the Lambeth Calls: Guidance and Study Documents for the Bishops that are gathering. In paragraph 2.3 of the Lambeth Call: Human Dignity, Resolution 1.10 (1998) was cited as expressing “the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same gender marriage is not permissible.” (at 32)
The response from Anglicans who redefined creation, gender, human sexuality, marriage, and leadership in the Church was nothing short of a tsunami of outrage. Consider the following developments in the last 48 hours:
  • Condemnations from numerous bishops from The Episcopal Church USA, Canada, and elsewhere excoriating the leadership of the Lambeth Conference for even allowing a reference to “Lambeth’s notorious, communion-rivening statement in 1998, known as Lambeth I.10, that biblical marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” https://virtueonline.org/lambeth-110-turning-slugfest-lambeth-2022 
  • A Bishop in the Human Dignity Call drafting group posted on social media that at no point in their meetings did they discuss the reaffirmation of Lambeth Resolution 1.10, at no point did it appear in any of the early drafts of the working group, and “the Human Dignity Call in its current form does not represent the mind of the drafting group” https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/07/26/principles-of-canon-law-and-the-mind-of-the-anglican-communion/ 
  • A leading expert in Anglican Canon Law posted an article including the above and explaining why the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops are not binding on autonomous churches and that a proposed revision of the Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion will be unable to find a common principle concerning the definition of marriage because of the differences between Anglican Churches and their practice. https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/07/26/principles-of-canon-law-and-the-mind-of-the-anglican-communion/ 
  • In response to this outrage from the West, The Lambeth Conference announced yesterday by email: “The drafting group for the Call on Human Dignity will be making some revisions to the Call. This will be published as part of Lambeth Calls – which will be the texts that will be discussed by bishops at the conference. This will be released as soon as it is available.”
  • The previous limitations on bishops, to either affirm the Calls or to ask for more time to listen and discuss, was lifted. A third option has been added: “bishops will now be able to clearly state their opposition to a particular Call: ‘This Call does not speak for me. I do not add my voice to this Call.’”
  • The Human Call drafting committee has decided to revise the document to reflect the reservations by liberal bishops on the inclusion of Lambeth 1.10 (1998). Now, instead of stating that the Communion is “of one mind” about the nature of marriage, it only affirms Lambeth 1.10 where it says “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ…” and then goes on to say that the Communion is not of one mind on the issue of marriage, though they are committed to walk together despite the deep disagreement. (See Lambeth Calls: Human Dignity, Section 2.3 pg. 15). http://www.lambethconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Lambeth-Calls-July-2022.pdf.
Despite protests that the mind of the Church, the Consensus Fidelium, either cannot be known or is irrelevant to the present, the vocation of any “council” of the Church, including the Lambeth Conference, is to “manifest, protect and mend the unity of the Church… when bishops gathered in council, they brought this spirituality with them.” So writes Paul Valliere in his opus, Conciliarism: A History of Decision Making in the Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012 at pp. 110-111). But does this include discerning and applying with confidence “the mind of the church” on all matters affecting its doctrine, discipline, and worship? Valliere does not hesitate to cite the principle that the mind of the Church can be measured:
“Ecclesial consensus may be gauged spatially or temporally. Consensus in space is the agreement of contemporaries from different local communities. Consensus in time is the agreement of one generation of Christians with its predecessors, and affirmation of the tradition of the Church. Vincent of Lerins, a fifth-century Gallic monk, summed up the idea in the celebrated phrase consensio antiquitatis et universitatis, the agreement of antiquity and universality.” (ibid. at 111)
The Bishops of the GSFA represent both that majority geographical consensus and that consensus born of continuity with the teaching of the Church over every previous generation. They recognize the agreement of antiquity and universality in Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998), the scriptural teaching of the Anglican Communion on creation, gender, human sexuality, marriage and leadership in the Church, from Genesis to Revelation. They are taking seriously their vocation from the history of conciliarism within Anglicanism, to manifest, protect, and mend the Church’s unity. They have a sacred and solemn duty to request this Lambeth Conference 2022 to recognize the mind of the Church and the teaching of the Church on the basis of a plain and canonical reading of the Scriptures. The GSFA Cairo Covenant (2019) expresses it this way:
“The Anglican Communion is not simply a form of human culture or the outgrowth of natural human sociality. The Church is subject to the interrogative, interceptive and saving judgement of the Holy Scripture. It has its true form and visibility in so far as it receives by faith the grace of God through the life-giving presence of Word and Spirit.”
“Scriptura sacra locuta, res decisa est. Sacred Scripture has spoken, the matter is decided. The authority of the Holy Scripture within the Church is a function of the Scripture’s authority over the Church. The Scripture is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense. The authority of the Scripture is its Spirit-bestowed capacity to quicken the Church to truthful speech and righteous action. We reject therefore the hermeneutical scepticism that commits the Church to a near-infinite deferral of decisions on matters of faith and morals.” (emphasis added, paras. 1.4, 1.5)
Will the Lambeth Conference succeed in silencing any discussion on what Lambeth Calls: Human Dignity actually implies about the nature of the church? It is asking the bishops present to affirm that that these divisions exist, and it implies that this is somehow good, that in some way, two contradictory views can both be held as the factions continue to walk together. Can the bishops really agree with the statement that “we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement.”? Will they seek to find some way to defer any decision through a dialectically-driven further listening process?
These are some the questions the American Anglican Council will be reporting and addressing in the days to come at Lambeth 2022. Please keep us in prayer as we do the work that God has given us to do, and keep the Lambeth Conference, GSFA bishops, and the Church of England in your prayers, that the Lord would bring truth, repentance, and reformation wherever the Church may need it.

Related Posts


Share This