Lambeth 2022: who stays home, who is going; why “calls” instead of resolutions; what can we expect?

Jul 21, 2022 by

by Barbara Gauthier:

The Lambeth Conference is set to begin about a week from now.  It is to be primarily a social justice conference with the theme,”God’s Church for God’s World: Walking, listening and witnessing together…”  At their March meeting, the Anglican Communion Primates who had chosen to attend confirmed that the emphasis would be almost exclusively on discussing global solutions to issues like climate change, wealth inequity, civil unrest, aid to refugees, reducing hunger and improving world health.


The first Lambeth Conference was called in 1867 to address a doctrinal and pastoral crisis that had arisen in South Africa: how should the Church deal with the practice of polygamy by those being baptized as converts. Should the Church accept it as a cultural adaptation or should missionaries insist on upholding the NT doctrine of marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman for life.  The bishops resolved to uphold the biblical miarriage, but at the same time they also pastoral way forward for dealing with the situation: the polygamist who has become a Christian can henceforth have only one wife and must remain faithful to her alone for life, while while at the same time continuing to provide separate housing, support and protection for all his former wives and their children (who otherwise would have no means of supporting themselves). As a former polygamist, he could receive communion, but he would not be able to have any position of service or leadership in the church.


From 1867 to 1998, following the model of the Councils of the Patristic period, the bishops of the Anglican Communion met every ten years to take counsel together, to discuss the pressing issues at hand and then issue resolutions on what they had agreed on together as the best way forward for the Anglican Church as a whole, which would be considered as morally binding.  In 2008, “indaba” discussions were the fad du jour, so there were no statements or resolutions.  This time around, in 2022, “indaba” conversations are to be supplanted by “calls,” a term that seems to be so fuzzily described that no one is really sure exactly what a “call” is — a resolution by another name?… or an opinion statement?… or a suggestion to be considered?… or pastoral guidance?… or perhaps something else altogether?


It may be helpful to give a brief summary of the background on the growing tensions between Abp Justin Welby and three Global South primates that have developed over the past four months. The GAFCON primates of NIgerian, Rwanda and Uganda did not attend the March 2022 Primates Meeting and then issued their own critique of the Primates’ Communique for its enthusiastic confirmation of the upcoming 2022 Lambeth Conference as a social justice centered gathering.  The Archbishop of Canterbury then sent to these African primates a strongly worded letter chastising them for their absence and accusing  them of not following scripture and not behaving in a Christian manner.  ++Ndukuba, ++Mbanda and +Kaziimba responded in kind by scolding ++Welby in turn for “virtue signalling” and willfully ignoring both the plain meaning of scripture and the facts of church history.  At the same time, ++Welby released a short video in which he announced that the 2022 Lambeth conference would not issue any resolutions or statements, but would instead be issuing “calls” to be brought forth by bishops attending the conference.


Andrew Goddard provides here a helpful summary of these two pre-Lambeth actions taken by the Archbishop of Canterbruy and the Anglican Communion Office in response to the somewhat cantankerous communication between Canterbury and the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda and to changes in the format of Lambeth that were discussed at the Primates Meeting.  Goodard also provides links to all the documents mentioned (and already posted here over the past few weeks):

The Lambeth Conference opens on July 26th.  In recent days there has been quite a flurry of activity—including two announcements from the Archbishop of Canterbury—which has highlighted some of the challenges that it will face.

The first communication was the text of a letter sent on 27th May by Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon (Secretary General of the Anglican Communion) to the Primates of the three provinces which have so far refused to attend the Conference (Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda). This was in response to a statement from these Primates (who are members of GAFCON’s Primates’ Council, which includes 4 other Communion Primates and 2 other non-Communion Primates) following the Communique released after the March Primates’ Meeting that they had also not attended. The Primates have replied with an even more robust letter.

The second release was a short video in which Archbishop Justin announced that instead of issuing no statements (like the 2008 Conference) or issuing resolutions (as at all 13 Conferences from 1867 to 2008) the 2022 Conference will issue Calls, a development explained in more detail on the Conference website and in a short 5 page booklet.


David Virtue explains why these three African primates — ++Ndukuba (Nigeria), ++Mbanda (Rwanda) and ++Kaziimba (Uganda) — so adamantly refused to attend both the 2020 Primates Meeting and the 2020 Lambeth Conference and have now “taken off the gloves” to engage ++Welby so directly and bluntly.  In their most recent robust letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the GAFCON leaders stated most clearly their position: “We have an obligation to proclaim Christ to the world.”

In their estimation ++Welby has chosen the opposite approach and, by taking on the values of the world in place of the true Word of God, he is actively leading the Anglican Communion away from faith in Christ alone to a new place of secular relevance as “God’s Church for God’s World”:

“[Welby’s position] is an example of virtue-signaling that condones evil by hiding behind endless prayer and discussion, thereby giving the impression that what is really laudable is the discussion rather than the decision to obey the clear word of God on the pressing issue of human sexuality and marriage. Genuine Christian faith does not separate between the faith and the life of the believer.”

I am here reminded of a sermon that was preached some forty years ago on how Christian churches called by the Lord to be “fishers of men” so often fail in their efforts “to make disciples of all nations.”  Some churches, he said, prefer to do land-based fishing: “They spread out a net on the shore and post beside it a prominent sign saying, ‘Fish Welcome’.”  In order to catch fish, you have to go where the fish are: “The boat has to be in the water, but the water can’t be in the boat.”  A church that is serious about making disciples has to be in the world, but not of the world.  The world’s water, where the “fish” live, has to stay outside the boat, because the more of that water that makes its way into the boat, the more likely boat is to sink — and all is lost.

This too is a temptation for churches that want to catch fish the easy way, without any effort.  Make the church relevant by bringing the world into the church, and the “fish” will come into the boat of their own accord, carried in on the waves of the world. When the top of the boat becomes level with the top of the water, the church can then become one with the fish.  They no longer need to be caught but can swim directly into the boat effortlessly — and just as effortlessly swim out again — with the church having become an ecclesial model of that little decorative plastic sunken Spanish galleon laying on its side at the bottom of a 10-gallon aquarium.

++Ndukuba, ++Mbanda and ++Kaziimba say that they are not opposed to the Church being in the world, but they are adamant that the Anglican Communion not become a Church of the world.  The GAFCON primates want to correct the impression that they were opposed to discussions on climate change by the Church.

“What we frown at is focusing on a climate change related topic — ‘God’s Church for God’s World’ at the next Lambeth, while sweeping under the carpet, the reality of a fractured Communion, because of the serious issue of human sexuality.”

By focusing the center of the 2020 Lambeth Conference on political and secular issues outside of the Church, ++Welby is in essence “dishonoring the Lord and undermining the integrity and mission of the church in the world.”  The primates earnestly exhort the Archbishop of Canterbury to “lead the Anglican Communion back to Scripture in matters of human sexuality and marriage based on the glorious gospel of Christ.”  In secular terms this is known as a “come to Jesus talk”:

“Any social gospel that completely ignores the issue of human sexuality within the God-given template is an aberration. While it is important to address issues of poverty, climate change and other social problems, we cannot ignore the main thing which is the church’s responsibility, as the pillar of truth, to feed the people of God with the pure word of God. We have an obligation to proclaim Christ to the world.”

The boat is sinking, Your Grace.  The waves of the world are filling it to the top and are on the verge of overwhelming it.  Patch the holes and let’s start bailing. We have an obligation to proclaim Christ to the world
The exact same message is also coming from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, but their primates and bishops have decided that they will attend  Lambeth in order to give ++Welby their “come to Jesus talk” in person.  The GSFA office has released a forthright statement and GSFA Chair, Abp. Justin Badi of South Sudan has posted a short video explaining that he and other Global South primates and bishops are going to Lambeth on a mission: to tell Welby and the Lambeth Conference of bishops in no uncertain terms that they cannot ignore Resolution 1:10 as “the official teaching of the Anglican Communion.”  The time has come, and now is, to right the floundering ship from within and begin bailing out the worldly bilge in the barque of Canterbury.

In his video message to hundreds of would-be delegates of this month’s Lambeth Conference, ++Badi sets out four priorities for all Orthodox delegates:

  • Foster the Unity of the Orthodox, whilst being a faithful witness, and defender of ‘the faith once delivered’
    ● Sound a ‘Clarion Call’ to Biblical Faithfulness, including seeking the ‘re-affirmation of Lambeth 1.10’* as the ‘official teaching’ of the Anglican Church on marriage and sexuality
    ● Stand by GSFA’s principle of not being a ‘breakaway group’ from the Anglican Communion. (GSFA sees itself, and seeks to be part of, the ‘holy remnant’ that God has preserved in the Anglican Communion), and to
    ● Spur on the faithful in the Communion to get the Gospel out into the world, earnestly defending the purity of the faith in order that it might be propagated to a lost and needy world

++Badi strongly encourages all who attend to “speak with one voice, and be united in the gospel truth.”

However, the GSFA Chair also recognizes that “Orthodox Bishops who hold firm to the Bible’s teaching on marriage, and sexuality have had to solemnly decide, in keeping also with their respective Provincial processes, whether or not to attend the gathering.”  Therefore, he and the GSFA leadership “respect the decision of those Primates, such as those of Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya who have chosen not to attend. Those Primates from GSFA who have opted to attend are equally committed to biblical foundations and seek to be a faithful witness at the assembly itself.”

There will be no wedge dividing the united witness of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans and GAFCON.
Susie Leafe, Director of Anglican Futures, wonders, “Will Welby listen to the voice of the Global South“?  Abp, Justin Badi and the other GSFA primates and bishops going to Lambeth are seeking for the Conference to reaffirm Lambeth I.10 as the official teaching of the Anglican Communion. Passed by overwhelming majority at the 1998 Lambeth Conference through the efforts of the African and Asian bishops, this historic resolution “rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” and states that the Church “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”.

For the past quarter century this resolution drawn up by the Global South bishops has been the focus of conflict within the Anglican Communion.  With at least six bishops attending the Conference this summer, who are themselves living in church-blessed same-sex marriages, that friction between the conservative Global South provinces and progressive Western provinces will likely come front and center.

Any “call” to affirm the moral authority of Lambeth Resolution I.10 is “likely to ruffle a few feathers amongst those organising the agenda for the conference,” Leafe says.  “But of the 1,000 bishops in the Anglican Communion who have been invited to the Lambeth Conference, approximately half serve in the GSFA churches, and between them they represent more than 75 per cent of Anglicans worldwide.  Their united voice might just be too loud for the Archbishop of Canterbury to ignore.”


Three excellent commentaries on the issues facing the 2022 Lambeth Conference have been posted on Anglican Mainstream by two leading evangelicals in the Church of England. They are lengthy, but well worth reading, carefully and prayerfully, in their entirety.

The first is by the Rev. Canon Dr. Andrew Goddard, who set out in concise fashion the lay of the ecclesiastical land going into Lambeth and the reasons for the chasm that opened up between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Global South primates (both GAFCON and GSFA). This is ESSENTIAL READING for getting a good grasp of “Who is going to Lambeth and where is Lambeth going?

The second commnetary is by Dr. Martin Davie, one of the foremost evangelical theologicans in the Church of England and lecturer at Oak Hill Theological College. His presentation of the historical and canonical background of the Lambeth Conference as the conciliar body of Anglicanism is ABSOLUTE MUST, MUST READING.  What is the historical Anglican understanding of authority and how have resolutions and the conciliar process functioned with authority in the past?  Does 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 on the doctrine of marriage and human sexuality have authoritative force, as the Global South primates contend?  If so, can it then be rejected by a subsequent resolution to the contrary?  Finally, is Welby’s concept of a “call” the same as a “resolution” or something else altogether?

In the third article, Andrew Goddard picks up where Davies left off in exploring the Lambeth Conference’s going from “resolutions” to “calls”.  He acknowledges that Lambeth Conference resolutions “have never claimed or been understood to have binding legal force.”  Yet, Goddard notes at the same time that these very same resolutions have “until 1998 been recognised as carrying a significant moral authority deriving from them being the resolutions agreed by bishops of the church after meeting to take counsel together.”  He then offers his prognostications on various outcomes that could materialize depending on how Welby’s “calls” are interpreted and shares his hopes for what should happen and his fears for what could happen. PLENTY OF FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

Goddard concludes with this great theological truth:

Ultimately, of course, neither bishops (attending or non-attending) nor Archbishops, even the Archbishop of Canterbury, control what will happen at or after this Conference. God will work his purposes out and God will build his church, which we must never forget extends far beyond whatever particular Anglican structures or borders we establish or recognise within it. Whatever our analysis, our hopes or our fears, we must therefore above all in coming weeks do what UK evangelicals have recently been urged to do by the Resource Group to Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches/Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (GSFA/EFAC) Delegates at Lambeth 2022.


This is the task of each and every one of us — and not just those having tea in Canterbury next week.

(Received by email)

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