Possible outcomes after Lambeth 2022 – how should we pray?

Aug 2, 2022 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

It’s a risk saying anything about this Lambeth Conference, because any “news” being reported will have almost certainly been reported somewhere else first, and comment on the latest development risks being out of date as soon as its posted. This is why we have compiled a selection of articles about Lambeth (perhaps the most comprehensive available on the web!) which is being added to daily, and is proving very popular.

But the amount of information and opinion can be overwhelming – so here is my brief summary so far:

Any hope for the peaceful and unifying conference envisioned by the planners was disrupted when the leaders of the Global South grouping (GSFA) made it clear before arriving that the question of shared commitment to bible-based orthodoxy should not be set to one side at the Conference. This strong and well-organised stand was perhaps unexpected, given that the Gafcon-aligned ‘conservative hard-liners’ of Africa were not coming. Perhaps partly as a result of this GSFA lobbying, the organisers introduced a reference to Lambeth Resolution I:10 (1998) into the section of the “Calls” document relating to ‘Human Dignity”.

The commitment to heterosexual marriage, and welcoming pastoral care for same sex attracted people agreed in 1998 was referred to as “the mind of the Communion”. An immediate, furious reaction from bishops in North America and other Western provinces led to a second version, which described different views and practices relating to Resolution I:10, and concluded: “As Bishops we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues.”

Following this, the GSFA said they would seek to bring Lambeth I:10 to the Conference for re-affirmation, and that they would not receive Holy Communion with bishops who openly deny the Resolution in actions and words. While Archbishops Welby, Cottrell and others sought to encourage the bishops to put aside the differences for the sake of addressing serious problems in the world, the GSFA said that a broken church, with leaders who are not walking together, cannot heal a broken world.

As I write, GSFA have agreed not to try to force a debate and vote on I:10 in plenary, but are organising an opportunity for delegate bishops to affirm the resolution online, in such a way that numbers and regions will be recorded but not names. Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury has reiterated the sentiment of the second draft of the “Call” on human dignity: Resolution I:10 is still there and is affirmed by the majority; others have come to different conclusions in their beliefs and practices; let’s be united on the “great issues” (implying thereby that issues of sexuality, marriage and the doctrine of the human person are, in Justin Welby’s view, ‘adiaphora’).


It is worth asking at this point, what is the endgame? What do the various factions hope to achieve? What outcome should we pray for?

On opposite ends of the spectrum, there are those who would like their view, on marriage and sexuality, on Scripture, the nature of salvation and the mission of the church, to be adopted by the whole Anglican Communion. From the orthodox point of view, this means that a strong commitment to biblical orthodoxy, based on the foundations of Anglican doctrine, would be restored to the Communion. From the perspective of those whose understanding of Christian faith corresponds more to a progressive worldview, this means replacing Lambeth I:10 with an unambiguous commitment to the LGBT agenda: acceptance of same sex marriage and secular-gnostic-progressive readings of Scripture.  The problem  is that as in 1998 and the aftermath, positions are entrenched, and there is no mechanism for enforcing adherence to any resolutions.

Not long ago, the second of these options (ie, revisionist ‘victory’) seemed more likely in the Western provinces – it was assumed in many quarters that by now the ‘arc of history’ would have converted most people to ‘get with the programme’. Pressure from secular Western culture has made it increasingly difficult to change the revisionist trajectory of churches which are part of that culture. In fact one could argue that the Church of England’s commitment to “radical inclusion” has involved a current de facto rejection of Lambeth I:10 in many Dioceses, even if canons and liturgies have technically not changed.

But this Lambeth Conference has given hints of a new reality. The secular world is not as interested in what’s going on in the church as in the past. Where the church was previously seen as another institution to be brought under the heel of the progressive agenda, it’s now seen as irrelevant. Previously, LGBT activists outside the church would promise their support for those trying to bring about change. Now as the church isn’t even on the radar, especially for young people, changing its policies seem less important – although this theory will be tested in full if there is a major debate in general Synod next February.


In the middle, there are those wanting to hold the Communion together through negotiation and compromise.


The preferred position of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Conference organisers seems to be to attempt to sideline debates on sexuality and wider understandings of theology, to see them as evidence of legitimate diversity to be overcome through “good disagreement” or whatever the current term is. Focus should be on what unites Anglicans – belief in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, shared identity as baptised Christians, a sense of concern and responsibility for the local community around the parish and a hope for global social justice.

This is the default situation in the Communion for many Anglicans. It can be referred to positively as a way of ensuring continued mission through preserving peace, and there is no doubt that getting bishops from all over the world in the same room to discuss serious issues facing the world as described in the ‘Lambeth Calls’ can have a positive effect. But it could also be seen as a policy of inertia, indefinitely postponing decisions on core beliefs and vision, and encouraging manipulation and compromise.

Then there is an increasing number, particularly in the Church of England, both on the liberal and conservative sides, who see that attempts either to win full ideological control of the Communion or to promote a false peace by airbrushing out irreconcilable differences will result in endless conflict and lack of progress in mission. The best solution is negotiated, organised separation. In the US, Methodists have formed two discrete denominations, one aligned with the global majority which is more conservative, and the other taking a more progressive stance. Congregations can choose which one to join. Could this be a model for Anglicans?

A proposal gathering support in the Church of England is the creation of a new non-geographical jurisdiction within the denomination. In both cases, both sides can retain their theological integrity and remain in the same denomination, without the need for conflict over buildings and other resources, and a degree of cooperation on projects of mutual interest can continue. It is institutional unity with built-in degrees of separation based around theology. In this scenario the conservatives in the Church of England would be aligned with global south conservatism, would retain control over liturgy, training for ministry, selection of bishops etc, would be free to get on with evangelism, but would also keep advantages of buildings and finances. There are obvious practical obstacles to achieving this: those committed to “total victory” and “priority of unity” in the C of E would not agree, nor would a Parliament and other influential institutions committed to LGBT rights (certainly not at present). Also, while some parishes might unanimously vote to join the new entity, in the majority of congregations such a suggestion would create more conflict and division.


So far we have not mentioned another option based on an emerging reality: informal re-alignment, involving a process of separation between the orthodox and the revisionists which is not sanctioned by Lambeth/Canterbury, but authorised and validated by a new centre of Anglicanism in the Global South. Already, Provinces representing a large proportion of the global Communion are not at Lambeth. Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda, with a significant group from Kenya, feel that over the past 20 years the call for return to orthodoxy has been consistently rebuffed in favour of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “walking together despite disagreements” approach. The Gafcon Jerusalem Declaration states: “We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word and deed.” In provinces whose leaders have consistently “denied the orthodox faith”,  Gafcon Primates, while remaining part of the Anglican Communion have recognised new jurisdictions as authentically Anglican – such as ACNA, the Anglican Church of Brazil and the Anglican Network in Europe.


So how should we pray? Here are some key points:

  • Increasing unity between Gafcon and GSFA and within these groupings, based around shared commitment to the biblical gospel, despite some differences over strategy.
  • Stronger relationships between the orthodox in the global south (both Gafcon and GSFA) and biblically faithful Anglicans in the global north.
  • Greater respect and cooperation between orthodox in the global north remaining in the Canterbury-aligned structures, particularly in the Church of England, and those in the new jurisdictions.
  • Within the orthodox churches of the north, a developing posture of resistance-in-humility against false ideologies in church and culture, alongside evangelistic and pastoral zeal.
  • Growth in the new Anglican jurisdictions.
  • That leaders deceived by secular and gnostic counterfeits of Christianity, would repent and recover faith in apostolic teaching.


Our selection of articles (usually with two our three line summaries) from a wide variety of authors about the Lambeth Conference (perhaps the most comprehensive digest available on the web!) is being added to daily, and is proving very popular.


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