Lambeth Perspective - issues moving towards resolutions

Canterbury: Friday, 31 July 98

This report was filed by Simon Sarmiento, on the scene in England.

Other Anglicans Online coverage, with links to many other articles, is on the web at

The most interesting story to emerge today (see Church Times) was the drafting of a resolution by one subsection of bishops to give some power to the Archbishop of Canterbury over individual provinces of the Anglican Communion. The controversial proposal, which starts its way through the drafting process next week, is only to set up a commission to consider this under what circumstances this might be allowed, but even that would seem to be at odds with what Archbishop Carey said in his presidential address last week. Then he praised the absence of such authority as a virtue, quoting John Henry Newman: "every organisation seemed to start with a prophet and end up with a policeman," adding "it seems we have successfully avoided this criticism." Although described in today's Daily Telegraph as "Superman-like powers to go to the rescue of Churches in trouble" it is unlikely that the conference will go quite that far. A requirement for prior consultation with the other primates (at least) seems likely to be added, and more authority for the primates meeting itself.

The Church Times report continues:

Nevertheless, the current arrangement, whereby the Archbishop can act only at the invitation of a province, has been shown to be flawed, most notably in Rwanda. And there is a strong desire, particularly among African dioceses, for the Archbishop to be more outspoken. One suggestion is that the Archbishop be given more encouragement to pronounce on theological and ethical issues. Were such statements framed with the help of the Inter- Anglican Doctrinal Commission, they would be seen as carrying considerable moral authority. In this way, Anglican provinces would be able to point to official statements of Anglican doctrine whenever critics attempted to make capital out of the pronouncements of individual bishops or pressure groups. Also, his office would guard the door in and out of the Communion. Were a commission to be set up, one overdue task would be to sort out the relationships between Dr Carey's office and the other instruments of communion: the Primates' Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference itself. It is generally recognised, too, that more resources would have to be placed at the Archbishop's disposal.

This latter point was made a week ago in The Tablet, by Donald Reeves who argued for an archbishop who only tried to do the third of these, pointing out the absurdity of one person trying to run an English diocese, the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. In practice the Diocese of Canterbury is run day to day by a suffragan (the Bishop of Dover), and Reeves suggested the Archbishop of York could take over much more responsibility for running the Church of England.

Another interesting question is what will happen about the report of the Eames Commission concerning women in the episcopate. Geoffrey Kirk, a leading British opponent of women's ordination writes: is strange that no formal arrangements were made to receive and discuss the Eames Commission's work or to respond to the recommendation of the Monitoring Group. The recommendation that further work be undertaken to gear up the practical guidelines of the Report for another decade and a new century should be taken seriously and acted upon. If those in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate (who despite their dominance in positions of authority have probably not yet gained numerical parity with opponents in the wider Communion) are to signal their seriousness in upholding the "Two Integrities", it is essential that this Lambeth receives and endorses the Eames recommendations and goes on to the more serious monitoring which the Group also recommends.

Kirk argues that it needs to do so both for internal reasons due to the lack of consensus among Anglicans and because of the damaging effect on ecumenical relations, particularly with the Roman Catholic Church. It will be interesting to see what draft resolution emerges on this topic.

The draft report on sexuality from the 60-bishop section chaired by the Bishop of Johannesburg, Duncan Buchanan, was agreed unanimously. Instead of proposing an international commission, it asks the Anglican primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to monitor sexuality issues and share information with the provinces. However, this may not stop other groups of bishops, such as those from Rwanda, from putting forward their own draft resolutions as well. A group of 180 bishops met on Wednesday evening to discuss just such a plan for a strongly conservative statement. On Thursday the presentation on homosexuality that had been opposed so strongly by African and Asian bishops last week was given as an "unofficial" event, but hardly any bishops from those continents were among the 150 or so who attended.

This week ended quietly. Following their outing to London on Tuesday, a Wednesday without any major events, the bishops kept an overnight vigil on Thursday and attended a presentation on Youth Friday morning. Only two activities were to be found on the conference campus Friday afternoon. The more popular one was the sale of tea towels by an English group promoting women's ministry saying "A woman's place is in the House of bishops!" Any bishop could get one free if he/she would ice a biscuit (American translation: frost a cookie) which several of them were doing when I went by. The other activity was an anti-homosexual demonstration by a small group of people in clerical dress who refused to identify themselves but whom I suspect were mostly not Anglicans. They were eventually removed by the campus police.

Next week the pace of activity will increase and there should be rather more news. The spin doctoring may become more difficult as the press leaks increase. More on that topic in the next report.

Copyright © 98 Society of Archbishop Justus.
[Contents page] [Anglicans Online] [Comments to web page maintainers]