Thoughts on Cleaning out the Stalls at Lambeth

Guest Opinion

by Mark Harris


So, a bit of clean up following the Lambeth two-step drama of the past few days.

To the Archbishop’s great credit, he finally said what so many of us have said for a long time: The Anglican Communion is not a church. It used to be described as a “fellowship of churches” but now, as the Archbishop said on Tuesday, it is “a Communion of Churches”.

This turns out to be important, for it naturally leads to the Archbishop’s statement, “I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so. I may comment in public on occasions, but that is all. We are a Communion of Churches, not a single church.” (If I may say so, I contended the same thing in my book, “The Challenge of Change: The Anglican Communion in the Post Modern Era” written in 1997.)

The Archbishop also said, concerning Lambeth 1998 1.10, “I re-emphasise, there is no mention of sanctions, or exclusion, in 1.10 1998.” This is important and leads to my second comment, one which I noted yesterday:

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches deliberately added an item at the end of the text of the Lambeth 1998 resolution that does point to sanctions and exclusions. The GSFAC did not present the actual resolution, but one that was doctored.

Who did that?

Then of course there is the doctored “Call” document. The initial form of the “Call” on Human Dignity included a reaffirmation of Lambeth 1998 1.10, as the “mind of the Communion.” Apparently it was not part of the agreed text by the committee producing the Call on Human Dignity. So, where did it come from?

One possibility for how these doctored documents got into the mix is by way of the behind the scenes work of some in the “West.” I note in particular that the Chair of the Primates Council of GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) of dioceses and provinces, which is itself at the core of the wider Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, is Archbishop Foley, of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). ACNA is part of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches group, in spite of it not being part of the Anglican Communion. ACNA leadership probably has a hand in the core of the Global South thing.

Interestingly that means that a resolution was being brought to Lambeth by parties representing churches not part of the Communion. I am sure other persons and organizations have lent a hand in the doctoring of documents, but I believe ACNA leadership at least is involved.

The hand of the Western groups that believe The Episcopal Church and other “progressive” churches have gone astray from “the faith once delivered of the saints” is in the mix. How much is hard to say. But the insertion of the Lambeth 1998 resolution into the first text of the Call on Human Dignity and the doctored resolution 1.10 in the Global South Fellowship document handed around for signature is no accident. Perhaps someone in the Lambeth/ Anglican Communion offices lent a hand.

And, in the sweeping, it is interesting to find that the debacle regarding voting/ affirming the call/ registering objection process at Lambeth is only mirrored by the brag by themselves that there is transparency in the Global South process of affirming Lambeth 1998 1.10,

That assurance of transparency is a bit off the mark. First there is the doctored resolution itself. Then there is an anonymous affirmation process, so that it is secret, except for a small group who receives the affirmation signatures and counts them. But reaffirmation without owning up to it is kind of useless, since numbers are not what actually counts, but those who “put themselves on the line” for the resolution proposed in 1998. The whole point of signing a document is to give it the weight of the signatories.

I firmly believe in the value of the Anglican Communion, and I am very glad that the bishops who went to Lambeth are having a decent and fruitful time.

I’m not so taken with the Lambeth Conference “process,” which seems as messy as always. I hope there is some way to evaluate what was done.

I am very disturbed by the doctored documents capers and by whoever is the hidden hand behind Global South / GAFCON pushes. Those who did the doctoring need to be called out and their handlers need to be exposed.

The conference has a few more days to go. May they be occasions of unity without too much foolishness and flexing of ecclesiastical muscles.



Mark Harris is a priest and artist in Delaware who blogs at Preludium

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