Lambeth: Surmise, frustration, and interest greet proposals

By Pat Ashworth, Church Times

INITIAL REACTIONS to the Windsor Continuation Group’s suggestions reflected a scepticism that exists within the group itself. On the subject of the moratoriums, the group acknowledges that, on three previous occasions, most recently the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007, requests to desist have been “less than wholeheartedly embraced on both sides”.

As a result, much surmise and varying degrees of frustration followed Monday’s airing of the group’s observations, writes Pat Ashworth. Even the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, was throwing up his hands and could not come up with a comment.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, reflected a view expressed by others when he said on Tuesday: “Everyone will tell them how deficient it is, and then something else will happen.”

Resolutions at this Lambeth Conference would have been disastrous, but this had been the wrong process, he suggested. “The Americans have produced material which they say they have had no chance to give, though they gave it to the ACC and they gave it to the Primates. All the time, different things are being presented to different groups and so not everyone is in the loop.”

Dr Morgan voiced one key difficulty: bishops from provinces where leadership was autocratic still could not comprehend why their colleagues in other provinces were not able to make an instant decision.

“The assumption is that polity is made by bishops. Some of us live in Churches that believe in synodical government. We can influence but not control,” said Dr Morgan.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, found the reception of the report very encouraging. “When people stood up and said: ‘Well, my brother Americans, I disagree fundamentally and theologically with you, but I will not leave the Anglican Communion — that, for me, kept up the spirit of indaba.

“In indaba, we do not write each other off. We say: ‘I may disagree with you, but let’s keep on defining what our position is and through that we will finally come to an agreement.’

A significant majority of those at Lambeth wanted to stay together, said the Archbishop. “My sense is that, even if we are not articulating it as such, even if sometimes we are clumsy at that, the fact that we have stayed right through and engaged one another is a positive thing.”

The Primate of Australia, the Most Revd Phillip Aspinall, said he saw the wisdom in the idea of setting up a pastoral forum and the three suggested moratoriums, adds Ed Beavan; but he called for the Lambeth Conference to flesh out the details.

“We’ll be looking for the Lambeth Conference to work out these proposals in more detail. We need to have the Windsor Continuation Group give a bit of a steer so they can show the way the Communion should be moving.”

The Bishop of Alabama, the Rt Revd Henry Parsley, described the group’s suggestion of a pastoral forum or “holding bay” for disaffected groups within the Communion, as “interesting”.

“My sense is it would bring people together face to face to talk about these things. I think that will be a tremendous step forward, so we’re not sending communiqués across the ocean, so we don’t really talk about things in person.

“We need restraint, patience and forbearance, forbearance is one of my favourite biblical words. We all need patience and forgiveness. As Desmond Tutu said about the Anglican Communion: ‘We’re messy, but we’re also lovable.’”

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