By Mark Michael
Bishops at the Lambeth Conference on August 1 endorsed an Anglican Congress in the Global South to enable “the broad Anglican family to renew its vision and practice of Christian mission.” The decision followed discussion of the third Lambeth Call on Anglican Identity.
A proposal to explore the creation of a fifth Instrument of Communion magnifying the voices of Indigenous people, laity, women, and children was rejected during straw polling. Response to plans to evaluate the five Marks of Mission and the Instruments of Communion received a divided response.
The Call session, which featured yet a third method for bishops to affirm their levels of consensus, followed a morning plenary in which archbishops from Australia and Tanzania spoke about aspects of Anglican identity in their contexts, including work in addressing colonialism’s legacy: divisions between historic church parties.
The Most Rev. Hosam Naoum, Archbishop in Jerusalem and a member of the Anglican Consultative Council’s Steering Committee, spoke about ways in which the Instruments of Communion foster unity among Anglicans, as well as cooperation in mission.
There have been three previous Anglican congresses, London in 1908, Minneapolis in 1954, and Toronto in 1963. All were attended by large numbers of people from all orders of ministry, more like world expositions than legislative bodies. The 1963 Toronto Congress did, however, issued an influential closing manifesto, “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ,” which set the stage for postcolonial mission strategy and development of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).
The Anglican Identity Call asks for a feasibility study for such a gathering, which should take place before the next Lambeth Conference, to be presented at the February ACC meeting in Accra, Ghana. Such a congress would be the largest and most significant pan-Anglican gathering to be held in the Global South, where most Anglicans now live and minister. Such a congress, the Call drafters hope, “would meet to discern afresh the mission of God amidst a celebration of the diversity and artistry of our many cultures.”
Archbishop Philip Richardson, the Primate of New Zealand, who chaired the Anglican Identity Call drafting group, reported that the bishops had clearly rejected a call for a group to discern the wisdom of a fifth Instrument of Communion that would focus on “those voices too often marginalized” in Communion-wide discussion.
Richardson was less certain about the response given to two other calls, saying at a press conference that they “probably received a negative response — watching hands, it was not so clear-cut.” One would have reevaluated the five Marks of Mission in light of issues like “the balance of Word and sacrament, missional priorities discerned by the provinces, diverse cultural expressions of the Gospel, ecumenical commitments, and interfaith cooperation.”
The other was a review of the four Instruments of Communion, “with special attention to Anglican polity and deepening a sense of synodality,” or the ability of the common instruments to make decisions that are binding on member churches.
Richardson stressed that written comments from table groups would be received and incorporated later into a final version of the Calls, and these would in turn be evaluated by provinces and dioceses.
The polling differed from that used during the first and second Call discussions. Bishops were first asked to shout “No” if they objected to a call, and when this failed to produce a result, they raised hands to indicate their support, though no tally was taken. While calling this process a straw poll, Richardson said, “this was not about voting, not about polling.”
One bishop reported to TLC that she had asked a member of the Lambeth Calls Subgroup if the straw poll might change again, and he told her the method could be different for each of the five calls. Many bishops expressed frustration with this variability, and some reported that bishops in their table groups who were non-native English speakers seemed thoroughly confused about what was being asked, and many refused to participate in any voting.
Minding the Gap
Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy of Perth in the Anglican Church of Australia focused her presentation at the morning’s plenary session on four themes that are central to her diocese’s work toward becoming “a community as hospitable as the love of Jesus”: reconciliation, redress, refugees, and relationships.
Initiatives focused on honoring Aboriginal culture, she said. They have sought to undo some of the damage of a nationwide assimilation program, which cut ties between many of Australia’s original inhabitants and their 60,000-year-old folkways.
“We are praying that our next steps will be gentle on the ancient land in which most of us are recent arrivals. And we are thankful for the grace and the patience of elders and of members of the Indigenous networks in our country,” Goldsworthy said.
Archbishop Maimbo Mndolwa, primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, said his church faced a unique challenge when his nation was created in 1961. Anglicans in the region had been evangelized by English mission societies with different approaches to liturgy and theology, based on existing Anglican parties.
Dioceses in the coastal region, established by the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, had strong Anglo-Catholic worship traditions, while inland dioceses, planted by the Church Mission Society, were evangelical and focused on church-planting. The East African Revival brought a charismatic spirituality into the region beginning in the 1930s.
The three traditions were able to hold together in a united province, Mndolwa said, because “irrespective of their differences, and sometimes internal disagreements, they were conscious that all were Anglicans.” They also believed “that the differences that existed among them, amongst these traditions, were God’s given gifts for the building up of God’s kingdom.”
The Tanzanian model was the impetus, he said, for the establishment of CAPA, the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, which aims to “bring a similar sense of unity” to Anglican mission and governance across the continent.
Citing the message on signs often glimpsed on train platforms, Mndolwa urged: “If you want to stay together as one holy, apostolic, and catholic church, let us be mindful of the existing gaps.
“My brothers from the Global South: mind the gap which exists between the South and the North. My brothers from the North: mind the gap with exists between the North and the South. Brothers and sisters, all in this conference: we should keep in mind that we have many differences, and those differences — which are created by God — are here to save us, not to break our relationships.”
Archbishop Naoum used the Pauline image of the Church as the body of Christ as a model for the Anglican Communion’s life of interdependence under the lordship of Jesus. The Instruments of Communion, he added, seek to build up that “manifest and visible unity of the Church” for which Jesus prayed on the night before his death.
“The Instruments of Communion,” he said, “are products of our giving and receiving. They are a gift to us. Let us remember that we are the body of Christ and individually members of it. Our unity does not eliminate our individuality or autonomy as provinces and dioceses. Instead, it enables us to be God’s Church for God’s world.”