Disputes about the place and interpretation of resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference seem to pop up in the Anglican Communion every few months. Every time they do, significantly different perspectives emerge. This round of dispute came courtesy of an anonymous report aired on the increasingly active GAFCON UK site: “The Church of England and Lambeth I:10.” It is one of various moves in and towards the Church of England that I am tempted to term “sabre-rattling,” especially as the C of E’s House of Bishops met this week to consider how it will respond to issues in human sexuality.[1]

The GAFCON UK report claimed to catalogue “violations” of the resolution within the C of E: celebrations of same-sex unions, LGBT clergy who have entered into civil marriage and continued to officiate, and so forth. Most of the events or persons listed are well-known to anyone who has paid attention to English church news in the past few years. But the report was apparently made for the benefit of the “GAFCON primates council”: seven African Anglican primates, one South American, and the primate of ACNA.[2]

The report generated a fair number of responses and counter-responses.

A lot of early response focused on whether the publication was a “hit list” that was “naming and shaming” LGBT clergy and lay members of the C of E, as well as exposing them to public abuse.

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GAFCON UK denied this point, pointing out that the information it compiled had been “often promoted by activists” who take pride in their actions. At the same time, its latest statement claims that the publicly released document is only the tip of the iceberg: while it listed events and persons “available to view on the Internet,” other versions of the briefing or an actual presentation to the GAFCON primates may have included “confirmed private information” and, perhaps, “rumours.”[3]

As various articles above indicate, some groups then turned the list on its head: the LGCM announced that it would open an annual “Rainbow List” of people “who are working hard to make the Christian churches a safe space for LGBT people.” It is accepting nominations until Dec. 9. It has also encouraged supporters to write to their bishops in order to “voice your hopes for change,” providing them a “handy guide” for how to write the letter. (More on that soon.)

Also, a new, fairly “swish” looking website appeared, “Lambeth 110: A Proud List of Violators and Supporters,” which now has 411 names and counting from Anglican churches in England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. Whether the names represent signatories or were partly compiled by third parties is unclear.

In response to the last couple weeks of events, I have several concerns.

First, I can only lament yet another airing of Anglicanism’s dirty laundry: namely, the fear and anxiety of all parties regarding any settled, visible consensus around human sexuality, both within national churches and in the Anglican Communion at large. Every few months or so, we seem to have another version of the same acrimony without much resolution or progress, save the raising of temperatures and blood pressure. I really do keep wondering: Just what is the imagined endgame for most of those involved? And is there some more excellent way for us to walk together?

Second, beyond appearing mean-spirited, the briefing is misleading, as William Nye and others have noted. There is little doubt that many in the Church of England could name public and private “violations” of Lambeth I.10, as well as supporters of such violations. Yet many could also name public and private ways in which Lambeth I.10 (and, more immediately, the House of Bishops’ document Issues in Human Sexuality) continues to be upheld in the C of E: we could all recount tales of those who have dropped out of the vocations process or out of theological college or, after ordination, resigned a position because they are LGBT. These moments, given their nature, are handled discretely; they rarely enter the national newspapers or even gain mentions on small Anglican blogs. Not every LGBT member of the C of E is a Colin Coward or Andrew Foreshew-Cain.

Third, this sort of explosion reminds me sadly of the political situation in the Episcopal Church in the 2000s, during the run-up to church splits and subsequent legislative challenges over parish properties in the Episcopal Church. I worry we are heading towards a new political season in the C of E.

Fourth, if one follows the news through, it seems that the GAFCON UK statements are being coordinated partly by Canon Andrew Gross. He is listed as the “media contact” or “press officer” for GAFCON, and has responded to criticisms of the statement. But his “day job,” as it were, is as canon for communications and media relations in ACNA, and he sometimes travels with Archbishop Foley Beach, as photos on Beach’s Facebook page and various stories attest. We have yet another sign of American Anglican conservative leadership (of a particular sort) attempting to shape attitudes throughout the Communion, as I noted back in September (“Attacks on the Anglican Communion and the need for repentance on all sides”). [Update: However, I note that the GAFCON UK letter in the Nov. 25 issue of the Church Times had these signatories: Andy Lines, Lorna Ashworth, Daniel Leafe, James Paice, and Andrew Symes.]

But I have two much larger concerns.

I am truly puzzled by the tone William Nye adopted in his response to GAFCON UK.[4] He notes that the C of E’s teaching on the matter was set out in the 1991 document Issues in Human Sexuality, which “pre-dates the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and is consistent with the resolution 1:10.” He adds:

The great majority of the clergy and laity of the Church of England have adhered to the teaching and guidance as taught by the House of Bishops, which is consistent with Lambeth 1:10.

At the same time, he attempts to frame Lambeth I:10 as simply one of 90 resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which are “not legally binding” or “a binding discipline” on the Church of England or the rest of the Anglican Communion.

It is the case that no Lambeth resolutions are “legally binding”: the Communion currently lacks any synodical process above the national level that could produce such decisions. Still, Lambeth I:10 cannot simply be lumped among 90 other resolutions, or the hundreds of other resolutions other Lambeth Conferences adopted.

And Issues in Human Sexuality is not the only touchstone: As the C of E’s House of Bishops noted after the Pilling Report in its 2014 “Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage,” the church’s doctrine on marriage is enshrined in Canon B30 and the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship. The same pastoral guidance included Lambeth I:10 among the C of E’s teaching on marriage, noting that it is “the declared position of the Anglican Communion,” which has been reiterated on multiple occasions and apparently even cited in the C of E’s submission to the British government “in response to [its] intention to introduce same-sex marriage.”

In other words, despite the statement by the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, the House of Bishops has, in the past, very much acknowledged the significance of Lambeth I.10, given its origin from the settled teaching of “the wider Anglican Communion to whom we rejoice to be bound by our inheritance of faith and mutual affection,” to borrow Archbishop Justin Welby’s words from the letter prefacing the bishops’ guidelines.

And it is this latter phrase that points out a key issue, on which I’ll close for now: Lambeth resolutions may not be legally binding, but can we as Anglicans learn to say that we rejoice to be bound to one another? Or do we have no place for a moral authority that does not rely on juridical force?

Obviously, these are large questions, but they are central to our current wrangling. And I worry that Secretary General Nye has, along with others, missed that point.

 

I have another concern, which is whether most of the acrimony of recent weeks has rather missed a bigger piece of news. I’ll try to release my thoughts on that point soon.

Footnotes

[1] In that respect it is similar to Peter Sanlon’s announcement of intentions to form a “shadow synod” of conservative evangelicals. See John Bingham, “Church of England parishes consider first step away over sexuality,” Telegraph (Aug. 28). I might cite also the growing concern over the activities of the Anglican Mission in England. As of yet, these two groups combined appear to represent less than 20 parishes; they seem firmly intertwined with already established groups in the C of E, such as Reform and Church Society, especially in sponsoring events like the ReNew conference.

[2] Namely, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria), Archbishop Stanley Ntagali (Uganda), Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul (Sudan), Archbishop Henri Kahwa Isingoma (Congo), Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje (Rwanda), Archbishop Jacob Erasto Chimeledya (Tanzania), Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit (Kenya), Archbishop Foley Beach (ACNA), and perhaps the newly re-elected Archbishop Gregory Venables (South America). Archbishop Héctor (Tito) Zavala Muñoz, the outgoing primate of South America, is a current member of the GAFCON Primates Council. It is so far unclear whether Archbishop Venables will replace him there. Some of the listed membership of the GAFCON Primates Council, at least as reported on their website, may be out of date.

[3] “The Church of England and Lambeth I:10,” footnote iii. [Update: One reader noted privately that the wording of the statement doesn’t necessary imply that the group of contributors to the GAFCON UK document included “rumours” in their presentation, but only that they gathered them and that their presentation or various briefing documents they produced may or may not have included them. I grant the ambiguity in the document.]

[4] Ian Paul made a similar point at Psephizo yesterday, when I planned on releasing my own piece. What can I say? American Thanksgiving got in the way.

[5] At the Communion level, it lists only the Anglican primates’ Dromantine communiqué (2005). It might also have cited the primates’ communique at the extraordinary meeting at Lambeth (2003) and the Dar es Salaam (2007) and Alexandria (2009) communiqués, the lengthy reflection on the 1998 resolution in the submissions to the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the statements about the resolution in the Windsor Report (127, 141, 146), ACC-13 resolutions 10 and 12 (2005), ACC-14 resolutions 9 and 12 (2009), and even its place as the center of discussion during indaba sessions at Lambeth 2008 and in Archbishop Rowan Williams’s personal reflections in his “Pastoral Letter to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion” after the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

About The Author

The Rev. Dr. Zachary Guiliano is an associate editor of The Living Church, and a deacon of the Church of England, serving as assistant curate at St. Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge.

He is currently finishing his first monograph, ‘Divine readings’ in Carolingian Europe: Charlemagne, reform, and the homiliary of Paul the Deacon. It focuses on the early history and manuscripts of an anthology of patristic homilies and sermons, commissioned and authorized by Charlemagne for use in the Daily Office. He is a contributing blogger at Anglican Communion News Service.

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