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‘Lambeth Calls’ to Consider Sexuality, World Crises, Mission

By Mark Michael

Draft versions of 10 “Lambeth Calls,” which include proposals for an Anglican Congress in the Global South, a review of the Instruments of Communion, and a reaffirmation of traditional teaching on human sexuality, were released to bishops from across the Anglican Communion on July 19. A 31-page study guide lays out the process by which the texts will be considered by bishops attending the Lambeth Conference once sessions begin on July 30.

A team of more than 50 people overseen by a task force appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury prepared draft texts for calls on mission and evangelism, safe church, Anglican identity, reconciliation, human dignity, the environment and sustainable development, Christian unity, inter faith relations, discipleship, and science and faith.

Each of the proposed texts is rooted in 1 Peter, the Lambeth’s Conference’s Biblical theme, and includes a declaration of wider catholic teaching on the subject, a summary of Anglican reflection, and specific calls or requests for action, to be taken up by member churches, Communion-wide bodies, or the wider world. Several also reference the conference’s focus on being “God’s Church for God’s World.”

Archbishop Justin Welby

In June, Archbishop Justin Welby announced plans for the 2022 Lambeth Conference to issue calls, statements about “what God is saying to the church,” instead of traditional resolutions, which have proved contentious in recent decades.

“One of the problems is, that so often in the past we have had things called resolutions. And in a sense, we all know what a resolution is. But when the Lambeth Conference resolves something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, and that is a bit confusing,” Welby said then.

“If the bishops think something is right, it doesn’t mean it’s Anglican thinking, that it’s automatically right. It means that it is something to be tested, and thought about, and received by the whole Communion… It says, although each province is autonomous, and therefore needs to make up its own mind, they’re also interdependent.”

The release of the draft texts coincided with a panel discussion the same day hosted by the U.K.-based Religion Media Centre about the upcoming conference. Several senior Communion leaders, including Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Anglican Communion’s Secretary-General-designate; and Bishop Emma Ineson, who is coordinating Lambeth’s program; spoke directly about the draft calls and their hopes for the event during the discussion.

Lambeth 2022 and Lambeth I.10

Despite conference organizers’ desire to shift the focus away from resolutions, one particularly contentious resolution is advanced for reaffirmation. A commitment to Lambeth 1998’s Resolution I.10, which labels homosexual practice as “incompatible with Scripture” and upholds traditional teaching about marriage, is part of the draft Lambeth Call on Human Dignity

“Given Anglican polity, and especially the autonomy of Provinces, there is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue. It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions” cannot be advised. It is the mind of the Communion to uphold “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” (I.10, 1998). It is also the mind of the Communion that “all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ” and to be welcomed, cared for, and treated with respect (I.10, 1998),” the draft call says.

Asked at the panel discussion about the decision to include Lambeth I.10 in the draft calls, Ineson said, “The restatement of Lambeth I.10 is a restatement of fact. It reflects the majority of the Communion, the mind of the Communion.”

Ineson also pointed out the affirmation of Lambeth I.10’s call to pastoral care of LGBT people in the draft text, and noted that the bishops “will be looking at the whole area of justice around human sexuality.”

Notably, the draft call urges the Anglican Consultative Council to “examine whether its work on Gender Justice should be expanded to promote provincial and inter-provincial vision and practices toward human dignity with attention not only to gender but also sexuality,” a move which could lead to increased pressure from Anglican Communion leaders against anti-LGBT civil laws in Global South countries. The controversy over the Archbishop of Canterbury’s strong criticism of a 2021 Ghanaian law that was initially supported by the country’s Anglican bishops could foreshadow further tension.

Keeping Lambeth I.10 on the 2022 Lambeth Conference agenda is a clear priority for bishops from the Global South. In late June, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, chair of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, issued a call to “all orthodox Bishops attending the Conference to be united for the Gospel truth, speak with one voice and to call on all Provinces to reaffirm resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and align their faith and practice accordingly.”

Archbishop Mouneer Anis

On July 12, Archbishop of Alexandria Mouneer Anis, the founding chair of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, issued a briefing paper on the group’s behalf, Prayers and Reflections for a Communion at a Crossroads, which reiterated Badi’s call.

Anis wrote, “I pray so that the Lord may give all those who are attending the Conference, the courage and the honesty, so that when it is said that the official teaching of the Communion, in regards to human sexuality, is Resolution 1.10, then all should respect it in its entirety and align ‘faith & practice’ with it. Otherwise, it becomes just ink on paper.”

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, said during the Religion Media Centre discussion that he hoped bishops gathered at Lambeth would still be open to hearing about the Episcopal Church’s experience and convictions about human sexuality issues.

“Ours is one of many provinces,” Sutton said. “We are in a minority position on the issue of human sexuality. I know what it means to be a minority. I make a plea to my brothers and sisters who have the majority position, ‘Let us be in the room. Listen to what “respecting the dignity of every human being” means in our context.’”

Lambeth Calls: Ministry in the Church and the World

The draft Lambeth Call on Anglican identity states that “Anglicans belong to a tradition that seeks faithfulness to God in richly diverse cultures, distinct human experiences, and deep disagreements.” Focusing on an issue that Poggo said was central to the Communion’s continued discernment, the call goes on to define the Anglican Communion as provinces “in communion with the See of Canterbury.”

“To be an Anglican,” Poggo said at the panel discussion, “you have to be in communion with the See of Canterbury. There are those who are contesting that. If there was a need for that to be changed, it must come through the structures of the Anglican Communion, the Instruments of Communion.”

Bishop Eugene Sutton

The call requests an independent review of the Instruments of Communion “with special attention to Anglican polity and deepening a sense of synodality for the whole people of God in the Anglican Communion.” The review panel should, the drafters suggested, ask questions like “To what extent are the Instruments fit for purpose? To what extent might some (or all) of the Instruments be reconfigured to serve the Communion of today and the future?” The call also urges Communion leaders to set up a design group “to envision a new Instrument of Communion centering those voices too often marginalized: indigenous leaders, the laity, women, and young people.”

It also asks the Anglican Communion’s Steering Committee to commission a feasibility study for an Anglican Congress in the Global South focused on helping the Communion “to renew its vision and practice of Christian mission.”

The related Call to Christian Unity urges the Anglican Consultative Council to fully fund the work of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), which has played a central role in articulating church teaching about Anglican identity as well as preparing resources for ecumenical discussions. IASCUFO has not met since 2019.

Other calls addressed primarily to the church urge deeper coordination between provinces on safe church issues, and an expanded place for teaching about faith and science and the legacy of colonialism in ministerial training curricula.

The Call on Human Dignity urges the founding of an Archbishop’s Commission for Redemptive Action, which would draw on the forensic investigation of the Church of England’s complicity in the transatlantic slave trade, and “establish and publish holistic theologies of redemptive action and reparation,” as well as sponsoring programs designed to put such goals into practice.

Draft calls about the Church’s ministry in the world, which have been the focus of extensive publicity around the conference include commitments to work supporting the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and a summons to urgent action on climate change that takes seriously the needs of vulnerable communities.

Discussion and Voting

The study document also notes that the bishops will discuss the draft Lambeth Calls during regular confidential round-table discussions throughout the conference. “During the Calls session there will be time for discussion and clarification of the Call. The lead author and drafting groups will be present to answer questions if necessary. The aim in each session will be to consider if the Call can be issued publicly or not.”

It is not clear if the call drafts will be open to amendment by the bishops attending the conference. There will, however, be an electronic poll taken on each call, allowing bishops present physically and online to “express their level of support for a call.”  A bishop may designate one of two choices:

  • This Call speaks for me. I add my voice to it and commit myself to take the action I can to implement it.
  • This Call requires further discernment. I commit my voice to the ongoing process.

 

 

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