Christopher Seitz on the Statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury on Lambeth 2008

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:

Some Anglicans, especially critics of the authority of the Primates Meeting as an Instrument of Unity/Communion, have tended to see the four Instruments of Communion as competitors. There is no evidence that this view is held by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is himself an Instrument, and who presides at the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. Clearly he views the Instruments as mutually encouraging, even as they have a specific and discrete identity and remit.

It has been the consistent position of ACI, going back to ‘To Mend the Net,’ that the specific authority given to the Archbishop of Canterbury is that of gathering and inviting. And the place where that authority is his alone is the Lambeth Conference invitations.

But there is no evidence whatsoever that in making invitations for the 2008 Conference, +Canterbury has set aside or ignored the authority of the other Instruments.

It needs also to be underscored that the response of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to the requests of the most recent Primates Meeting says nothing probative in any way about the vitality and purchase of these requests. The means for providing regularization of various emergency extra-territorial ‘missionary’ initiatives is the Pastoral Council Scheme and the Primatial Vicar. It is not the job of the Archbishop of Canterbury unilaterally to declare the regularization of these initiatives by inviting the bishops acting in such a status to the Lambeth Conference. That would be to reject the work of the Primates Meeting still alive and waiting final prosecution – especially in the light of how the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church finally responds as of 30 September 2007.

It is tempting to wish to see individual initiatives, individual bishops, and individual Instruments as more definitive than others, and this instinct is alive on both ends of the Communion spectrum. What we are in fact seeing is the unfolding of a specific Anglican Communion polity, now come of age, and its hallmark is the mutual cooperation of four Instruments of Unity. The timing is such that the recent statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury is being given a specific kind of enhancement, but that may be misleading. In no way does his action in signaling an intention about present and future invitations stand over against the work of the other Instruments of Communion, and we can be sure he and his counselors have had this foremost in their minds.

We also wish to note the language of his statement—and this has not been properly emphasized due to concerns about CANA or New Hampshire—which points to the assumption that those Bishops attending do so with a commitment to the Instruments of Communion, and the statements and actions emanating from them. So far as we are concerned, the best indication of the mind of the Instruments in this season of disarray and challenge is what the Dar communiqué called the Camp Allen Principles: because these reaffirm Lambeth 1.10, Dromantine, The Windsor Report, and the serial statements and actions of all four Instruments.

It is our view that the efficient working of the Lambeth Conference, which is the desire of the Archbishop of Canterbury, needs an assumed commitment to these principles, if the meeting is not to be distracted and politicized according to this or that discrete concern or cause. We hope that the language used by the Archbishop of Canterbury at this juncture will receive specific commentary and elaboration. We believe we hear him rightly and trust that this perspective represents what is best for the healthy working of the Anglican Communion and the mission of Jesus Christ in this part of his Body the Church.


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisArchbishop of Canterbury Instruments of UnityLambeth 2008* Resources & LinksResources: ACI docs

4 Comments
Posted May 23, 2007 at 6:40 am

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1. Jordan Hylden wrote:

As you might expect, I of course fully agree with this piece!

I think we ought to view ++Williams’s actions in context with his previous statements and committments.  Remember: At Dar es Salaam, he personally went around the room and asked each and every Primate if he or she would live by the Communique.  One can hardly imagine that he would do anything other than live by it himself.  Given his well-known theological positions on church-as-communion and his understanding of his role as the Archbishop of Canterbury, I am entirely confident that we can count on him to keep his word.  Which means: the Tanzania Communique is not dead.

My best guess is that ++Williams is waiting for ECUSA to do something constructive—e.g., for them to find some way of meeting the needs of APO requesters and other conservatives (as recognized at Tanzania).  Currently ECUSA has not offered a Plan B.  Probably they will not.  But in charity, they are allowed until Sept. 30th, both for that and for meeting the other two requests of the primates.

As others have noted, by issuing the invitations now minus +Robinson, Williams is gently but firmly forcing the HoB to make a definite choice: Either they decide to move together with the Communion, or they choose instead to clearly walk apart.  And with his “withhold or withdraw” language (along with the statement that this is the “first round” of invitations), it must be concluded that Williams is at least contemplating the possibility of withdrawing certain of these invitations depending on what happens between now and November, and etc.

One might wish for more specific statements from Canterbury about the trust-building conditions necessary for attending Lambeth, and also that the Pastoral Scheme remains the mind of the Communion as expressed by the primates in council.  Nevertheless, we can also appreciate the way in which it is not possible for Canterbury to pre-determine the shape and nature of the Communion’s life together: that is precisely what the Covenant is for, and by the very nature of the process, the Covenant cannot be agreed upon until it is agreed upon!

Lambeth will debate and discuss the Covenant and produce a draft that will then be sent to ACC-14, which then will be given its final form and sent to the various provinces for synodical approval.  I think this simple reality is what lies behind ++Williams’s statements about how Lambeth doesn’t necessarily impart a seal of “doctrinal orthodoxy.” The specific nature of what Lambeth IS and does is precisely a topic of discussion, to be ratified in the Covenant.  ++Williams can’t prejudge that, and so he wants as many voices around the table at Lambeth to make that decision.

++Williams has shown that he is a bishop who acts in communion with the mind of the whole church.  And with that in mind, I hope that the Windsor and GS bishops will take this as a welcome opportunity to participate in the creation of the Covenant.  As Dr. Radner said so well in his recent piece “Vocation Deferred”: If we leave now, we will miss a unique opportunity to participate in the coming-to-be of the communal vocation of Anglicanism.  Rather than despair, I think we have much reason to hope, pray, work, and thank God for what He has given us in this moment.

May 23, 10:20 am | [comment link]
2. Christopher Wells wrote:

Again, Jordan is right. Listen to him.

May 23, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
3. BabyBlue wrote:

Alas, this is quite lovely - but not based in the real world or at least this world.  Perhaps this is how Anglicans behave and operate on the Planet Zontar, but it is not the way we earthlings behave.  I’d love to live on the Planet Zontar, where I am sure Anglicans will act this way.  But alas, I live on Planet Earth and things are quite different here.

Right Kenneth K?

Jesus saves, though, thank God,
bb

May 23, 12:57 pm | [comment link]
4. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

“++Williams has shown that he is a bishop who acts in communion with the mind of the whole church”.

I wonder if all the Anglo-Catholics that the C of E is trying to force out would feel that way. 

We’ll also see what the man does when the mind of TEC, in violation of the mind of the whole Church, consecrates Glasspool.

March 5, 2:23 pm | [comment link]


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