It would be foolish to let such a gift fall apart, say bishops

by
07 August 2008

by staff reporters

Abide with me: Dr Williams outside the cathedral for the final eucharist ACNS/TUMILTY

Abide with me: Dr Williams outside the cathedral for the final eucharist ACNS/TUMILTY

THE 2008 Lambeth Conference ended on Sunday with strong ex­pressions of mutual support and commitment.

A 42-page official collection of Reflections, issued at the end of the Conference, states: “Many of us have discovered more fully why we need one another and the joy of being committed to one another.

“At a time when many in our global society are seeking just the sort of international community that we already have, we would be foolish to let such a gift fall apart.”

The Archbishop endorsed the call made by the Windsor Continuation Group for moratoriums on gay consecrations, same-sex blessings, and extra-provincial interventions. If these were not accepted, he said at a final press conference, “then, to say the least, we are no further forward.”

There was support for the mora­toriums, especially from the bishops of the Global South. The Archbishop of Hong Kong, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, said that they had listened to the explanations by various bishops with respect. “Now we are asking these people to stop defending what they do as right, and stop accusing other parties of what they do as wrong. Instead, we must come together and say: ‘What sacrifice, what concession, can you make for the sake of the integrity of the Communion?’”

But the Bishop of Louisiana, the Rt Revd Charles Jackson, expressed reservations about the language of sacrifice. “There is a big difference between making a sacrifice for others and asking others to make a sacrifice. It is a moral dilemma.”

The Anglican Covenant survived the Conference intact, though the Reflections document contains a number of criticisms. Dr Williams said in his sermon during the final eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral that the introduction of an Anglican Covenant had “the potential to make us more of a Church; more of a ‘Catholic’ Church. . . That we wanted to move in such a direction would, in itself, be a weighty message. But it might even be a prophetic one.”

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The bishops’ comments about the latest Covenant draft are to be discussed by the Covenant Design Group, which will consider them, together with provincial reactions, in April 2009. The group will then produce a third draft to be presented to the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica in May.

The Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr Philip Aspinall, said that he expected every province to find it difficult to sign up to the Covenant “because, at the heart of Anglicanism is the notion of autonomy, self-rule. And so provinces will guard that very jealously.

“It will only be as a result of deep and careful reflection that they agree to self-limit in order to protect something which is equally valuable, and that is our Communion.”

Conference members expressed their unhappiness at the absence of bishops from Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya in a variety of ways. The Reflections stated: “We have been diminished by their absence.”

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Ken­neth Kearon, is to write personally to every bishop not present at the Conference, in an effort to keep them involved with the way the Communion is developing. The Con­­ference had been about “engage­ment and relationship. It is some­thing we have always claimed as a feature of Anglicanism, but we are making it a concrete reality.”

It would not be easy to convey that “living experience” to those not pre­sent. “I regret them not being here be­cause of the experience they could have had and the enrichment they could have brought, and that is just gone.”

A number of other initiatives were endorsed by the Conference, among them a greater effort to support the Millennium Development Goals. Al­lied to this was the urgent call for the formation of a new “Anglican Global Relief and Development Agency”.

The bishops were urged to combat ignorance about the effects of global warming: “The Communion should position itself to be a symbol for ecological commitment to sustain-ing and renewing God’s creation.”

There was also a suggestion that the Lambeth Conference might meet more frequently, perhaps once every five years.

There was also a suggestion that the Lambeth Conference might meet more frequently, perhaps once every five years.

The most significant aspect of the Conference, though, was probably the personal encounters between bishops of different persua­sions — what Dr Williams called “your patient, lively, im­patient, hopeful engagement with each other”.

The Bishop of Colorado, the Rt Revd Rob O’Neill, said that most of the bishops were returning home, “knowing we are tied and inter-connected in ways that maybe some of us thought we knew, but we know much more profoundly now.

“We have got to find means and ways that hold us all and the Anglican tradition together. We may not have specific documents and time­tables, but we are the docu­ments.”

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