Sunday, June 24, 2007

Just how important is the Lambeth Conference and who will come?

[Anglican Mainstream] 24 June 2007--The Archbishop of Canterbury sent out his invitations to 850 bishops inviting them to the Lambeth Conference on May 22. This was already almost 12 months behind schedule as invitations went out two years in advance for the 1998 conference. They were to individual bishops, a break with the past as invitations have usually been sent to the 38 archbishops of the Anglican Provinces who then passed them on to their bishops.

But then the upcoming Lambeth Conference will hardly be conventional.

The Archbishop of Canterbury himself played down its significance in his letter of invitation. He wrote: “It is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion, which would require us to be absolutely clear about the standing of all the participants. An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.”

The conference already feels more like a graduate seminar with discussion groups, or “ndabas” as they will be called. So the inevitable question is asked: “Precisely what will be the value of any of its pronouncements?” Perhaps the Archbishop does not want them to be particularly momentous. In which case perhaps he gives comfort to those who do not think any previous pronouncements of Lambeth Conferences are momentous. There are those who continually downplay the significance of Lambeth 1.10. Are we seeing the dumbing down of the Lambeth Conference? In which case, why all the expense and effort? The African Bishops have said in The Road to Lambeth (see below): “There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity.”

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