Ephraim Radner: Lambeth Can Be What It Wants To Be

My own view (and that of others) has long been that TEC’s behavior has been so brazenly destructive of the Communion’s conciliar life on a number of levels, that the entire American church’s college of bishops should not be invited to Lambeth at all. Without some major, formal, and agreed recommitment to the character of conciliar life, TEC’s participation in the Communion’s gathering threatens to be subversive, not edifying, inevitably confusing, not clarifying. The Anglican Communion is not “the Catholic Church” tout court, by a long shot, and requires a kind of conserving energy that goes beyond whole-sale pneumatic openness-within-order. Individual TEC bishops might, if they so chose, petition Canterbury and the Primates for a seat at Lambeth on the basis of affirming a commitment to the principles the Primates themselves laid out in their recent Communiqué (the “Camp Allen Principles”) ”“ this may already be implied in Canterbury’s current invitation, although this is not wholly clear — or at least a commitment to previous Lambeth resolutions, whose imposing legitimacy has now been clearly affirmed by the interlocking agreement of other Anglican Communion synods.

Perhaps something like this is still possible in the post ”“September 30th Anglican world, when TEC’s House of Bishops will have given their common response to the Primates. Many of us hope for this and urge this, of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates themselves. But my opinion is only that ”“ an opinion among many. I have no role in inviting, and I can only advise, from the farthest distance, on the character of prudence demanded by the current situation. The Lambeth Conference should go on with (preferably) or without imposed criteria. Even the most pessimistic “conservative” must agree that the numbers are there for traditionalist bishops to do whatever they discern as fitting, if they indeed show up and pursue it. That is the nature of a council: if “what they pursue” is right, it will stick.

But quite apart from Canterbury or this or that party’s hopes or judgments, Lambeth can be, in terms of the Holy Spirit’s leading, whatever it wants to be. Neither Canterbury, nor the Design Committee, nor those who do not attend can make or unmake the conciliar character of Lambeth. And those who do attend may well, should they choose to exercise the tools of the Spirit they are given (to the degree that any of us have such a “choice”), transform through the Spirit’s work whatever the Lambeth Conference may initially appear to be into a true and authoritative council of the Communion and even of the Church at large. The Holy Spirit controls the course of a gathering of saints; and the saints are eager to work with God. The Church of Christ eagerly seeks counsel together, even when its “formal councils” are obscured.

And why would anyone wish to be otherwise than eager in this regard? There are clearly those who want to declare the Lambeth Conference conciliarly ineffective, and to depose it from (or deny it) any conciliar role, even before it convenes. A question to be asked of these people is whether they want to declare themselves, before the fact, as letting go of the charismatic calling of the Church. For, in the context of the Christian faith and the Church’s life, they need not do so. “Talking down” the Conference or deliberately absenting oneself from it may or may not undermine the authority of Lambeth (indeed, depending on how it is done, it may in fact enhance it!). But if it so undermines it, it also may well undermine the authority of those who deliberately reject the Conference itself. For such preemptive rejection will cloud the eagerness, trouble the faith, dampen the fire, quench the Spirit. Let archbishops and their episcopal colleges come and “fight the good fight”, sustained ”“ as surely they will be ”“ by the Holy Spirit of God. These are good people, whose deepest hopes the Lord would shape and honor. Let those who pray, come together and pray; let those who serve, come together and serve; let those who teach, come together and teach; let those who heal, come together and heal. Let the Holy Spirit list where He will within the Church as she gathers in the name of Jesus.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008

15 comments on “Ephraim Radner: Lambeth Can Be What It Wants To Be

  1. The Old Circuit Rider says:

    Having just finished a 36 lecture review of The Reformation, I find I am looking at history made over again. May Our Lord lead in all that is done.

  2. robroy says:

    I reformulate a response over at standfirm.

    Father Ephraim points to the example that the church fathers sat down with Arius at Nicea and so global south primates and bishops should do the same with the American bishops. I don’t think that the analogy holds entirely true. The church today is not at liberty to burn heretics. Our only weapon is non-association. There are many that argue it has been underused to such a degree that it has allowed the church to diverge to such extremes that we have priests practicing Wicca, islam, deny the divinity of Christ, etc. The leaders of the church are charged with guarding the unity and have failed miserably with the current and previous archbishops of Canterbury prime examples.

    When Archbishop Orombi rightly stated his intent to use non-association against the arrogantly defiant and intransigent American bishops (whom the ABC had just rewarded this arrogance with invitations), the orthodox in America cheered. It was the first call to accounting of the Americans in a tangible and substantial manner. However, the ACI demurred and demurs again above.

    I argue in the linked statement above, is that one needs to define a goal and then work towards that goal. My goal is simply an orthodox province in America that is in communion with the likes of ABp Orombi, Akinola and Venables (a much smaller tent). A draconian pruning? Perhaps. To the exclusion of the rest of the communion? Maybe for a time. But with islamo-christian priests and the “leadership” of KJS, the people will turn away from them and towards those who offer salt and light.

  3. John A. says:

    The trouble with this article and the Lambeth Resolution Archives is that, although they are well intentioned, they are irrelevant. In the dozen or more resolutions I sampled none appears to require any actual action and there is certainly no discussion of intended results. Going back to the very early resolutions there are resolutions related to doctrine and appointing bishops in mission capacities. Perhaps Akinola’s ministry is a result of some of these earlier decisions to actually do something!

    Consider 1998 Resolution I.2a “This Conference, meeting at the dawn of the new millennium calls upon: all faith communities, especially the Christian Church, to acknowledge our responsibility to mobilise our spiritual, moral and material resources to promote and protect as absolute rights, each person’s freedom of thought, conscience and religion”

    This is the role of government not the church and there is not actually any action required from the church. In fact it is not even addressed primarily to Anglicans. Who are we to ‘call upon’ other Christians let alone Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists? If this were meant to result in action it should have asked/suggested/begged *Anglicans* to write letters and sign up with Amnesty International. But what has this to do with the Gospel?

    Of course we should care about human rights but the business of the church of the church is to work on the root causes. Our strategy should be to cultivate the Gospel in areas where rights are being trampled. Paul’s letters to Philemon and to the Galatians are good examples. If we are all God’s children and we are trying to please God then it is not a matter of rights but sacrificial love which is the foundation for the patchwork called human rights.

    Getting back to Radner’s point; of course we can include just about anyone with any beliefs but who cares? If we are merely emulating the UN let’s disband the churches and reorganize under the UN. If we are actually going to do something then we must have a mission statement with measurable objectives. It can be inclusive in the sense that everyone is welcome who agrees to tangibly support the mission.

  4. libraryjim says:

    Robroy quoted:
    Father Ephraim points to the example that the church fathers sat down with Arius at Nicea and so global south primates and bishops should do the same with the American bishops.

    So, +Akinola should slap KJS or VGR silly in the manner of +Nicholas and Arius?

  5. alfonso says:

    My own view (and that of others) has long been that TEC’s behavior has been so brazenly destructive of the Communion’s conciliar life on a number of levels, that the entire American church’s college of bishops should not be invited to Lambeth at all.

    Yes. I have argued for this as well. TEC Network bishops are still TEC, and it is appropriate for Provinces/Primates to discipline/reward TEC as a unit. As long as “orthodox” TEC bishops are pastorally supported by orthodox Primates, that support is sufficient. Standard Lambeth invitations for Network bishops may create more confusion than clarity if the rest of TEC is being disciplined. The issue of re-organization of North American Anglicanism must be dealt with, but at this moment is secondary to the integrity of the Primates. Our recognition/organization is moving forward, but it can be de-coupled and dealt with as two separate-but-related issues. First things first.

    Is discipline off the table with the invitations already being sent? No. This was explicitly left on the table by the ABC. Of course, he does not have a lot of credibility in weilding the discipline card re Lambeth in light of both his pre-D.E.Salaam judgment that TEC was sufficiently Windsor-compliant, and post D.E.S. judgment that TEC (minus Robinson) should get invitations. Regardless, for global south primates to attend, there has to some sort of pre-Lambeth decision–either a Primates’ meeting or even the first agenda item of Lambeth itself, to hold TEC accountable (there should be no objection by “mend-the-net” Primates to come and fight the good fight for that!). I think the most judicious action is not to withdraw invitations altogether, but to reduce the status of all TEC invitations to that of “guest/observer”. If this is put off until the first agenda of Lambeth, TEC bishops should know well ahead of time that their status may be reduced. Sadly, +Cantaur does not seem to have the leadership to do this, but he still may come through if enough Provinces support such action.

    These are good people, whose deepest hopes the Lord would shape and honor.

    This is not true, collectively, of TEC. It was bad, not good, to volitionally rip the fabric of the Communion. It would be wrong to expect mend-the-net bishops to capitulate and submit to association with TEC. These bishops are fighting the good fight now! Procrastinating (again) until Lambeth is in full swing would turn this into a dishonorable fight (they’d be excusing themselves from their responsibility of representing/guarding the Faith, which in this case must mean some sort of pre-Lambeth accountability for TEC). This accountability needs either to be wholesale withdrawal of invitations or wholesale change of invitations to observer/guest (non-voting) status. Now that the invitations have gone out, the latter seems the more viable option. Regardless, I completely reject the idea that it is acceptable for orthodox Primates to associate at Lambeth with TEC. That would make impossible a “good fight.”

  6. robroy says:

    Alfonso writes, “I think the most judicious action is not to withdraw invitations altogether, but to reduce the status of all TEC invitations to that of ‘guest/observer’.”

    As many have observed, Lambeth is not a legislative event so there would be little difference between guests and participants. The ABC hinted that VGR would be present as a guest. A not unlikely scenario: The Americans all show up including VGR who is “humiliated” by being invited as a mere guest. The media would have a a field day. VGR would daily cry about his victim-ness and the media would lap it up. He would bring his newly unionized partner. One can imagine the photo-ops for the happy couple. Should the bishops of Uganda (or any other Christian delegation) participate in such a farce? A resounding no!

    The ABC was well aware of the CAPA/Road to Lambeth statement and knew full well that many of the GS would not participate if the Americans did. The early invitations are a implicit disinvitation to the Africans. The American HoB collectively “extended the middle finger to the rest of the communion” and the ABC rewards them two months later with an invitation to Lambeth. The primates literally work into the night at DeS, and the Americans reject the communique as colonialism. Africans are suppose to ignore this?

  7. alfonso says:

    Robroy, Robinson should not go at all, even as a guest. Regarding the rest of TEC, you are right that there would not be much difference practically between guest bishops and normal bishops. The difference could be significant enough to assuage consciences, however, if it were stated that “if there are any resolutions (or other items) to be voted upon at Lambeth, guests will not participate in said voting.” I don’t mind TEC completely being disinvited, but now that they are invited for the present, and are buying tickets, making plans, and being asked to contribute to the costs, I think lowing the status of TEC is a viable option, albeit less preferred than complete disinvitation.

  8. alfonso says:

    Robroy, I should have noted that you’ve changed my mind a bit. And perhaps I should have said that “idealistically” complete disinvitation is best, but pragmatically, lowering the status of TEC invitations may prove to be a judicious (and ethical) compromise.

  9. robroy says:

    Alfonso, this is why I was so enraged by the early invitations. The ABC said that he would decide with the primates who would come to Lambeth. The Lambeth website has said for months that the invitations would come out late in 2007. The ABC knew full well that after the very much expected completion of the rejection of the DeS communique in September, that he would not have the political capital to extend invitations to the arrogant Americans. It specifically turned down pressure on the Americans to play fair and consider the primates’ request. Father Ephraim is trying very hard to preserve the communion with the ABC (an instrument of unity). After the sycophantic early invitations and his acceptance of to go listen to them lecture him about American polity, I am very skeptical about his worthiness to be part of the communion.

  10. robroy says:

    Completion of thought: Sure he dangles “withdrawal of invitations” but we all know as does he (and as you point out) that that is much harder than non-issuance in the first place. I see through the ploy to keep the orthodox quiet. The only way to get him to withdraw invitations is for more provinces to do exactly what Uganda has done…take a stand!

  11. Bob from Boone says:

    I tend in my later years to become impatient with long, verbose statements, and I have not read all of Dr. Radner’s piece. But I think I have the gist of it. He wants to see the Lambeth _Conference_ transformed into an “Anglican Ecumenical Council” a la Nicaea, and its _resolutions_ transformed into “decrees.” This will make it much easier for the majority of bishops (GS, of course) to issue a decree that effectively removes TEC from the Anglican Communion.

    If the purpose of this conciliar movement is to get rid of a constituent member, then the purpose will have the effect of radically transforming the AC into something it was never intended to be.

    I doubt that this idea will go far. There would be too many provinces opposed to it, and I would think the ABC would not be happy with it–I hope so. Such a move in itself could have the effect of splitting the Communion. And I don’t think that the Holy Spirit requires a conciliar organization to do her work. This is aside from Dr. Radner’s assumption that the Holy Spirit is not working in TEC.

  12. dwstroudmd+ says:

    BfB, if the AC tolerates ECUSA/TEC and ACCanada innovations without correction (ala Nicea), what does that do? Either the AC means something or it means nothing. What it means is being decided in measured proportion to the errors advocated. There will be majority decision and -no doubt- vociferously minority opinion. The question is whether ECUSA/TEC et alia ecclesia sola cultura will continue to distort the Faith or not. If they don’t “win”, they can establish their own communion and apply the Gamaliel principle within that group. The answer thus far is a resounding “no” to their particular errors by the AC. I have no doubt that will remain the answer. The only doubt is whether ECUSA/TEC et alia have the gumption of their convictions or no. My prediction: the new communion of sola cultura will fail; the Anglican Communion will continue without the ECUSA/TEC.

  13. Bob from Boone says:

    #12, I respectfully disagree with your characterization of the situation. Even granting that what TEC/ACC have done is an “innovation,” it is not the case of them against the rest of the AC, as you imply. Nor is their position “sola cultura”: that is quite a distortion. There is wide-spread agreement that what we have here is a difference of understanding how to interpret Scripture, and even the opponents have acknowledged that our understanding of Scripture may change over time, as it has throughout the history of the Church. I shall continue to point out either/or thinking, which is common on this blog.

    What happens at the next Lambeth Conference, if there is one, remains to be seen. The ABC obviously doesn’t want it to be a meeting in which resolutions are passed. If it were a good Bible study session with an exploration of hermeneutical principles, that would be good for all concerned

  14. Ross says:

    #13 Bob from Boone says:

    What happens at the next Lambeth Conference, if there is one, remains to be seen. The ABC obviously doesn’t want it to be a meeting in which resolutions are passed. If it were a good Bible study session with an exploration of hermeneutical principles, that would be good for all concerned

    I won’t argue that there would be a lot of good in that; but the African churches have a point when they say that it’s a substantial expense for them to come to a Lambeth conference and they have to look at what they can expect to accomplish if they attend. I daresay they would suggest they can get Bible study and hermeneutical principles at home.

    I think a Communion-wide discussion on hermeneutics would be an excellent thing — and I believe there was discussion of such a process at Dar es Salaam — but that won’t be resolved within the space of a single conference and can happen nearly as well over the internet.

    However, whatever else Lambeth does or does not do, the Primates do expect that it will deal with the proposed Covenant — which is to be discussed, amended, and forwarded to the next ACC meeting. So there ought to be at least some “business” going on.

    (Speaking of the Draft Covenant, I sent in my response to it to the Executive Council. Did anyone else? I posted mine here, for the curious. If enough people submitted responses and have them publicly available, it might be interesting to have a thread collecting links to them.)

  15. Bob from Boone says:

    Ross, you make a good point regarding the expense of attending Lambeth 2008 compared with the agenda. However, I would say that some international discussion on the epicopal level on biblical hermeneutics is long overdue, and it needs to be done not within provinces but across them. And the Hermeneutics Project is being put off when it is vitally important that it proceed ASAP. After all, issues of biblical hermeneutics lie at the heart of the present conflict, as everyone seems to agree.

    I sent my assessment of the Draft Covenant to 815, but it is not available on line. I think it is very important that individuals such as ourselves let GC know what we think.