..Here is something I wrote after the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
In 1978 Archbishop Joseph Adetoloye of Nigeria stood at the microphone at the Lambeth Conference for 30 minutes waiting to be recognized. For all that time, the chair continued to recognize bishops from Western Provinces at other microphones and overlooked Archbishop Joseph.
When he was finally recognized, he said, “Here at this meeting, I have struggled to be recognized by the chair, but it will not always be this way.” He went on to prophesy, “In ten years time in 1988 the voice of the Africans will not only be allowed, it will be sought. In 1998,” he said, “The Global South bishops (especially those in Africa) will set the agenda.”
At the Lambeth Conference in 1998, that is exactly what happened.
Now this year in January 2016 the Primates gathered for the first time in a number of years. Many of the Primates were new. In fact, 21 had never been to a Primates meeting before. They met, prayed, talked, and worked, agreeing to measures to discipline the Episcopal Church for their General Convention decision in 2015 to change marriage to be between any two people, whether same or opposite sexes. There was also a new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Only this time, the new Archbishop actually let the Primates set their own agenda. Many Primates told me that they thought the conversations and prayers were genuine and they did not feel manipulated. Some were less sanguine, but it was certainly better than the last few meetings which were completely manipulated.
The result of the meeting was interesting. There was a very narrow decision to limit the Episcopal Church from participating in Communion life in three areas:
– Doctrinal Conversations
– Decisions of Polity
– Ecumenical Conversations
As I said, that was extremely limited and was just a slap on the wrist, but it was very significant because 33 of the Primates wanted to see the Episcopal Church disciplined in one way or another. In addition, the discipline that they imposed was motivated by using Scripture as the standard. That is really huge.
Now, however, there is an institutional crisis. Immediately following the Primates’ Meeting, TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry admitted that TEC had changed core doctrine about marriage and that he understood that people would be upset about that. Now that he has been back in the shark pond here at home, suddenly he is now saying that changing the definition of marriage is not a change to core doctrine. Furthermore, he said that the Primates can only decide things that relate to the Primates Meeting. He claims that nothing the Primates said applies to the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. That was certainly not the understanding of the Primates! They thought that the discipline to which they agreed would be applied everywhere across the Anglican Communion..