Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lambeth and Legitimacy

Lambeth is about legitimacy. It is unpleasant to have to point that fact out, but it is becoming more and more evident as the Conference draws to a close. Consider:

1. All of the buildup and speculation in 2007 to the point when the actual invitations were mailed.

2. The reactions in The Episcopal Church when it was learned that practically all of its bishops had been invited.

3. The reactions in the Anglican Church of Canada when it was learned that all of its bishops had been invited.

4. The initial reactions to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to invite Bishop Robinson, followed by the continued pressure exerted by TEC to allow Bishop Robinson to attend.

5. The reactions in The Episcopal Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to invite the Bishops in CANA or AMiA.

6. The pointed refusal by the Archbishop of Canterbury to reach out to any of the leaders at GAFCON, and his issuing a critique of them instead.

7. The wangling of an invitation for the newly but illegitimately appointed Bishop of San Joaquin, and the decision to spend a significant potion of that fledgling diocese’s kitty to take him and his wife to Canterbury.

8. The reaction in The Episcopal Church again to the news that Bishop Lamb was invited, and that Bishop Schofield would not be attending.

9. The arming of TEC bishops with carefully drafted “position papers” for them to use in the discussion groups, so that they would all be heard with one voice.

10. The concerted circus mounted by Integrity and other LGBT groups around the periphery of the Conference to make their presence known.

11. The spending, again, of a significant sum—reported to be in excess of $70,000—to bring the uninvited Bishop Robinson to Canterbury, along with a security team and a videographer to make a film documentary of his crashing the Conference.

12. And now the latest evidence—the reaction of those at the Conference to the Archbishop of Uganda’s forthright declaration of the reasons his Church did not attend:
I bump into a senior church figure near the Conference's Marketplace, a hangar behind the Sports Centre where you can get dressed as a bishop and buy all their books. I ask him what he makes of remarks from Henri Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, about the Archbishop of Canterbury being little better than a remnant of colonialism and, unlike the Pope, being unelected and appointed by a secular government.

My eminent friend looks distant for a moment. "It's Orombi's way of getting into the conference," he replies. "If he's got something to say to us, he should have come here to say it. It's a sign of how frustrated the boycotters are that the Anglican Communion is getting on with its business without them. And it's a very childish response." [Update 08/01/2008: see more responses here.]

Yes, the Anglican Communion is “getting on with its business”, all right. That business has everything to do with sitting down to talk and talk and talk, and nothing to do with upholding important consensus—such as Resolution 1.10 passed at the previous Lambeth Conference.

Resolution 1.10 has to be one of the most denigrated resolutions ever passed by any body anywhere; in terms of being “honored in the breach more than in the observance,” it is right up there with resolutions passed by the Security Council. The first and most common way to denigrate it is to point out that it is only advisory, and not binding (see p. 8). Yet precisely in that characteristic lies its strength, as expressing the mind of the Anglican Communion. Honoring what it says shows respect for each of the members of that Communion, just as surely as refusing to follow its advice shows profound disrespect.

The second way the Resolution is denigrated is to contend that “things have changed since 1998---what a difference a decade makes.” But as a matter of fact, the bishops at Lambeth now affirm that the majority of them (even without the Ugandan and Nigerian bishops present) would still take the same position today.

The third way it is denigrated is to argue that the Resolution was “rammed through” in 1998 by a conservative wing, well-equipped with pagers and cellular telephones (an innovation adopted by TEC's liberals in 2008), that plied the Africans for their support with chicken dinners. Once again, that assertion is simply untrue.

And the fourth, and most effective, way to denigrate the Resolution is simply to break it, and to do openly that which it advises against. In doing so, of course, you claim that you are being motivated by the Holy Spirit, who is doing “new things” in your Church.

But if you take this last approach, you have a genuine legitimacy problem. Because the Resolution was adopted by a Lambeth Conference, your dishonoring of it cannot be seen as legitimate unless that act is honored—or at least forgiven, or excused—by another Lambeth Conference. Hence stems the struggle to achieve that legitimacy at Lambeth 2008, as witnessed by the evidence cited above.

Another problem, however, comes from the fact that Lambeth 2008 will not be adopting any new Resolutions. So you cannot get an official acknowledgment that your actions contrary to Resolution 1.10 may, in the long run, be seen as adiaphora about which the Communion can agree to disagree.

What, then, do you do? You see to it that the final “Lambeth Reflections” document acknowledges that you were there, that everyone sat down and talked things over with you, that you were heartfelt in your apologies for the consequences of your actions, of which you were totally unaware at the time, and that you will continue to maintain the dialog begun at Lambeth, especially with those with whom you disagree. You make these same points to the press, using your own press conferences as necessary to get out the message. And above all, you see to it that the final document does not contain (a) any condemnation of your actions, (b) any commitment for you to observe a moratorium on future actions, or (c) any indication that you have been asked to withdraw from the instruments of the Communion. And you take your leave, pleasantly satisfied at having accomplished all that was necessary to achieve legitimacy from Lambeth. The money was well spent!

Then you go back to your office and approve the draft of the resolution to depose the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan for “abandonment of the communion of this Church.” Next you check up on the latest in your lawsuit against Bishop Schofield, and you touch base with Bishop Lamb about his plans to depose the sixty-odd clergy who went with +John-David to the Southern Cone.

Oh, yes—and you send a thank-you letter to ++Rowan for his hospitality to you at Lambeth.


  1. To repeat what you said, from the TEC progressives' perspective, the goal now is to ensure that the final Reflections document does not contain:
    (a) any condemnation of their actions,
    (b) any commitment for them to observe a moratorium on future actions, or
    (c) any indication that they have been asked to withdraw from the instruments of the Communion.

  2. Exactly right, Perpetua. And now watch it happen.

    The only thing left to worry about is what the Windsor Continuation Group reports to the Anglican Consultative Council next April---and TEC can count on a lot of support there.