Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Lambeth 1930: Global discipline belongs to the Provinces

(Ed: This important piece by Roger Beckwith should be read alongside the letter from ABp Rowan Williams to Bp John Howe. Roger Beckwith's longer treatment may be found here and here as pdf documents. His essay, 'The Church of England: what it is and what it stands for', may be downloaded here.)

[...] Paragraph 8 here is of critical significance. After having fully recognised in paragraphs 4 and 7 the autonomy of the regional provinces (on which ECUSA today so much insists), and after having balanced it in paragraphs 4 and 5 by stressing the common faith and order which binds the provinces together (much in the manner of the Windsor Report), paragraph 8 adds three crucial corollaries: (i) it would be possible, though the committee hopes it would never happen, for a province so to emphasise its autonomy as to cause serious damage to common faith and order; (ii) if this happened, the Lambeth Conference could give advice, but could not take disciplinary action (and the same would apply to the other Instruments of Unity); and (iii) ‘formal action would belong to the several Churches of the Anglican Communion individually.’

Applying this to our present situation, the Lambeth Conference in 1998 passed by a very large majority resolution 1.10, opposing the ordination of practising homosexuals and the blessing of homosexual unions; the American and Canadian Churches appeared to defy this advice; the Primates Meeting several times reiterated the advice, and set a deadline for changing course and conforming to it; in the meantime, a number of individual Churches exercised their right of ‘formal action’ and excommunicated ( or declared themselves in impaired communion with ) ECUSA; having done so, they rightly regarded the Lambeth resolution against crossing boundaries as irrelevant, and (in the patristic manner) made separate Episcopal provision for orthodox adherents in areas dominated by heresy; and for this they were unjustly condemned by the Windsor Report, in language stronger than it uses for the heretics themselves, and the bishops they appointed have not been invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, though the erring American (and Canadian) bishops have. Read more

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