Canterbury at the end of the Lambeth conference has become the land of many statements and restatements. But as predicted, there was no definitive action.
In summary, here are some of the things that did and did not happen:
1. Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson did not gain official entrance to Lambeth. But he was frequently on site at the University of Kent, to the joy of some and the disgust of others.
2. Lambeth's 600 plus bishops (no official count or list has been released) did not approve an Anglican Convenant. Much discussion was held and more meetings on the covenant are expected lasting into 2009.
3. The Anglican Communion did avoid a formal split or schism. Yet even Rowan Williams admits the communion is still at 'gravel peril.'
4. Lambeth-attending conservative bishops and primates did voice much criticism of liberals and revisionist theology. But as yet the rhetoric of conservatives has not resulted in all revisionists clearly agreeing to bans on same-sex unions and gay ordinations.
The word stalemate still seems to fit this situation.
According to the Press Association (UK):
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on North American churches to abide by agreements not to consecrate gay bishops or carry out blessings on same-sex couples. On the final day of the Lambeth Conference, Dr Rowan Williams put forward the idea of a "Covenanted future" involving a "global church of inter-dependent communities". The once-a-decade meeting of worldwide bishops has been dominated by the issue of gay clergy and same sex unions, which has threatened to tear the Church apart. Disharmony has seen 200 bishops - a quarter of those invited - stage a boycott. Some Anglican churches in North America have carried out blessings for same sex couples, in contravention of agreements not to do so, or moratoria. "If the North American churches don't accept the need for moratoria then to say the least we are no further forward," Dr Williams said. "The idea of a Covenant which includes as many of them as possible becomes more fragile and that means that as a Communion we continue to be in grave peril." He said it was often assumed that the blessing of same sex marriages or the ordination of gay bishops was simply a human rights issue. "That's an assumption I can't accept because I think the issue about what conditions a church lays down for a blessing have to be shaped by its own thinking and its own praying."
Click here for the sermon text for the final Lambeth service at Canterbury Cathdral. This seems more significant for what Rowan Williams doesn't say. He seems to place an unusually high value on the fact of conversation, not the results of conversation, debate, and dialog.
The Indaba process resulted in a lengthy reflections statement. Click here for the final Aug. 3 text.
Reporter Steve Waring (Living Church) indicates that once again many important conversations will be taken up months from now. Something sure to frustrate conservatives, liberals, and rank and file church-goers.
1. Steve Waring's dispatch.
2. Statement from Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori
3. Additional comments from conservative Bishop of Egypt Mouneer Anis.
The final "Lambeth Indaba" reflections document suggests that "a season of gracious restraint" may be the best way to resolve disagreement over the scope and duration of a moratorium on the consecration of partnered homosexual persons as bishop, the celebration of public rites of same-sex blessings and cross-border incursions by overseas bishops. The document was released Aug. 3, the final day of the 20-day gathering of Anglican bishops.
"The moratoria can be taken as a sign of the bishops' affection, trust and goodwill towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and one another," the 42-page reflection paper suggests. "The moratoria will be difficult to uphold, although there is a desire to do so from all quarters. There are questions to be clarified in relation to how long the moratoria are intended to serve."
The section of the reflections document titled "The Windsor Process" also notes clear majority support for creation of a "Pastoral Forum" to resolve serious disputes.
"Many felt strongly that the forum could operate in a province only with the consent of that province and in particular with the consent of the primate or the appropriate body," the document states. "It is essential that this should be properly funded and resourced if it has any chance of being productive. There was some support for an alternative suggestion: to appoint in any dispute, a pastoral visitor, working with a professional arbitrator and to create in the Communion a ?pool' of such visitors."
Questions as to the nature and length of a proposed moratorium and the proposal to establish a pastoral forum will be referred to the Windsor Continuation Group. Last February, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams announced appointment of a six-member group which includes Bishop Gary Lillibridge of West Texas. The Windsor Continuation Group will prepare a document for consideration by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), which meets next May in Jamaica.
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Many bishops came to this gathering in fear and trembling, expecting either a distasteful encounter between those of vastly different opinions, or the cold shoulder from those who disagree. The overwhelming reality has been just the opposite. We have prayed, cried, learned, and laughed together, and discovered something deeper about the body of Christ. We know more of the deeply faithful ministry of those in vastly differing contexts, and we have heard repeatedly of the life and death matters confronting vast swaths of the Communion: hunger, disease, lack of education and employment, climate change, war and violence. We have remembered that together we may be the largest network on the planet ? able to respond to those life and death issues if we tend to the links, connections, and bonds between us. We have not resolved the differences among us, but have seen the deep need to maintain relationships, even in the face of significant disagreement and discomfort. The Anglican Communion is suffering the birth pangs of something new, which none of us can yet fully appreciate or understand, yet we know that the Spirit continues to work in our midst. At the same time patience is being urged from many quarters, that all may more fully know the leading of the Spirit. God is faithful. May we be faithful as well.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
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From comments to the Lambeth news media from Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt:
I was greatly encouraged by the truthful and realistic assessment made by The Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) about the situation of the Communion. Their recommendation of retrospective moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions, the ordination of active gay and lesbian people and upon interventions across boundaries are indeed the only way forward to mend the torn fabric of the Communion. Their proposal of "A pastoral Forum" if fully implemented, could protect the orthodox within TEC. These recommendations will help to stop further splits and will put an end to interventions. The big question is: will the Episcopal Church in North Armerica (TEC) accept these recommendations? Will TEC recognise the importance of mutual submission?
This is a way ahead that could prevent future crises. It can enhance our interdependence in essentials while also preserving our appropriate administrative autonomy and local identities. Some TEC bishops resist the idea of the covenant as they see it as punitive and limiting of their sense of control. They think that it will restrict them from responding to the needs of their culture which they feel should have priority. But sadly, it must be asked, if they are not willing to abide by the mind of the church why do they say the Communion is important to them?
If TEC and Canada do not accept the Covenant recommend?ations they will leave the wider Communion with the one option that was recommended by the Windsor Report and the Dar es Salam Primates' Meeting. This was for them to withdraw from internationalAnglican Councils and bodies. This will create a safe distance for them to consider their priorities, while also allowing the wider communion to move forward with its shared priorities and mission and to clear away the mess created by the current crisis.