Lambeth Update: Is something ticking?

George Conger reports from here:

A “bombshell” report is expected to be delivered to bishops attending the 14th Lambeth Conference on July 28 that is expected to call for the Episcopal Church to abandon its push for gay bishops and blessings.

The request is expected to come in the third presentation of the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) to the bishops at Lambeth and follows a call for the creation of an Anglican Holy Office to police the boundaries of the faith.

Backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican “Faith and Order Commission” will be a fifth instrument of unity for the Anglican Communion.

Plans for were disclosed on July 23 during the second of three briefings on the work of the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) chaired by the former Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Clive Handford.

In its briefing paper to the bishops, the WCG commended the creation of an “Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on the ecclesiological issues raised by our current ‘crisis’.”

The Anglican Inquisition proposal came in the last sentence of the briefing paper delivered by Bishop Handford to the bishops. “One person said it would be a good thing and welcomed it,” Bishop Handford explained, but noted there was little substantive discussion of the proposal by the bishops.

Created by Dr. Rowan Williams to advise him on “matters arising from the Windsor Report,” the WCG has prepared three briefings for the bishops that asks “Where we are now”, “Where we should be?”, and “How do we get from here to there.”

The first two briefings addressed the “severity of the situation” within the Communion, focusing on the “inconsistency between the stated intent and the reality” of the steps taken by the Episcopal Church to conform to the primates’ request.”

“The implications of requests and responses are either not fully thought through or they are disregarded. The consequences of actions have not always been adequately addressed,” they said.

The first presentation by Bishop Handford also addressed issues of trust. “Positions and arguments are becoming more extreme: not moving towards one another, relationships in the Communion continue to deteriorate, there is little sense of mutual accountability,” the briefing said.

The state of the Episcopal Church was one of “turmoil” the briefing said, with parishes and dioceses seceding to join other provinces, and “litigation and interventions” becoming “locked into a vicious spiral.”

In discussion following the first presentation, 21 bishops spoke, of whom 17 were white Western bishops. Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy (Illinois) spoke of the difficulties faced by traditionalists in the United States, while Bishop Peter Beckwith of Springfield (Illinois) enumerated the innovations of doctrine and discipline that have occurred in the Episcopal Church in recent years.

However, the majority of speakers at the closed-door session came from the Episcopal Church’s liberal wing, and argued the American church was being unfairly caricatured. Bishop James Mathes of San Diego complained of cross-border interventions into his diocese by overseas primates, while other bishops suggested the wider Communion did not understand the unique circumstances of the United States.

On July 25, the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Rev John B Chane dismissed comments made by the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez that the American church was unravelling. Archbishop Gomez’s observations were “dishonest”, Bishop Chane told his American counterparts.

The second briefing on July 23 discussed the Covenant process that would establish “communion with autonomy and accountability” for the Anglican provinces. There was a “lack of clarity” about the current instruments of Communion, the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting, and their “ecclesiological significance” needed to be reviewed as “whether they are fit to respond effectively to the demands of global leadership.”

A fifth instrument of unity, the Faith and Order Commission should be established to assist the work of the other four bodies, the WCG recommended. Dr Williams said he “didn’t want to be specific” about the new Office, and its inclusion was a “flag raised to see who salutes.”

A “great head of steam was building behind” the Office, and he believed it was necessary to create “another instrument to sort out these issues” facing the Communion.

The archbishop denied suggestions the Office was a start of the curialisation of the Anglican Communion. He was seeking “consent, not coercion,” adding “we will fly farther apart” unless “protocols and conventions” are adopted.

Dr Williams said he had a “sense” that the bishops at Lambeth believed it was “worth working at staying together,” for the “unity and cooperation of the Communion is no small thing.”

Bishop Handford said the first two briefings had been “well received” by the bishops. The presentations were “doing what we hoped they would do” and were “stimulating conversation” amongst the bishops. People were “informally talking with one another.”

Bishops who had seen a draft of the third briefing told it would be a “bombshell” and intimated it would press the Episcopal Church to honor the Windsor Report and Dar es Salaam communiqué.

Bishop Handford declined to comment on the content of the final paper, but said “some may hear something ticking. I don’t know.”

The third WCG paper will be presented to the bishops on July 28.