Chris Sugden writes on the "Lambeth Network" and the impact of the 2008 Conference on the Anglican Communion

Here’s an excerpt:

What has or will be the impact of the Conference. It was the conference of what can best be described now as the Lambeth Network in the Communion. At the end, the press were told that the Secretary General of the ACC would be writing to all the absentee bishops to ask for their views on the matters under consideration. Over a month later the letters had not been sent out. But a Primates Meeting of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Network had already had time to make a response:

“We are grateful that there is an acknowledgement that Lambeth 1.10 of 1998 remains an authentic expression of the mind of the Communion. We also note the renewed call for moratoria on the consecration of bishops who are homosexually partnered and the blessing of same-sex unions as well so-called ‘border-crossing’. Likewise there is mention of the creation of a ‘Pastoral Forum’ to look after disaffected parishes or dioceses and continued work on an Anglican Covenant.

They said their “immediate difficulty is that the voice of Lambeth 2008 is seriously weakened because it merely repeated what has been said by the Primates’ Meeting (in Gramado early 2003, Lambeth October 2003, Dromantine, February 2005 and Dar es Salaam, February 2007) and which has proved to change nothing. Indeed the Windsor Continuation Group itself made the same point, ‘The three moratoria have been requested several times: Windsor (2004); Dromantine (2005); Dar es Salaam (2007) and the requests have been less than wholeheartedly embraced on all sides… The failure to respond presents us with a situation where if the three moratoria are not observed the Communion is likely to fracture.’

“We are therefore continually offered the same strategies which mean further delay and unlikely results. Indeed, delay itself seems to be a strategy employed by some in order to resolve the issue through weariness. The Anglican Covenant will take a long time to be widely accepted and may have no particular force when it does. The idea of ‘moratoria’ has never dealt with the underlying problem as is shown by the equivalence of cross-border care and protection with the sexual sins which have caused the problems.

In any case, some North American Bishops appear to have indicated already that they will not keep to them. It appears that people living in a homosexual unions continue to be ordained in some dioceses in contravention to Lambeth 1.10. In principle, this is no different from consecrating a bishop who adopts the same pattern of life, or indeed, of blessing same-sex unions. The idea of the Pastoral Forum has only now emerged but has never been discussed with those actually affected by the innovations which have created the problems with which we are trying to deal. If the Panel of Reference did not work, it is unclear how the Pastoral Forum will succeed.”

There exists some considerable overlap between the two Networks. A number of those who were present at Jerusalem attended Lambeth , and many of those at Lambeth held orthodox convictions as expressed in the minority statements of CAPA, the Global South and the South Asian Bishops.

The FoCA primates were sensitive to this in noting that “Given that some esteemed colleagues from the Global South have strongly commended the Windsor Process to us, we are reluctant to say that it cannot work. But there is nothing new here such as to make us hesitate from the course we are taking, given the urgency of the situations with which we are dealing and the realities already on the ground. As they themselves remark, ‘the Anglican Communion as a communion of ordered churches is at the probable brink of collapse’. We warmly appreciate the good words which they have written about GAFCON and look forward to co-operation with them in the future as we ourselves try to avoid that collapse and renew the Communion.”

It is probable that Global South will work as a geographical network, including more liberal provinces such as Korea and Southern Africa, while the FoCA Anglicans will focus on Anglican identity through faith, as expressed in the Jerusalem Declaration, as a fellowship of orthodox Anglicans globally.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Primates were justified in their assessment of the weakness of the outcome of Lambeth when news broke that Jeffrey John was being considered for nomination to the see of Bangor in Wales in an election set for October 10. As one senior figure commented: Lambeth was only a time-out as in a football game.

All that said, the Conference had an unforgettable conclusion.. As the final service ended in Canterbury Cathedral, the names of nine members of an Anglican Mission Order in Melanesia martyred in 2003 were placed in the chapel of Martyrs of our Time. Their colleagues processed with their names, from the nave up the many steps to the quire screen, singing the most haunting refrain. They passed from sight through the quire screen. But they continued singing. The refrain echoed round the cathedral. It was as though we had seen the martyrs themselves pass into the nearer presence of God, yet their beautiful singing could still he heard. Strong men and women wept.

Read the whole thing here.