This blog contains the third part of my paper tracing the development of Anglican thinking about the nature of the Anglican Communion. This part covers the development of this thinking from the 1984 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council to publication of the Anglican Communion Covenant in 2009.
Because the concluding reflections at the end of this part were written in the autumn of 2010 they are now dated. Were they to be written today they would need to include the failure of the Anglican Communion Covenant proposal due to its rejection by the Church of England, the fact that a number of other Anglican provinces have followed the example of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in departing from the position of human sexuality agreed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the development of GAFCON as a major player in Global Anglicanism and the publication of a new Anglican covenant proposal (the ‘Cairo Covenant’) by the Anglican churches of the Global south in 2019.
15. The Anglican Consultative Council 1984
The nature of Anglicanism
At the sixth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, held at Badagry in Nigeria in July 1984 a new Section of the Council was established to look at ‘Dogmatic and Pastoral Matters.’ This new Section began its work by looking at the question ‘What is Anglicanism’. The report from the Section states that in answer to this question:
‘We were agreed that the Anglican Communion is not to be understood as a confessional church in the accepted reformation sense. Whatever place the Thirty Nine Articles have occupied in the life of the Church of England (and even there a shift of emphasis has occurred in recent years) the commitment of other provinces to them has been much less. Nevertheless, the Communion seeks to be loyal to the apostolic faith and to safeguard it and express it in Catholic order always to be reformed by the standards of Scripture. It allows for a responsible freedom of the faith within a fellowship committed to the expression of that faith.’
The report goes on to note that:
‘The Lambeth Conference of 1948 spoke of Anglicanism as committed to ‘dispersed authority.’ In terms of standards of belief that was taken to mean that in Scriptures, tradition, the creeds, reason, the witness of saints, our forms of worship, and the consensus fidelium we may find the answer to the question ‘What are Christians to believe?’ As has already been indicated in the reference to reformation by Scripture, the Bible bears a primary authority as containing the foundation documents of the Church and the record of the apostolic witness.’
While noting what was said in 1948, the report maintains that there is more to be said about the way in which the Anglican ethos has been shaped by the history of Anglicanism. This ethos, it says:
‘….is a way of thinking and of feeling that has developed over the centuries which calls for an acceptance of measures of diversity, an openness, tolerance and mutual respect towards others. As the Primates’ Meeting in October 1983 indicated, the Reformation, in human terms, arose out of and was influenced by the Renaissance with its new way of thinking and feeling about human experience. The past was not radically discarded, but it was subjected to examination in a new spirit of enquiry that sought to apply the gospel to the whole of life. In turn Anglicanism has been further influenced by the great movements of society (e.g. the Enlightenment and the Romantic Movement) so that it is not possible simply to reiterate in every generation the statements of the 16th century Reformation in England, Indeed, with the spread of Anglicanism across the world an ethos tied to Church life in England four centuries ago would be moribund and a denial of the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit in each succeeding age. The ethos has developed and must continue to develop in all the varied cultures to be found within the Communion.’
The report further argues that the consequence of the spread of Anglicanism across the globe is that there is also now ‘dispersed authority’ in the secondary sense of dispersed centres of power or decision making. It notes that there are now 27 ‘autonomous’ churches or provinces, each containing dioceses within ‘considerable independence’ (although dioceses and provinces are ‘expected to take note of the rest of the Communion in making their own decisions’) and that there are now four sources of authority covering the Communion as a whole, the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC and the Primates Meeting. 
Finally, the report observes that although the Book of Common Prayer is no longer basic to Anglican unity it would be a mistake ‘not to see the results of its influence in family resemblances and in the very idea of a book of common prayer for provinces.’
Moreover, recent movements of liturgical renewal have helped Anglican churches:
‘…to look together with other churches for a similar basic pattern of Eucharistic worship on which variations can be made. There are ways in which, as we draw closer to other churches, we also draw closer within Anglicanism. The work of liturgical scholarship has helped us to see an undergirding liturgical pattern and structure within which we can enjoy diversity without threatening a basic unity.’
‘The development and use of common English texts for such staples of our worship as the Lord’s Prayer, the creeds, the sanctus and Gloria (and there will be more future efforts along these lines) has further contributed to a sense of common prayer, ecumenically and in Communion, as has also the use of common lectionaries. Similar liturgical calendars (especially in the western church) have been another linking factor. Use of the Anglican Cycle of Prayer has led to a significant sense of common life and mission in Anglicanism.’
16. For the Sake of the Kingdom 1986
Further attention was given to the issue of the effect of the proclamation of the Christian message in diverse cultural contexts in the first report of the newly established Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, For the Sake of the Kingdom – God’s Church and the New Creation, which was published in 1986.
The brief which the Commission was asked to address was:
‘Church and Kingdom in Creation and Redemption, being a study of the relationship between the Church of God as experienced and the Kingdom of God as anticipated, with special reference to the diverse and changing cultural contexts in which the Gospel is proclaimed, received, and lived.’
The report summarises its response to this brief in Chapter 10 ‘The Church and the Mystery of God’s Kingdom.’ This chapter notes, first of all, that:
‘It has been the boast – and not infrequently the achievement – of churches in the Anglican tradition to encompass differing styles of piety, differing idioms in theology, and differing agenda for Christian witness and action. At times this has been accomplished only at the cost of vagueness in teaching, refusal to address fundamental theological issues, and a settled bias against serious and rigorous theological thinking. It remains true, however, that there is a legitimate – and indeed a necessary -place in Christian life for pluriformity; and it has been the genius of Anglicanism to recognize this in practice, even if Anglicans have not always troubled themselves to reflect critically on the grounds and limits of such pluriformity.’
In order to reflect critically on plurality, the report says, one has to start from the recognition that the Church only exists in particular times and places and the Church’s life and witness has to reflect this fact:
‘If the church, because it lives ‘in Christ’ by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, is a sign and agent of God’s Kingdom in and for the world, it is so – always and necessarily- in a radically ‘located’ fashion. The church exists in particular places and at particular times, and the truth which its life and action carry is conveyed only to the extent that it too is ‘located’. This means, as we have seen, that Christians in a given place and time both will and must share the cultural idiom of their geographical and social locale. It also means that their life and witness both will and must address the issues, moral and political, with which historical circumstance confronts them in that locale. The church belongs to all its many places and times, and it is in this fact that its legitimate pluriformity is, in the end, rooted.’
However, although the Church exists in particular times and places, it does not ‘have the source and principle of its life in any one society or culture or in any group of them.’ The Church lives:
‘….only in and from that transcendent ‘horizon’ of human life which is the Kingdom of God as realized in the risen Christ, and it exists to be a sign of that Kingdom in and for the many social and cultural ‘places’ in which it lives.’
Because this is the case it follows that even for Anglicans there can be
‘…no careless or unqualified affirmation of ‘belonging’ and of pluralism. It is not enough to speak a language ‘understood of the people’; that language, whether spoken or acted, must convey, in its place, the ‘beyond’ of God’s grace and judgement in Christ. The idiom may be – indeed it is -manifold; but still ‘there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all’ (Eph. 4.4-6).’ 
The unity to which Ephesians refers is found, the report says:
‘… precisely through the continuing fellowship of churches that belong in different places. For Anglicans, such fellowship is based in a common set of institutions: Scriptures, ecumenical creeds, sacraments, the historic threefold ministry. It comes to practical expression, however, through practical acts of sharing, through mutual consultation, and through mutual admonition and criticism.’
Pluralism can ‘serve the cause of a deeper and fuller understanding of the Gospel and so of a deeper and fuller unity in Christ’ but it can only do so if:
‘…churches do not eschew their responsibility to one another, a responsibility that includes hearing as well as speaking, learning as well as teaching. And this in turn can only occur, in the Anglican Communion, through a common willingness to take up difficult – even divisive – issues for the sake of the truth of the Gospel. For too long Anglicans have appeared willing to evade responsible theological reflection and dialogue by acquiescing automatically and immediately in the co-existence of incompatible views, opinions, and policies.’
Concluding its argument the report contends that:
‘To affirm pluralism, then, is to affirm not one but two things. On the one hand it means to assert that there is good in the existence and continuing integrity of a variety of traditions and ways of life; on the other hand, it means to assert that there is good in their interplay and dialogue. For Christians, moreover, such affirmation of pluralism has a special meaning. It embodies a recognition that every human culture has God’s Kingdom as its horizon in creation and redemption. At the same time, it acknowledges that, in the dialogue between traditions, people’s understanding of the meaning of God’s Kingdom, and of the Christ who bears it, may be enhanced. Pluralism, when understood in this way, is a stimulus to the repentance by which believers discern and turn to God’s Kingdom.
It is important to reiterate, however, that the stimulus to repentance is not the same as its ground. It is not pluralism, but the risen Christ as the bearer of God’s reign, who is the ground of Christian repentance as well as of Christian faith, because he is the one in whom the unity of humankind is established and promised. Pluralism is to be affirmed not as it divides people, and not as a recipe for indifferentism, but as the context in which the heirs of God’s Kingdom may engage with one another more richly and variously than hitherto and may thus be enabled the better to know and to follow Christ – the Second Adam, the new humanity – who embodies the mystery of God’s Kingdom, and into whom all are called to ‘grow up’.’
17.The Anglican Consultative Council 1987
The instruments of communion
The seventh meeting of the ACC, was held in Singapore in 1987. It produced a report ‘on the way authority is experienced in the Anglican Communion’ entitled ‘Unity in diversity within the Anglican Communion: a way forward.’ This report notes the existence of four ‘instruments for maintaining the unity and diversity of the Anglican Communion,’ the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the ACC and the Primates Meeting. It explains that these instruments ‘have a moral authority and may express the mind of the communion’, but that authority at the international or communion wide level consists only in ‘the power to persuade.’ This means, the report declares, that ‘it is not possible to speak of an Anglican Church but rather of an Anglican family of churches with particular instruments to promote and express their unity.’
Although these instruments have worked well hitherto ‘there is a growing awareness of the need to reform them’ in the face of a growing threat to the unity of the Communion resulting from increased diversity:
‘Until recently, Anglican enjoyed a unified ministry, a common prayer book, sacramental agreement and a common credal faith. Each of these is in turn being challenged or questioned by the ordination of women, the emergence of indigenous liturgies, new approaches to initiation and theological exploration. Renewal movements and different understandings of the mission of the Church are also threatening Anglican unity.’
The report notes that:
‘Current thinking reminds us of the provisional nature of the Church as we move towards that unity which is the will of Christ. The reform of Anglican structures can only be fully justified if they help better to serve Christ’s universal mission.’
It also suggests that:
‘The existing four-fold instruments of unity have worked because of the willingness of the constituent Provinces, linked by ‘bonds of affection’ to make them work and be a family. It can be said that each Province belongs to the Anglican Communion ’because it wants to.’ This principle is expected to continue to govern Anglican understandings of authority.’
This being the case, the report says, in any future evolution of the instruments they will continue to be ‘consultative in style and persuasive in terms of authority.’
ACC 7 also passed a resolution on united churches, which, like the Church of South India, had incorporated former Anglican churches. Like the Lambeth Conference of 1958 it suggested that they should be admitted as full members of the instruments of communion:
‘Resolution 17: United Churches in Full Communion
That this Council: resolves that the ACC should now move towards normal membership of the Council for all united Churches with which the Churches of the Anglican Communion are in full communion (i.e. the Church of South India, the Church of North India, the Church of Pakistan and the Church of Bangladesh); requests the Lambeth Conference of 1988 and the Primates’ Meeting of 1989 similarly to consider full membership of those bodies for united Churches in full communion.’
The Lambeth Conference and the Primates meeting agreed to this request from the ACC at their subsequent meetings.
18. The Lambeth Conference 1988
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s opening address
Like the previous Lambeth Conference, the 1988 Lambeth Conference was faced with division over the issue of the ordination of women, the particularly divisive issue on this occasion being the proposal by the American Church to ordain a woman to the episcopate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, addressed the question of potential division directly in his opening address to the Conference. In this address he declares that:
‘There are real and serious threats to our unity and communion and I do not underestimate them. Some of them are the result of Gospel insights; for example the proper dignity of women in a Christian society. We need to recognise that our unity is threatened over the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate in whatever we ultimately decide to do. There are dangers to our communion in this Lambeth Conference endorsing or failing to endorse such developments. And there are equal dangers to communion by trying to avoid the issue altogether.
Such conflict is particularly painful, because the glue which binds us together is not so much juridical, but personal, informal and expressed in worship. An impairment of communion for Anglicans is not essentially about canon law but at the much deeper personal level of sharing in the Eucharistic worship of the Holy Trinity. So, we tend to shy away from a conflict which has such destructive potential.’
According to Archbishop Runcie, however, to seek to avoid conflict for this reason would be a ‘serious mistake’ for two reasons.
‘Firstly, if handled creatively, conflict is ‘an essential part of the processes whereby the Church speaks with a living voice.’ As far back as the debate about the admission of Gentiles into the Early Church, conflict is, and always has been, a necessary component of the church’s discernment of truth.’
Secondly the real issue facing the Communion is not conflict over the ordination of women as such, but the bigger issue of the relation of independent provinces to each other.
As the Archbishop sees it:
‘The New Testament surely speaks more in terms of ‘interdependence’ than ‘independence.’ The relationship of Jesus with the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit as witnessed in St John’s Gospel surely gives us the pattern of Christian relationship. Life together in communion implies basic trust and mutuality. Think of St. Paul speaking of life in the Body in the first letter to the Corinthians: ‘The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need for you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.’ (1 Cor 12.21). The good of the body requires mutual recognition and deference in Christ. Or think of Paul’s collection for the saints in Jerusalem, a practical expression of communion on the theological ground of unity in Christ.’
The question the Archbishop thinks the Communion is now facing is ‘are we being called through events and their theological interpretation to move from independence to interdependence?’ and underlying this is the more fundamental question:
‘….do we really want unity within the Anglican Communion? Is our worldwide family of Christians worth bonding together? Or is our paramount concern the preservation or promotion of that particular expression of Anglicanism which has developed within the culture of our own province? Wouldn’t it be easier and more realistic to work towards exclusively European, or North American, or African, or Pacific forms of Anglicanism? Yes, it might. Cultural adaptation would be easier. Mission would be easier. Local ecumenism would be easier. Do we actually need a worldwide Communion?
I believe we do because Anglicans believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creed. I believe we do because we live in one world created and redeemed by God. I believe we do because it is only by being in communion together that diversity and difference have value. Without relationship difference divides.’
Anglican decision making
The Section of the Conference looking at ‘Dogmatic and Pastoral Concerns’ examined the issue of decision making within the Anglican Communion. Its report argues that there are two aspects two Anglican decision making.
The first is reception:
‘Reception is a gradual and dynamic process. It means the way by which the people of God as a whole actively responds to decisions made by synods and councils. This is a process which takes time and is always open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within the community. Until such a process is complete there is necessarily a ‘provisionality’ about decisions taken by synods and councils of the Church. A matter cannot be deemed to be settled without reception. It is still possible for those decisions to be modified, or even reversed, even though they have been accepted and even acted on by provincial synods and endorsed by a majority of bishops at the Lambeth Conference.’
The second is discovering the ‘mind’ of a Province, a Communion or the whole Church. The report suggests that this needs to involve not only ‘the achieving of certain thought out and stipulated majorities in synods at the appropriate level’, but also ensuring that ‘all arguments have been put to the community and heard by it, that people are not being swept forward without understanding the implications of what is being agreed, and that there is indeed secure maximum agreement.’
As the report see it, it is necessary that a Province or the Communion as a whole can have ‘confidence in its decisions’, even when individuals or groups continue to disagree with them but it is also ‘important to make room for dissent within the reception process.’ This means that:
‘We need to satisfy one another that the exercise of authority through the structures of our Communion and the pronouncing of decisions do indeed carry weight, but that there is also a place for continuing debate, even conflict.’
Women in the episcopate
In the event, the Lambeth Conference in 1988 answered Archbishop Runcie’s opening questions by deciding that it did want to maintain the unity of the Communion even in the face of strong differences over the ordination of women. A report from a committee chaired by the Primate of Australia, John Grindrod, (the ‘Grindrod Report’) had presented the Conference with two ways of handling the American proposal to ordain women to the Episopate. The first was to ask a province that wanted to move in this direction to restrain itself from taking this step, the second was to agree to it taking this step provided that it presented it to the Communion as a whole for reception.
The conference took the second option, passing Resolution 1 ‘The Ordination of Consecration of Woman to the Episcopate.’ This resolution was based on four principles put forward in the section report on ‘Mission and Ministry.’ These principles were based on previous decisions by Lambeth Conferences and by the ACC and, in line with the guidelines for Anglican decision making just noted, allowed for the making of decisions while providing space for reception and continuing dissent. The principles were:
- ‘the integrity of each Province to pursue the matter in its own time and in its own way in response to God’s call in mission;
- the recognition that, in determining practice on this issue, any diocese or Province must have the substantial support of its people;
- that in the process of reception the issue continues to be tested until it is clearly accepted or not accepted by the whole Church;
- it is important that Provinces should respect each other’s processes in this matter and also that they should communicate fully their decisions with each other.’
The Resolution itself declared:
‘This Conference resolves:
1 That each province respect the decision and attitudes of other provinces in the ordination or consecration of women to the episcopate, without such respect necessarily indicating acceptance of the principles involved, maintaining the highest possible degree of communion with the provinces which differ.
2 That bishops exercise courtesy and maintain communications with bishops who may differ, and with any woman bishop, ensuring an open dialogue in the Church to whatever extent communion is impaired.
3 That the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the primates, appoints a commission:
a) to provide for an examination of the relationships between provinces of the Anglican Communion and ensure that the process of reception includes continuing consultation with other Churches as well; b) to monitor and encourage the process of consultation within the Communion and to offer further pastoral guidelines.
4 That in any province where reconciliation on these issues is necessary, any diocesan bishop facing this problem be encouraged to seek continuing dialogue with, and make pastoral provision for, those clergy and congregations whose opinions differ from those of the bishop, in order to maintain the unity of the diocese.
5 Recognises the serious hurt which would result from the questioning by some of the validity of the episcopal acts of a woman bishop, and likewise the hurt experienced by those whose conscience would be offended by the ordination of a woman to the episcopate. The Church needs to exercise sensitivity, patience and pastoral care towards all concerned.’
In addition, the Conference also passed Resolution 18 with the intention that the measures contained in it would help to address the issues of the unity of the Communion raised by the women bishops debate by providing deeper theological insight as to the nature of communion and establishing the Primates Meeting as an agreed forum giving guidance to provinces on contentious matters.
‘1. Resolves that the new Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (or a specially appointed inter-Anglican commission) be asked to undertake as a matter of urgency a further exploration of the meaning and nature of communion; with particular reference to the doctrine of the Trinity, the unity and order of the Church, and the unity and community of humanity.
2.(a) Urges that encouragement be given to a developing collegial role for the Primates Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.
(b) Recommends that in the appointment of any future Archbishop of Canterbury, the Crown Appointments Commission be asked to bring the Primates of the Communion into the process of consultation.’
The explanatory note to Resolution 18 explains the thinking behind the Resolution:
‘On 1 above. If there is the possibility of ordination of women bishops in some Provinces, it will throw into sharper focus the present impaired nature of communion. It is a matter of urgency that we have a further theological enquiry into and reflection on the meaning of communion in a Trinitarian context for the Anglican Communion. This, more than structures, will provide a theological framework in which differences can be handled.
On 2 above. We see an enhanced role for the Primates as a key to the growth of interdependence within the Communion. We do not see any inter-Anglican jurisdiction as possible or desirable; an inter-Anglican synodical structure would be virtually unworkable and highly expensive. A collegial role for the Primates by contrast could be easily developed, and their collective judgement and advice would carry considerable weight.
If this is so, it is neither improper nor out of place to suggest that part of of the consultative process prior to the appointment of a future Archbishop of Canterbury should be with the Primates.’
19. Women in the Anglican Episcopate 1989-1993
Following the passing of Resolution 1, Archbishop Runcie established the ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Communion and Women in the Episcopate,’ known as the ‘Eames Commission’ after its Chairman, Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh.
In the first report of this Commission it is argued that we have to recognize that ‘there never has been a time when ecclesial communion has perfectly reflected the unity which is both God’s gift and promise.’
It is noted that this can be seen both from a study of the New Testament and from a study of the subsequent history of the Church.
‘…in the New Testament we read of the scandal of Christians taking each other to court because they will not resolve their differences within the Church (cf 1 Cor 6:1,11) . Nor, in the case of St Paul’s dispute with the Judaizers in the church of Galatia was the New Testament unfamiliar with the questioning of apostolic credentials (cf Gal 1 and 2:1-14). But in both cases St Paul writes to the churches urging them to continue to strive for unity and communion. Meanwhile, in the Council of Jerusalem (cf Gal 2:1-10, Acts 15, 1,35) we see the maintenance of communion through mutual acceptance and respect and the toleration of a diversity of practice.
Within the broader perspective of Christian history since New Testament times, the Church has continued to find ways of maintaining the highest degree of communion possible in the face of sharp doctrinal disagreement and diversity of practice. Where there has been real ecclesial division – as between the Christian East and West there often continued to be a real mutual recognition. Even where mutual persecutions disfigured the body of Christ, as between those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon (451) and those who did not – mutual recognition and reconciliation now develops. In the Christian West the communities of the Reformation and Counter Reformation are slowly learning that our baptismal unity has never been destroyed and true communion has always existed and is now deepened through common prayer, theological dialogue and pastoral and missionary collaboration.’
In the light of this history, the report says, Anglicans should refrain from declaring that they are out of communion with each other because of differences over the ordination of women:
‘A real degree of authentic communion is entailed from the common recognition of baptism among separated churches. It follows that no Province or individual bishop still less priest or lay person, can meaningfully declare themselves to be categorically out of communion with another Province or bishop.’
Nevertheless, it does have to be acknowledged that:
‘…at the level of ecclesial communion, which has always included the mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries, there is an actual diminishment of the degree of communion among the Provinces of the Anglican Communion.’ 
In this situation in which members of the Anglican Communion are in real but diminished communion with each other ‘both protagonists and antagonists of the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate should consider carefully what anomalies they are prepared to accept for the sake of unity.’ This means, according to the report, that:
‘Both sides would have to acknowledge that the other’s position might, in the long run, prove to be the mind of the Church. It is, for example, possible that in the centuries to come Rome and Orthodoxy would join the consensus in favour. Equally, women’s ordination may come to be rejected.’
For opponents of women’s ordination acceptance of anomaly would mean ‘respect and courtesy for all those whom the Church has ordained to a ministry of word and sacrament by prayer and the laying on of hands, female as well as male.’ 
For supporters it would mean ‘respect and courtesy for those who dissent by the toleration of the institutional means for their continuance in the Church and a practice which would ensure the maximum recognition from those ordained by a women bishop.’
The report stresses that such acceptance of anomaly:
‘…is not the compromise of truth. It is to take seriously the imperative to maintain the unity of the church. When St. Paul is faced with dissension in a matter of faith and discipline in the Church of Corinth, his practical solution is to exhort the Corinthians to avoid doing anything offensive to anyone out of consideration for the scruples of others (1 Cor 10:22-23). In a dispute equally concerning faith and conduct St Cyprian similarly writes that he:
…considers that in the event of disagreement no compulsion should be brought to bear upon the dissident bishop or bishops. The Church, while still preserving unity, will be obliged to live for a time with the fact of disagreement. (Letter 55).’ 
20. The Anglican Consultative Council 1990
The eighth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council was held in Wales in 1990. The theme of the meeting was ‘Mission in a Broken World’
Growth in communion – a Brazilian perspective
At this meeting the Brazilian theologian Jaci Maraschin reflected on the meaning of ‘Growth in Communion.’ Reflecting the insights of Latin American liberation theology and work of the German Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich, he offered a distinctive take on what it would mean for the Anglican Communion to grow in Communion.
In his paper he declares:
‘The call for growth in communion heard at the convocation of this meeting is equally a call to revise and criticise ways which may seem to be well established and beyond any doubt. We are called to grow in communion through our own institutions: but the way to grow in communion through these institutions means an effort to relativise them, exorcising them, so to speak, from the devils of authoritarianism, of absolutism and of idolatry. We are called to grow in communion through our theological work. Our theological work, to be the servant of this growth, has to allow people full participation in debate and to start a process leading to what in some places of the third world is already called a ‘theology by the people.’’
As he sees the matter, growth in communion has to come from the bottom up.
‘We cannot expect to grow in communion looking at the top of our pyramidal hierarchical organisation. Frederick Denison Maurice, the nineteenth-century theologian, said that theology was ‘digging.’ We have to come from the top to the base in order to dig. And we cannot ‘dig’ alone. In Brazil we sing throughout the country that God is calling us ‘to a new life’. We sing that ‘the time is right for changing, the moment is now.’ Then, everybody in the congregation, hand in hand, makes a big circle, and dancing they sing: ‘It is God who calls us to work together for justice. Let us walk together: no-one can go alone.’ We can grow in communion when we come down from our higher positions, from our sublime institutions, and join the people in this digging together, which is the building of communion. It means going to the depths of our faith.’
The five marks of mission
This meeting of the ACC also endorsed for the first time what has become the accepted definition of mission in the Anglican Communion, what are known as ‘Five Marks of Mission.’ This endorsement comes in Section report on ‘Mission Culture and Human Development’ which notes:
‘There has been a consistent view of mission repeated by ACC, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and others in recent years, which defines mission in a four-fold way:
The mission of the Church is:
(a) to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom;
(b) to teach, baptize and nurture new believers
(c) to respond to human need by loving service;
(d) to seek to transform the unjust structures of society.
We now feel that our understanding of the ecological crisis, and indeed of threats to the unity of all creation, mean that we have to add a fifth affirmation:
(e) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’
21. The Virginia Report 1998.
Resolution 18.1 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference was eventually fulfilled in the second report from the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, the Virginia Report, which was presented to the Lambeth Conference of 1998.
In accordance with the 1988 Resolution the Virginia Report looks at how the participation of Christians in the communion that exists in the life of God the Holy Trinity is expressed in the structures of the Anglican Communion.
The report argues that, like other Christians, Anglicans participate in the life of the Trinity by reason of their baptism. Thus, it states that:
‘Anglicans are held together in a life of visible communion. Baptism is God’s gift of unity, the means by which an individual participates in the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and is brought into a living community of faith.’
‘Those who are baptised, through the power of the Holy Spirit, die with Christ and rise to new life in him and are joined with all the baptised in the communion of God’s own life and love. Through baptism and through participation at the Table of the Lord the baptised are called to a life of unity and interdependence and using all their diverse charisma entrusted with carrying out God’s mission in the world.’
According to the report, the reason that this universal baptismal vocation is linked to the structures of Anglicanism is that what it calls the ‘complex and still evolving network of structures within Anglicanism’ has developed in order:
‘… to keep Anglicans in a life of belonging together, a life of relationship. These structures are both formal and informal and interrelate and affect one another in subtle ways. They involve personal, collegial and communal relationships at the parochial, diocesan, regional and international levels. Each contributes towards a web of interdependence and serves to guard against isolation.
This complex network of structures gives expression to the fundamental bond of Anglican life which is that unity given in the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That life of divine communion is made visible in a characteristic way within the ordered life of the Anglican Communion. The combination of allegiance to Scripture, tradition and reason, the life lived within the gifts of Scripture, creeds, sacraments and ordained ministry, the essential interrelatedness of lay and ordained and the structured, conciliar life contribute each in their particular way to a life of interdependence and belonging. The life of the Communion is dynamic as the fellowship seeks to respond to new insights, challenges and threats.’
As the report sees it, at the end of the 1990s the Anglican Communion is facing three questions
The first is whether the existing bonds of interdependence between Anglicans are:
‘…strong enough to hold them together embracing tension and conflict while answers are sought to seemingly intractable problems. In particular the call for more effective structures of communion at a world level will need to be faced at Lambeth 1998 for the strengthening of the Anglican Communion and its unity into the next millennium.’
The second is whether the Anglican Communion needs worldwide structures not just for consultation, but for legislation:
‘The world-wide Anglican assemblies are consultative and not legislative in character. There is a question to be asked whether this is satisfactory if the Anglican Communion is to be held together in hard times as well as in good ones. Indeed there is a question as to whether effective communion, at all levels, does not require appropriate instruments, with due safeguards, not only for legislation, but also for oversight. Is not universal authority a necessary corollary of universal communion? This is a matter currently under discussion with our ecumenical partners. It relates not only to our understanding of the exercise of authority in the Anglican Communion, but also to the kind of unity and communion we look for in a visibly united Church.’
The third is the wider ecumenical question of whether there is a need for a universal primacy:
‘Is there a need for a universal primacy exercised collegially and respecting the role of the laity in decision-making within the Church? This question was referred to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) by Lambeth 1988 and is also raised by the Bishop of Rome’s invitation in Ut Unum Sint.’ 
In the report’s view the continuing development of the structures of the Communion
‘….needs now to be inspired by a renewed understanding of the Church as koinonia; a recognition of God’s gift to the whole people of God of a ministry of episcope, exercised in personal, collegial and communal ways within and by the whole company of the baptised; by principles of subsidiarily, accountability and interdependence; and by an understanding of the Spirit led processes of discernment and reception.’
Building on this, its overall conclusion is that:
‘A deeper understanding of the instruments of communion at a world-level, their relationship one to another and to the other levels of the Church’s life should lead to a more coherent and inclusive functioning of oversight in the service of the koinonia of the Church. When the ministry of oversight is exercised in a personal, collegial and communal way, imbued with the principles of subsidiarity, accountability and interdependence then the community is protected from authoritarianism, structures serve the personal and relational life of the Church and the diverse gift of all is encouraged in the service of all. The Church is thus opened up to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry and enabled to serve more effectively the unity and community of humanity.’
22. The Lambeth Conference 1998
The Virginia Report
The 1998 Lambeth Conference endorsed the conclusions of the Virginia Report in Resolution III.8.
Autonomy and accountability
The Report of Section III of the Conference (‘Called to be a faithful Church in a plural world’) underlined the importance of combining autonomy and accountability in the life of the Communion if its unity was to be maintained.
The report states:
‘The Anglican Communion had developed an ecclesiology without a centralised authority which acts juridically on behalf of all its member churches. No single Province or group of Provinces has the right to arbitrate on behalf of other Anglican Provinces or determine the shape of their faithful discipleship. Rather, the future of Anglicanism must draw on the resources of the whole Communion. On the other hand, without any sense of connectedness or accountability to the wider Communion, individual churches will lose tough, not only with each other, but with the Anglican and Christian tradition from which they took their origin. They could then cease to be churches incarnating the gospel within their own culture, and become prisoners of that culture or to their own past. Their life will be static and fixed, rather than responding to a dynamic and living tradition.
The measure to which the Anglican Communion can be faithful to is koinonia will determine whether local churches can claim to incarnate the universal church in their own life. It will also determine their ability to walk together with other Christian communities on the shared pilgrimage towards Christian unity and the reign of God.’
The need for structures in the Anglican Communion
The report of Section IV of the Conference (‘Called to be One’) also addressed the issue of maintaining the unity of the Church, arguing, in line with the Virginia Report that appropriate structures were required in the Church for unity to be maintained:
‘Given that the unity of the Church will always be threatened when new knowledge poses perplexing questions to the faith, order and moral life of the Church, how are Christians to be held together in unity? What ecclesial structures would best sustain unity, and enable those entrusted with oversight to lead the faithful in the discernmentand reception of the truth? The Virginia Report suggests the need to strengthen bonds of communion. It is important to stress that this is not merely a structural agenda. Appropriate enabling structures are fundamental to the dynamic and faithful life of the Church as it discerns the truth and embodies in its life.
Resolution III.6 (b) recommended that the Primates meeting should include among its responsibilities ‘the giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the submission of the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies.’
In the years following the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the ability of the Primates to carry out this new role and the ability of the Communion as whole to maintain its unity was radically challenged by the reaction of the American and Canadian churches to Resolution I.10 of the Conference.
In the preparatory papers for the 1978 Conference, Bishop Stephen Neill pointed out the issue of human sexuality was likely to prove the next big divisive issue after the ordination of women and so it proved to be. From the 1970s onwards sections of the Episcopal Church in the United States, as it then was, and the Anglican Church of Canada had begun to accept active gay and lesbian relationships as a legitimate expression of Christian, to bless such relationships and even to ordain those in them.
In the run up to the 1998 Lambeth Conference more conservative Anglicans from around the world, concerned about these developments, felt that the Lambeth Conference should rule against them. As they saw it, these developments were against the clear teaching of Scripture and therefore could not be accepted as part of legitimate Anglican diversity or become subject to a process of discernment and reception.
Their view of the matter was endorsed by Resolution I.10, which was passed by 526 votes to 70 with 45 abstentions and which stated:
(a) commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
(b) in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
(c ) recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
(d) while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
(e) cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
(f) requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
(g) notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.’
Although it had been passed by such a large majority, almost as soon as it had been passed individual Anglican bishops, particularly but not exclusively from North America, indicated that they did regard themselves as bound by it.
In addition, in 2002 the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada agreed to proceed with the blessing of same sex relationships in church and in 2003 the Diocese of New Hampshire in the American Church voted for Gene Robinson, a divorced man in a gay partnership, as its new bishop.
Conservatives around the Communion saw these actions as a clear rejection of the established principle of Anglican behaviour that once a Lambeth Conference Resolution had been passed the churches of the Communion observed it, as the African churches had done in relation to Lambeth Conference Resolutions on polygamy. As they saw it the Canadian and American churches were repudiating the statement of Lambeth 1920 that the churches of the Anglican Communion ‘are indeed independent, but independent with the Christian freedom which recognizes the restraints of truth and of love. They are not free to deny the truth. They are not free to ignore the fellowship.’
Some conservative provinces in South East Asia, Africa and South America also started to break the agreement that went back to the Lambeth Conference of 1878 that Anglican churches should not act within the boundaries of other Anglican churches without consent in order to give support toconservative groups in North America.
23. The Primates Meeting 2003
In the light of rising tension over these issues, the Archbishop of Canterbury convened an extraordinary meeting of the Primates in October 2003, after the election of Bishop Robinson but prior to his consecration, to consider how to respond.
The communiqué issued after this meeting declares:
‘At this time we feel the profound pain and uncertainty shared by others about our Christian discipleship in the light of controversial decisions by the Diocese of New Westminster to authorise a Public Rite of Blessing for those in committed same sex relationships, and by the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) to confirm the election of a priest in a committed same sex relationship to the office and work of a Bishop.
These actions threaten the unity of our own Communion as well as our relationships with other parts of Christ’s Church, our mission and witness, and our relations with other faiths, in a world already confused in areas of sexuality, morality and theology, and polarised Christian opinion.’
It re-affirms the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolutions ‘on issues of human sexuality as having moral force and commanding the respect of the Communion as its present position on these issues’ and states:
‘…as a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA) which appear to a number of provinces to have short-circuited that process, and could be perceived to alter unilaterally the teaching of the Anglican Communion on this issue. They do not. Whilst we recognise the juridical autonomy of each province in our Communion, the mutual interdependence of the provinces means that none has authority unilaterally to substitute an alternative teaching as if it were the teaching of the entire Anglican Communion.’
It also warns that if the consecration of Gene Robinson goes ahead:
‘…we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).
Similar considerations apply to the situation pertaining in the Diocese of New Westminster.’
The Primates meeting also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a new theological Commission whose remit will include ‘deep theological and legal reflection on the way in which the dangers identified at the meeting will be addressed.’
24. The Windsor Report 2004
The Lambeth Commission on Communion was the commission asked for by the Primates and it was published in the autumn of 2004 after the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire had gone ahead.
The purpose of the Commission
As Bishop Tom Wright, a member of the commission, has explained, the members of the commission were:
‘…in the position of Paul, not in 1 Corinthians, addressing ethical issues head on, but in 2 Corinthians, addressing the second-order issue of what happens when a church has resisted such authority structures as it has. Just as Paul has to go back to first base and explain the nature of his apostolic authority, so the Commission had to go back to first base and explain why the Lambeth Conference and the other three Instruments of Unity are what they are, how they have come to function, and more especially how they enable the church to carry forward God’s mission to the world. The charge against ECUSA and New Westminster at this level was precisely not that they had acted in certain ways in relation to same-sex relationships; that was presupposed. As in 2 Corinthians, the charge this time is that by acting the way they did they were ignoring such structures of authority as we possess, which being Anglicans we prefer to articulate not in terms of a top-down Curial structure but in terms of the well-known and long-established ‘bonds of affection’.’
The nature of autonomy
At the heart of the Windsor Report produced by the commission is its discussion of autonomy. It argues that although the concept of the autonomy of the individual provinces of the Communion is ‘fundamental to Anglican polity’ 
As the report views the matter:
‘A body is thus, in this sense, ‘autonomous’ only in relation to others: autonomy exists in a relation with a wider community or system of which the autonomous entity forms part. The word ‘autonomous’ in this sense actually implies not an isolated individualism, but the idea of being free to determine one’s own life within a wider obligation to others. The key idea is autonomy-in-communion, that is, freedom held within interdependence. The autonomy of each Anglican province therefore implies that the church lives in relation to, and exercises its autonomy most fully in the context of, the global Communion.’
The report goes to explain that the freedom implied by the concept of autonomy means that :
‘…each autonomous church has the unfettered right to order and regulate its own local affairs, through its own system of government and law. Each such church is free from direct control by any decision of any ecclesiastical body external to itself in relation to its exclusively internal affairs (unless that external decision is authorised under, or incorporated in, its own law).’ 
However the interdependence that autonomy also involves means that there are limits to this freedom :
‘…some affairs treated within and by a church may have a dual character: they may be of internal (domestic) and external (common) concern. Autonomy includes the right of a church to make decisions in those of its affairs which also touch the wider external community of which it forms part, which are also the affairs of others, provided those internal decisions are fully compatible with the interests, standards, unity and good order of the wider community of which the autonomous body forms part. If they are not so compatible, whilst there may be no question about their legal validity, they will impose strains not only upon that church’s wider relationship with other churches, but on that church’s inner self-understanding as part of “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” in relation to some of its own members.’
In summary :
‘…’autonomy’ thus denotes not unlimited freedom but what we might call freedom-in-relation, so it is subject to limits generated by the commitments of communion. Consequently, the very nature of autonomy itself obliges each church to have regard to the common good of the global Anglican community and the Church universal.’
This being the case:
‘…there are legitimate limits (both substantive and procedural) on the exercise of this autonomy, demanded by the relationships and commitments of communion and the acknowledgement of common identity. Communion is, in fact, the fundamental limit to autonomy. In essential matters of common concern to the worldwide fellowship of churches (affairs, that is, which touch both the particular church and the wider community of which it forms part), we believe that each church in the exercise of its autonomy should:
- consider, promote and respect the common good of the Anglican Communion and its constituent churches (as discerned in communion through the Instruments of Unity)
- maintain its communion with fellow churches, and avoid jeopardising it, by bringing potentially contentious initiatives, prior to implementation, to the rest of the communion in dialogue, consultation, discernment and agreement in communion with the fellowship of churches (through the Instruments of Unity), and
- be able to depart, where appropriate and acceptable, on the basis of its own corporate conscience and with the blessing of the communion, from the standards of the community of which is an autonomous part, provided such departure is neither critical to the maintenance of communion nor likely to harm the common good of the Anglican Communion and of the Church universal (again, as determined by the Instruments of Unity).’ 
Autonomy and diversity
Because the autonomy of each church allows it the freedom to regulate its own affairs it allows for a proper diversity in the life of the Christian Church as a whole :
‘Autonomy gives full scope for the development of authentic local living out of the Christian faith and mission, in what has come to be known as inculturation. This is an essential part of the Christian mission: each church must find fresh ways to proclaim the Gospel of Christ into the context of the world in which it is living. The eternal truth of the gospel relates in different ways to the particulars of any one society, as we see already within the life of the earliest church as described in Acts. This combination of faithfulness to the gospel and inculturation into different societies will inevitably produce a proper and welcome diversity within the life of the Church.’ 
However, the report says, there are limits to this diversity:
‘In the life of the Christian churches, these limits are defined by truth and charity. The Lambeth Conference of 1920 put it this way:
“The Churches represented in [the Communion] are indeed independent, but independent with the Christian freedom which recognises the restraints of truth and love. They are not free to deny the truth. They are not free to ignore the fellowship.”
This means that any development needs to be explored for its resonance with the truth, and with the utmost charity on the part of all – charity that grants that a new thing can be offered humbly and with integrity, and charity that might refrain from an action which might harm a sister or brother.’
The recommendations of the Windsor Report
The specific recommendations of the Windsor Report can all be seen to flow out of this basic idea of autonomy-in-communion.
In paragraph 122 and 123 the report summarises its view of recent events in the Anglican Communion and declares:
‘The Commission has given long and careful consideration to the submissions made to it about the Episcopal Church (USA), the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, and about various primates who (without consultation with their fellow primates) have accommodated clergy who are at odds with their own bishops. We cannot avoid the conclusion that all have acted in ways incompatible with the Communion principle of interdependence, and our fellowship together has suffered immensely as a result of these developments. Furthermore, we deeply regret that the appeals of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates and of this Commission for a period of “calm” to allow the Commission to complete its report have been ignored in a number of quarters, and that a number of primates and provinces have declared themselves in impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) or the Diocese of New Westminster.’
The Commission regrets that without attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider Communion:
- ‘the Episcopal Church (USA) proceeded with the consecration of Gene Robinson
- the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) declared that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions”
- the Diocese of New Westminster approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions
- the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships
- a number of primates and other bishops have taken it upon themselves to intervene in the affairs of other provinces of the Communion.’
What these paragraphs make clear is that as far as the Windsor Report is concerned what has gone wrong in the Anglican Communion in recent months is that people on both sides of the argument about homosexuality have exercised autonomy without regard for communion and the life of the Communion has suffered as a result.
The way forward that the Windsor Report offers also reflects its basic argument that there should be autonomy-in-communion.
In response to the current situation in the Anglican Communion the report argues that:
- ‘Those in Canada and the United States who have acted in contravention of the teaching on human sexuality of Lambeth 1.10 should express regret for this ‘breach of the bonds of affection’– the bonds of affection being the bonds of charity that should have led them to act without proper regard to the rest of the Communion – and observe a moratorium on performing any such actions in future.
- In order allow space for the healing of the Communion, and pending such an expression of regret, the bishops involved in the consecration of Gene Robinson and in the authorisation of same-sex blessings should seriously ‘consider in all conscience’ whether they should withdraw themselves from ‘representative functions in the Communion.’
- Because of the ‘widespread unacceptability of his ministry’ in other provinces of the Communion the acceptability of Bishop Robinson should be kept under review and ‘very considerable caution’ should be exercised in ‘admitting him to the councils of the Communion’
- Those archbishops and bishops from elsewhere who have violated the principle of provincial autonomy by intervening in dioceses and provinces other than their own should express regret for the ‘consequences of their actions’ – the consequences being the further deepening of the divisions in the Communion – affirm their desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion, observe a moratorium on such interventions in future and seek to reach an accommodation with the bishops of the parishes they have taken under their care.
- All parties to the current dispute should seek to be reconciled with each other and consideration should be given to a symbolic Act of Reconciliation that would mark a new beginning for the Communion.’
Looking to the future, the report argues that the in order to enhance the interdependence of the Anglican Communion the roles of the ‘Instruments of unity’ within the Communion (The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting) need to be clarified and strengthened with a Council of Advice being instituted to help the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise his role.
It also recommends that the churches of the Communion should consider adopting a:
‘…common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion. The Covenant could deal with: the acknowledgement of common identity: the relationships of communion; the commitments of communion; the exercise of autonomy in communion; and the management of communion affairs (including disputes).’ 
It is clear from this quotation that the intended purpose of the covenant is once again to support the development of autonomy-in-communion amongst the churches of the Anglican Communion.
26. Communion, Conflict and Hope 2008
A complementary approach to that taken in the Windsor Report is that taken by Communion, Conflict and Hope, the report of the third Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, which was published in 2008. This report is also known as the Kuala Lumpur Report after the Malysian city where the final meeting of the Commission was held. It argues that Anglicans need to take seriously the way in which communion operates at levels other than those of the Anglican Communion’s central structures.
The danger facing the Communion
In its conclusion the report acknowledges that:
‘At this time of uncertainty the possibility of serious disruption to the life of the Anglican Communion has to be contemplated. The question must be asked whether existing ‘instruments of communion’ are capable of theological (not just managerial) development so that they can utilise the possibilities opened up by the Windsor process to address questions about legitimate diversity and unity. If there is not the time or will to achieve this, it appears that Anglicans will become increasingly marginalised and fragmented as a movement within world Christianity’ 
A thick ecclesiology and hope for the future
However, the report contends, even if this happens this does not mean the end of Anglicanism, because Anglicanism does not exist simply at the level of the Instruments of Communion:
‘Even if the worst fears of Anglicans who value their fellowship and solidarity are realised, the Anglican tradition will not disappear. Communion functions at a number of different levels. IATDC has identified theology, canon law, history and culture, communication, and voluntary commitment rather than coercion, as essential aspects of communion. Yet real communion can exist in many of the elements separately. The Commission is persuaded that ‘thick’ ecclesiology, concrete experience of the reconciling and healing work of God in Christ, should take priority over ‘thin’, abstract and idealised descriptions of the church. Communion ‘from below’, is real communion – arguably the most vital aspect of koinonia with God and neighbour, and it is from ‘below’ that the Commission has worked in its conversations with the churches, and in its reflections in this report.’
As the report sees the matter, in order to think more clearly about the future of Anglicanism:
‘What is needed now is a clearer understanding of how these different aspects of communion co-exist at different levels or horizons of the church’s experience. The obligation to seek ‘the highest degree of communion possible’ within the church is a laudable ambition, a vocation even. Yet unless we are clear what sort of communion is anticipated for congregational, local, regional or global fellowship, the terminology can be used merely to justify higher level organisational arrangements without ever analysing how they contribute to communion itself. It may well be that communion at a local or congregational level (“where two or three are gathered together…”) may theologically represent a ‘higher’ communion than an ideal expressed in merely institutional, canonical or juridical terms. At the same time it must be insisted that the experience and commitments of local communities will be enlarged and maintained by participation in wider expressions of fellowship…just as the life of dioceses, provinces and the Anglican Communion its itself pursues its fullness as a part of the koinonia of the People of God.’
The report accepts that:
‘If Anglican fellowship at the level of shared doctrines and ideals of common participation in mission is unable to enjoy the support of coherent global structures, then the Anglican Communion will be immeasurably weakened.’
However, it also notes that even if this the case ‘in the light of the Gospel weak and fragile things are not to be despised’ and that we need to be careful when talking about ‘broken communion.’This sort of language:
‘…glosses over far too lightly the actual brokenness of the church community. It also eclipses the vocation of each individual and community to walk in the steps of the crucified Christ. The Anglican theological tradition cannot be content with any claim to communion which separates the Gospel of Christ from the aspiration of faithful Christian discipleship within a Communion which is both diverse and united, broken and being restored.’
Hope in communion
Finally, having considered communion and conflict the report turns to hope. It uses the idea ‘hope in communion’ in two ways. First , it refers to the ways in which hope for the future of the Anglican Communion may be ‘nurtured and enhanced’ through:
‘…conciliar processes which maintain face-to-face engagements through times of conflict and division. We continue to persist in the hope that working and believing together in the service of the Gospel is an indestructible feature of the faith we cherish. We have set our hope on Christ and so we hope in the communion to which we are called.’
Secondly, it refers to the hope in Christ that becomes real in the context of life lived in communion with others as we share together in the mission of God:
‘Hope in Christ is kept alive and burning within us as we participate together in the sharing of the Gospel. Hope is fractured when we separate from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hope grows as communion is widened and intensified. At this time of conflict Anglicans are faced with a costly and difficult journey. However, we have together accepted the Gospel invitation to take up the cross and follow the upward call of Christ in faith and hope and love.’
27. Presidential Addresses at the Lambeth Conference 2008
At the Lambeth Conference of 2008 the decision to conduct the Conference largely through the use of ‘indaba’ discussion groups meant that there were no formal reports from committees or resolutions passed by the conference as a whole. It is generally accepted, however, that the ‘mind’ of the Conference was articulated by the addresses made at the Conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
First Presidential address 
In his first presidential address to the Conference the Archbishop notes that a range of views about the future of the Anglican Communion are currently on offer:
‘Some in our Communion would be content to see us become a loose federation, perhaps with diverse expression of Anglicanism existing side by side in more or less open competition but with little co-ordination of mission, little sense of obligation to sustain a common set of theological and practical commitments. Some would like to see the Communion as simply a family of regional or national churches strictly demarcated from each other – sovereign states, as it were, with independent systems of government, coming together from time to time for matters of common concern. Others again want to see a firmer and more consistent control of diversity, a more effective set of bodies to govern the local communities making up the Communion.’
As the Archbishop sees it, each of these options represents ‘
‘…something rather less than many – perhaps most – Anglicans over the last century at least have hoped for in their Communion. A federation of such variety that different parts of it could be in direct local competition is not really a federation at all, and would encourage some of the least appealing kinds of religious division. An ensemble of purely national or local churches both ignores the complexities of a globalised society and economy and seems to make little of the historic and biblical sense of churches in diverse places learning from each other, challenging one another and showing responsibility to each other. A centralised and homogenised Communion could be at the mercy of powerfully motivated groups from left or right who wanted to redefine the basic terms of belonging, so that Anglicanism becomes a confessional church in a way it never has been before.’
A better way forward, he contends is to move towards another option, marked by the keywords ‘council and covenant.’ This option involves a vision of an Anglicanism:
‘…whose diversity is limited not by centralised control but by consent – consent based on a serious common assessment of the implications of local change. How do we genuinely think together about diverse local challenges? If we can find ways of answering this, we shall have discovered an Anglicanism in which prayerful consultation is routine and accepted and understood as part of what is entailed in belonging to a fellowship that is more than local. The entire Church is present in every local church assembled around the Lord’s table. Yet the local church alone is never the entire Church. We are called to see this not as a circle to be squared but as an invitation to be more and more lovingly engaged with each other.’
The Archbishop further argues that the search for an appropriate form of Anglican unity is not an end in itself:
‘As we shall be reminded many times during these days, our own communion and unity are created and nourished by God for the sake of the Good News. If our efforts at finding greater coherence for our Communion don’t result in more transforming love for the needy, in greater awareness and compassion for those whose humanity is abused or denied, then this coherence is a hollow, self-serving thing, a matte of living ‘religiously’ rather than ‘biblically’, to refer back to the theologian I quoted during the retreat, William Stringfellow. Contrary to what some have claimed, it is not true that we at this Conference are using issues like the Millennium Development Goals to provide a rallying-point for Anglicans who can agree only about ‘secular’ priorities but not about the essence of the Gospel.
No: we seek for clarity about what we must do in a suffering world because we are surely at one in knowing what the Incarnate Lord requires of us – and so at one in acknowledging his supreme and divine authority. And we know that clarity about our calling in this world is no substitute for this unity in faith and obedience. But we also know that how we think about that unity is itself affected by the urgency of the calls on our compassion and imagination; some sorts of division undoubtedly will seem a luxury in the face of certain challenges – as many Christians in Germany found when confronted by Hitler. We have to think and pray hard about what the essentials really are. So we can’t easily pull these issues apart; and we certainly can’t use one as an excuse for not addressing the other.’
Third presidential address
In his third and final presidential address, the Archbishop returns to the theme of the nature of unity, arguing that Christian unity means something more than simply human warmth to people like ourselves or peaceful diversity. First and foremost, he says, it means:
‘…union with Jesus Christ; accepting his gift of grace and forgiveness, learning from him how to speak to his Father, standing where he stands by the power of the Spirit. We are one with one another because we are called into union with the one Christ and stand in his unique place — stand in the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our unity is not mutual forbearance but being summoned and drawn into the same place before the Father’s throne. That unity is a pure gift — and something we can think of in fear and trembling as well as wordless gratitude; because to be in that place is to be in the light of absolute Truth, naked and defenceless. St John’s gospel has been reminding us that the place of Jesus is not a place where ordinary, fallen human instinct wants to go. Yet it’s where we belong, and where God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ want us to be, for our life, our joy and our healing.’
This kind of unity is ‘inseparable from truth’ and it is broken:
‘… not when we simply disagree but when we stop being able to see in each other the same kind of conviction of being called by an authoritative voice into a place where none of us has an automatic right to stand. Christians divided in the sixteenth century, in 1930’s Germany and 1980’s South Africa because they concluded, painfully as well as (often) angrily, that something had been substituted for the grace of Christ — moral and ritual achievement, or racial and social pride, as if there were after all a way of securing our place before God by something other than Jesus Christ.’
It is in this context, the Archbishop suggests, that we see the significance of the visible and tangible ways in which Christians express their unity:
‘They read the same Bible in public and private, and shape their words and actions in conformity with it — or at least they try to. They seek for consistent practices around the sacraments, so that the baptism or eucharist of each community can be recognised by others as directed in the same way, working under the same authority. It happens in different ways and different degrees in different Christian confessions and families of churches; but all Christian communities have some such practice.
And this is emphatically not about forcing others to conform; it is an agreement to identify those elements in each other’s lives that build trust and allow us to see each other as standing in the same Way and the same Truth, moving together in one direction and so able to enrich and support each other as fully as we can. What I am saying, in effect, is that every association of Christian individuals and groups makes some sort of ‘covenant’ for the sake of mutual recognition, mutual gratitude and mutual learning.’
For the Archbishop the way forward for the Communion lies in the development of this sort of covenantal commitment, recognising that this will mean the exercise of restraint in the introduction of new policies and practices and in not intervening in the life of other provinces and that there will be those who will find this restraint ‘conscientiously hard, even impossible’ and therefore will not be able to make this move towards deeper unity.
28. The Anglican Covenant 2009
The Covenant called for by the Windsor Report was finally published in December 2009. The final ‘Ridley, Cambridge’ version was the result of work by the Covenant Design Group and was a revision of two earlier drafts, the ‘Nassau’ and ‘St Andrew’s’ draft and a further revision of section 4 of the Covenant following the fourteenth meeting of the ACC in Jamaica in May 2009.
The final text consists of an Introduction, a Preamble, and four main sections.
The Introduction, which, although not formally part of the Covenant, “shall always be annexed to the Covenant text” and “accorded authority in understanding the purpose of the Covenant” (4.4.1), provides a theological rationale for the Covenant, explaining the call to communion in Christ and with each other, in the light of God’s covenant with us established in Christ, on the basis of which it affirms “We recognise the wonder, beauty and challenge of maintaining communion in this family of churches, and the need for mutual commitment and discipline as a witness to God’s promise in a world and time of instability, conflict, and fragmentation” (Intro, §4).
Section One, entitled ‘Our Inheritance of Faith,’ contains eight affirmations which, in summarising Anglican beliefs, draw upon both the Church of England’s Preface to the Declaration of Assent (Canon C15) and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888. These affirmations refer to the faith revealed in the Scriptures and set forth in the Creeds, to the witness borne by the historic formularies of the Church of England, to the four elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, to a pattern of ‘theological and moral reasoning’ rooted in the Scripture and the Catholic tradition, and to an ‘attentive and communal’ reading of Scripture in particular contexts that is informed by the work of lay and ordained scholars and the reading of, and witness to, Scripture by bishops and synods and by the whole people of God.
The subsequent eight commitments express the ways in which Covenant signatories will live out this inheritance of faith together, each in their own context. These articulate a vision of our shared and interdependent life and enable each church to embrace the disciplines of faithful discernment, development and discipleship that are needed to nourish a communion of churches which has “the expectation that Scripture continues to illuminate and transform the Church and its members, and through them, individuals, cultures and societies” (1.2.5) and seeks “continually to discern the fullness of truth into which the Spirit leads us, that people from all nations may be set free to receive new and abundant life in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1.2.8).
Section Two – ‘The Life We Share with Others: Our Anglican Vocation’ – is focussed on mission. The five affirmations trace our communion to God’s gift (2.1.1) and providence (2.1.2), acknowledge our failings (2.1.3) and define our Anglican vocation and mission in relation to the mission of God (2.1.4) and the wider church (2.1.5). On the basis of these affirmations, Covenanting Churches make commitments to mutually accountable evangelisation and mission (2.2.1) and to the Five Marks of Mission (2.2.2), each in full awareness of its own need for conversion (2.2.3) and promising to renew mission structures (2.2.4) and order mission in the worship of God (2.2.5)
Section Three turns to ‘Our Unity and Common Life.’ Each church affirms its sacramental incorporation into the body of Christ (3.1.1) and its resolve to live in a Communion of Churches marked by “communion with autonomy and accountability” as defined by the 1930 Lambeth Conference (3.1.2). This communion acknowledges the “central role of bishops” (3.1.3) and “the importance of instruments in the Anglican Communion”, all four of which are defined along with their common responsibilities (3.1.4). Acknowledging this interdependent form of life, Covenanting Churches make seven commitments which express the way of life and virtues needed to sustain and deepen our common life. These include regard for the common good and the Instruments (3.2.1), respect for others’ constitutional autonomy (3.2.2) and a patient shared discernment (3.2.3) in search of a common mind on matters of common concern (3.2.4). In particular this requires a commitment to “act with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy” and whose “intensity, substance or extent” threatens the Communion’s unity or mission (3.2.5), to seek mediation in conflict (3.2.6) and “to have in mind that our bonds of affection and the love of Christ compel us always to uphold the highest degree of communion possible” (3.2.7).
Section Four is a more technical section in which Covenanting Churches affirm the principles and procedures for ‘Our Covenanted Life Together’ and commit to their implementation.
These relate to four areas. First, adoption of the Covenant. Here the meaning of adoption is explained (4.1.1-2) with the assurance that the mutual commitment entailed “does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction” (4.1.3). All current members of the ACC are invited to enter (4.1.4) and a procedure established whereby “the Instruments of Communion may invite other Churches to adopt the Covenant” (4.1.5). The Covenant becomes active for any church once it adopts it according to its own procedures (4.1.6). Second, the maintenance of the Covenant and dispute resolution. The Covenant expresses “common commitments and mutual accountability” which enable “mutual recognition and communion”; each church is responsible for its own actions (4.2.1) and undertakes to create necessary structures “to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant” (4.2.9). Within the Communion, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, responsible to the ACC and Primates’ Meeting, will monitor the Covenant’s functioning on behalf of the Instruments (4.2.2). In matters of dispute, each church has undertaken commitments through signing the Covenant (4.2.3). The Standing Committee is charged with facilitating agreement where there is not a shared mind (4.2.4), requesting deferral of a controversial action (4.2.5) and, where necessary, recommending to any Instrument the “relational consequences” when a church declines to defer (4.2.5). Ultimately, the Standing Committee may declare actions or decisions “incompatible with the Covenant” (4.2.6) and make recommendations as to the relational consequences from such actions but “each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations” (4.2.7). Third, withdrawing from the Covenant is permitted and its possible consequences outlined (4.3.1). Fourth, amendment of the text will follow agreement by three quarters of the Covenanting churches who will be advised by the Standing Committee after consultation with other bodies.
30 Concluding Reflections
In spite of the inordinate length of this paper it has to be regarded as a preliminary survey of the material. This is for two reasons. Firstly, further work needs to be done looking at material from meetings of the ACC, the Primates and other bodies that there simply has not been room to cover here. Secondly, although I have made some attempts to set the material in its historical context more work needs to be done along the lines of the work undertaken by Alan Stephenson on the first Lambeth Conference or the research by Dr Charlotte Methuen on the development of the ‘Appeal to all Christian People’ in 1920.
Nevertheless, even on the basis of this preliminary survey, a number of common threads become clear.
1. The Anglican Communion has always seen itself as part of something bigger that itself. It has always viewed itself as a fellowship of churches within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
2. The Anglican Communion has always been concerned both about its unity with the wider Church and its own internal unity.
3. The Anglican Communion has always seen its concern for the unity of the wider Church within the context of the Church’s missionary calling, with the unity of the Church serving to give credibility to the proclamation of the Gospel. It has seen the visible unity of the Church as involving the elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral and the way for unity to be achieved as that set out by the Lambeth Conference of 1920.
4. When the occasion has been seen to demand it Anglicans have been willing to merge their specific Anglican identities into the wider life of united churches and in spite of initial hesitations such churches have come to be accepted as full members of the Communion.
5. The Anglican Communion has seen its internal unity and that of the Church as a whole as having a spiritual basis which more recent documents have come to specify as a participation in the communion which exists between the persons of the Holy Trinity.
6. The Anglican Communion has seen itself as having multiple sources of authority. The central sources of authority have been seen to be Scripture and the Catholic Creeds, but great importance has also been attached to the teaching of the Early Church as a whole and to the historic Anglican formularies (The Thirty Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal), and significant weight has also been attached to the Anglican experience of worship and the sacraments, to the witness of faithful pastors, scholars, missionaries, and mystics, and to the consensus fidelium.
7. Although the Book of Common Prayer was traditionally seen as a key source of Anglican unity, it came to be accepted first that the demands of mission meant that it needed to be supplemented and adapted and secondly, that the use of a single Prayer Book needed to be replaced by the existence of a common liturgical tradition informed by ecumenical liturgical scholarship. It also came to be seen as important that the Thirty Nine Articles should be understood in their original context.
8. The Anglican Communion has traditionally seen a mutually recognised sacramental ministry as a key element in communion and in the visible unity of the Church, but it has also come to accept that real albeit impaired communion can exist even when such a ministry is not present.
9. The Anglican Communion has come to see that when a majority feels a development in the life of the Communion is permissible this development needs to be put forward for a period of open reception and while this period of reception is taking place care needs to be taken to allow the voice of the minority to continue to be heard as a key part of the discernment process.
10. The Anglican Communion has come to see its internal unity as being expressed in the interdependence of churches that are autonomous in the sense of being self governing, but also both attentive and accountable to the other churches of the Communion.
11. This interdependence is served by the numerous links that create a ‘thick communion’ between Anglican Christians, but particularly by four international structural links, the four instruments of Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the ACC and the Primates Meeting.
12. The international bodies that exist, or have existed, within Anglicanism have always been seen as acting in a purely advisory capacity. The Communion has always resisted the creation of international bodies with governmental or judicial authority. However, the advice that has been given by such bodies has always been seen as having great moral authority and has always traditionally been adhered to.
13. The issues of liturgical reform, the recognition of the Church of South India and the developments of women’s ministry show how the Anglican Communions traditional approach has been capable of handling contentious issues and allowing for ordered development when churches have been prepared to work with the Anglican system. The unity of the Communion was seriously challenged at times, but it held together.
14. The reason that things began to go seriously wrong in the Communion from the end of the 1990s was that the Anglican churches in North America broke with the tradition of accepting the mind of the Communion as a whole and the advice of the Instruments of Communion and went ahead with unilaterally blessing same sex relationships and ordaining people in such relationships, things which they had specifically been asked not to do by the rest of the Communion. Despairing of the apparent inability of the structures of the Communion to deal effectively with this, certain churches from the Global South then took matters into their own hands by unilaterally intervening in North America.
15. The Anglican Communion Covenant summarises the Anglican approach as it this has developed in the almost one and a half centuries since the first Lambeth Conference. It builds on the traditional Anglican sources of authority, it links together unity and mission and it combines autonomy, attentiveness and accountability. It offers a positive way forward for the Communion, but for it to work the churches of the Global South have to be shown that the traditional Anglican approach is able to effectively restrain The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada from doing what they want to do regardless of the position of the Communion as a whole.
 Proceedings of the Sixth Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, London: ACC 1984, p.81.
 Ibid, p.82.
 Ibid, p.82.
 Ibid, pp.82-83.
 Ibid, p.83.
 Ibid, p.83.
 For the Sake of the Kingdom, London: ACC, 1986, p.1
 Ibid, p.58.
 Ibid, p,58.
 Ibid, p.59.
 Ibid p.59
 Ibid, pp.59-60.
 Ibid, p.60.
 Ibid, pp.60-61.
 Many Gifts One Spirit, Report of ACC-7, London, Anglican Communion Office, 1987, p.1129.
 Ibid, p.129.
 Ibid, p.130.
 Ibid, p.130.
 Ibid, p.130.
 Ibid, p. 97.
 The Truth Shall Make You Free – The Lambeth Conference 1988, London: ACC, 1988, p.14.
 Ibid, pp.14-15.
 Ibid, p.15.
 Ibid, p.16.
 Ibid, p.117.
 Ibid, p. 118.
 Ibid, pp.58-59.
 Ibid, p.210.
 Ibid, p.216
 Ibid, p.217.
 Women in the Anglican Episcopate, Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1998, p. 20.
 Ibid, pp.20-21.
 Ibid, p.33.
 Ibid, p.33.
 Ibid, p.35
 Ibid, p.35.
 Ibid, p.35.
 Ibid, p.36.
 By ‘idolatry’ Marschin does not mean idolatry in the traditional sense, but the giving of absolute
value to something other than God.
 Mission in a Broken World – Report of ACC-8 Wales 1990, London: ACC, 1990, p.62.
 Ibid, p.63.
 Ibid, p.101. The Anglican approach to mission is further explored in the E Johnson and J Clark (eds)
Anglicans in Mission: A Transforming Journey (SPCK 2000), the report of the 1999 consultation of
the Mission Commission of the ACC.
 So called because the Commission met at the Virginia Theological Seminary in the United States.
 The Official Report of the Lambeth Conference 1998, Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1999 p.31.
 Ibid, p.50.
 Ibid, p.42.
 Ibid, p.42.
 Ibid, p.42.
 Ibid, p.50.
 Ibid, p.63.
 Ibid, pp.220-201.
 Ibid, p..381-2.
Text in The Windsor Report, London: ACO, 2004., p. 98-99.
 Ibid. p.99.
 Ibid, p.100.
 Ibid, p.100.
 N T Wright Thoughts on Concerns and Questions about the Windsor Report at www. fulcrum.anglican.org.uk/news/2004/20041023wright.cffm
 The Windsor Report , p.47.
 Ibid, p.48.
 Ibid, p.48.
 Ubid, p.48.
 Ibid, pp.48-49.
 Ibid, p.49.
 Ibid, p.50. .
 Ibid, p.51.
 Ibid, pp.65-66.
 Ibid, pp. 68-69. 72 and 74-75.
 Ibid, pp.55-60 and Appendix I.
 Ibid, p.62.
 Communion Conflict and Hope, London, Anglican Communion Office 2008, pp.49-50
 Ibid, p.50.
 Ibid, p.50.
 Ibid, pp.50-51.
 Ibid, p.51.
 Ibid, p.51.
 Ibid, p.51.
 The text of the first address can be found at:
 The text of the third address can be found at: https://www.anglicannews.org/news/2008/08/the-archbishop-ofcanterbury-concluding-presidential-address-to-the-lambeth-conference-2008.aspx
 The summary that follows is a slightly adapted form of the briefing paper on the Covenant produced by the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England in October 2010 (GS 966).
 Alan Stephenson, The First Lambeth Conference, 1867 (London: SPCK 1967).