Sunday, Nov 05, 2006: “Anglicanism: Session 7”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, November 5, 2006


Anglicanism,Session 7, notes


With the globalization of Anglicanism, a major question that persists is the search for some common understanding of authority and of Anglicanism’s identity. Bishop Selwyn of New Zealand addressed the 1871 General Convention of the Episcopal Church and spoke about the need for some form of central authority that was compatible with its heritage of autonomous provinces. He told those assembled (Chapman, p. 116), “May we not hope that some central authority, elected and obeyed by every member of every branch of the whole Anglican communion, may be appointed to exercise this power of controlling inordinate self-will, and zeal not tempered with discretion: saying to the too hasty minds, who claim as lawful, things which are not expedient, ‘Thus far shalt thou go, and no further’?”


The second Lambeth Conference met in 1878 with the express intent of working out principles for “maintaining union among various churches of the Anglican Communion.” The focus of its proceedings, however, tended to focus, not on the establishment of a central authority, but on the independence of the member churches. In his opening address, Archbishop of Canterbury Archibald Campbell Tait focused on the autonomy of the churches and the toleration of diversity. The Conference recommended that “the duly certified action of every national or particular Church… in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members… Every ecclesiastical province… should be held responsible for its own decisions in the exercise of… discipline.”


During the third Lambeth Conference in 1888, Bishop Samuel Crowther of Nigeria brought to the assembly’s attention the issue of polygamy in his own land. By the 1960s, the report from the Church in Nigeria was that “probably there is not a single Nigerian in a position of leadership in the denomination who has not been disciplined at some time for marital irregularities.” That practice continued to be an issue up to the Lambeth Conference of 1988. The compromise recommendation was that those Nigerian men who practice polygamy may be baptized and confirmed, along with their wives and children, as long as they promise not to marry again. The conference affirmed the practice of provincial autonomy. For Archbishop of Canterbury Edward White Benson, who presided at that 3rd Lambeth Conference, “Unity is not the first scene, but the last triumph of Christianity and man. Christ himself could not create unity in His Church. He could pray for it, and his prayer most movingly teaches us to work for it. On earth it is not a gift, but a growth.”


That same Lambeth Conference of 1888 adopted also the “Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral” as the basis for Anglicanism’s ecumenical discussions. It had been prepared primarily by William Reed Huntington, Rector of Grace Church in New York City and President of the House of Deputies during the 1886 General Convention, and was adopted by the House of Bishops during that Convention. It established as the “essentials” of Anglicanism (BCP, pp. 876-7):

1) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation’, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

2) The Apostles’ Creed, as the baptismal symbol, and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

3) The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.

4) The historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration, to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church.


In addition to the historic role of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conferences, two newer “Instruments of Unity” developed within the Anglican Communion during the 20th century: The Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.


At the 1968 Lambeth Conference, participants decided to establish an Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Its purpose was to provide an ongoing forum for discussing matters of concern to the entire Communion between Lambeth Conferences. Its charter (Chapman, pp. 132-3) was to advise on “inter-Anglican, provincial, and diocesan relationships, including the division of provinces”; to develop agreed mission policies and to share resources; to ensure collaboration with other churches; to advise on proposals for future union negotiations; and “to advise on problems in inter-Anglican communication and to help in the dissemination of Anglican and ecumenical information.” The ACC consists of a bishop, priest and lay person from the larger provinces, and of a bishop plus either a priest of lay person from smaller provinces. Its authority and its relationship to the other three Instruments of Unity have never been clearly defined.


In 1978 Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan established the Primates Meeting: a gathering of all the Primates (which had replaced the term “Metropolitans”) and Presiding Bishops from all Anglican provinces. Its stated purpose was to provide an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” In reality, it became anything but leisurely, becoming a place of often heated debate. Another problem with the arrangement was that each national church was to have only one representative. This meant that important leaders, such as the Archbishop of York, were not included.


The precise role of the Instruments of Unity has never been determined, nor has there been an agreement among the provinces on some basic principles relating to authority and autonomy. Following the issue of polygamy, the Communion needed to deal also with the subject of the ordination of women. In June 1943, the bishop of Hong Kong had given permission to Deaconess Florence Lei Tim-Oi (picture on Chapman, p. 135) to preside at the Eucharist. In January 1944 he ordained her to the priesthood. The Lambeth Conference of 1948 would not allow other women to be ordained.


The Episcopal Church’s 1970 General Convention allowed women to be ordained as deacons. In July 1974, 11 women in Philadelphia were ordained to the priesthood “irregularly” by two retired bishops and by one resigned bishop. The 1976 General Convention voted to allow the ordination of women as bishops and priests, as well as deacons. Three dioceses in the Episcopal Church still refuse to ordain women.


In 1992, the Church of England decided to ordain women to the priesthood. Several hundred priests resigned their posts in protest, and the C of E allowed parishes who objected to women priests to petition for “extended Episcopal oversight” by a bishop who did not ordain women. Currently, nearly half the provinces in the Anglican Communion allow for the ordination of women.


The 1988 Lambeth Conference emphasized the importance of listening to one another in the ongoing disagreement over the ordination of women. It resolved 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.”


The ordination of Barbara Harris as Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts and of Penny Jameson as diocesan Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand, proved to be more contentious. 11 women bishops attended the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and some of the dissenting bishops refused to recognize them as bishops or to associate with them.

The 1998 Lambeth Conference addressed also the topic of homosexuality. A briefing paper called for the Conference not to take a vote on the subject, but to encourage continued discussion, acknowledging the fact that the bishops were not of one mind. Nine bishops, however, pushed for an outright rejection of the possibility of ordaining persons in same-sex relationships or of blessing same-sex unions. The report simply reaffirmed the 1988 Lambeth Conference’s declaration that sexuality is “intended by God to find its rightful and full expression between one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage.” With third-world bishops asserting newly-found power, the resolution included a statement that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture.” For the first time, a Lambeth Conference was being used, not as a forum for prayer and discussion, but as a decision-making body.


In 2003 the Diocese of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson as bishop. That decision was confirmed by that year’s General Convention, setting off a storm of controversy. The Convention effectively decided that a diocese had a right to choose its own bishop, even though their decision would provoke protest from other members of the Communion. The Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada likewise approved a rite for blessing same-sex unions.


At a special meeting of the Primates in October of that same year, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called together a commission to deal with the crisis. It was headed by the Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Robin Eames, who had headed a similar commission that had dealt with the issue of the ordination of women. 

The Commission issued the Windsor Report in October 2004. The Report identified the current crisis as the latest manifestation of a deeper crisis in the Communion and in the wider Church, and it identified the central issue as a lack of a clearly defined structure of authority in Anglicanism.


We will conclude this series with the collection of documents titled “The Road from Columbus,” which includes “Resolutions responding to the wider Anglican Communion,” The Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter titled, “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion,” and the June 28, 2006,”Presiding Bishop’s Response to the Archbishop’s Reflections.”