PB Schori on Lambeth
“The parliamentary system as it is generally practiced in the West produces legislative winners and losers,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said. She added that she was hopeful for the conference because of its emphasis on a traditional understanding of conversation. “Conversation entered into deeply and fully leads to conversion and hope,” she noted.
Prof. Douglas said the unprecedented format for the once-every-10-year conference, which was first held in 1867, will be difficult for journalists to cover and for the public to follow because there is no “focal point of up-down decision-making.” He said the new format will not shy away from discussion of controversial issues, but it is not designed to offer statements implying that various issues have been resolved.
He suggested that rather than taking on these issues “head on,” they will be discussed face-to-face. “Is a process that creates winners and losers the best way to meet a problem head on?” he asked rhetorically. “It is incorrect to describe Lambeth as a closed shop. The design has allowed for and encouraged wide open hospitality."
One might hope that the PeeBee and her professorial associate were inaccurate, and that something substantive might actually be done at Lambeth to resolve matters related to human sexuality that have roiled the world-wide Anglican Communion over the last decade. But, sadly, they are quite correct. The Archbishop of Canterbury's plans for Lambeth involve nothing more than "conversation." No legislation, or even formal resolutions, are even contemplated. Here is his formal notice to the world's Anglican archbishops on the matter (boldfaced emphasis added by me):
I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.
At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God’s way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God. ...
As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.
So there you have it. Unless the Global South can somehow force a major change in both the agenda and structure of the conference after it starts, absolutely nothing will happen there to help the position of the orthodox in North America. There will be no resolutions or legislation on sexuality. There will be no meaningful decisions of any kind, if the ABC and PB Schori have their way. Certainly nothing will be done to discipline TEC. Lambeth has been intentionally designed to be simply a huge "talking shop." It will be a giant "facilitated conversation" meant to get traditionalists to give up their prejudices against the cultural wisdom of enlightened North Americans on matters of sexual morality, and just possibly to get North Americans to slow down a bit in their race for "social justice" out of deference to the conservatives until the Global South can catch up to the advances of the West.
So the odds are strong that nothing worthwhile will happen at Lambeth at all. What a sad business.
PS--I find it interesting that the legislative/parliamentary aspect of Lambeth has apparently been eliminated because some bishops did not relate to the "Western" aspects of the parliamentary model. But it appears to me that the only people who will benefit from the abandonment of formal resolutions at this conference are those provinces in the Western, industrialized world who have been on the cutting edge of God's "new thing" in recent years. The Global South is the portion of the Communion that would have been able to carry the day on such votes on human sexuality (and perhaps "boundary crossings") had Lambeth been carried on the traditional way this year. These changes serve PB Schori far more than they do non-Western Anglicans!