Lambeth Conference will deal with ‘breakdown of trust’

Published July 23, 2008

Bishop Clive Handford

Canterbury, England
There has been “a breakdown of trust” among members of the Anglican Communion, there has been “an inconsistency between what has been agreed and what has been done,” there is “turmoil” in the Episcopal Church in the U.S., there is “a diminishing sense of communion,” the bitter divide over homosexuality is affecting relations with the church’s ecumenical partners.

These were preliminary observations made by the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) on the state of the Anglican Communion and on the responses by Anglican provinces to the Windsor Report. These responses were presented to bishops for discussion Monday at the Lambeth Conference. The WCG was created last February by the Archbishop of Canterbury to “address outstanding questions arising from the Windsor Report and the various formal responses from provinces and instruments of the Anglican Communion.”

The Windsor Report, produced in 2004 by an international commission, outlined ways of healing divisions within the Anglican Communion over human sexuality. It recommended a moratorium on public rites of same-sex blessings and on the election of a gay person to the episcopate, the enactment of an Anglican Covenant, and an end to cross-border interventions.

Bishop Clive Handford, chair of the Windsor Continuation Group, former primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, said the observations are being presented in three parts to bishops who have gathered at the University of Kent for their once-a-decade conference. “We’re on the first part – where we are. Tomorrow is the hearing – where would we like this to go? (The third is) how might we get to where we want to go?” he said in a press conference at the Lambeth media centre. He said that the observations made by the WCG are meant to spark dialogue. “We’ve tried to be fairly direct and we’ve talked about the severity of the situation” in the Anglican Communion today.

On the issue of the “breakdown of trust,” the WCG said in its preliminary presentation of observations that “there are real fears of a wider agenda” among competing groups. “Positions and arguments are becoming more extreme,” relationships in the Communion “continue to deteriorate” and there is “little sense of mutual accountability…” In many cases, “politicization has overtaken Christian discernment.”

It also cited that “suspicions have been raised about the purpose, timing and outcomes” of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), organized by conservative primates and bishops, many of whom have boycotted the Lambeth Conference. “There is some perplexity about the establishment of the GAFCON Primates’ Council and of FOCA (Fellowship of Confession Anglicans) which, with withdrawal from participants at the Lambeth Conference, has further damaged trust”.

The document also said that it would appear that the “turmoil” in the U.S. “will play out in the wider communion” particularly in Canada. It cited that in the U.S., departures have included individuals, congregations, and dioceses. “Parties within the Episcopal Church have sought allies within the wider communion who are seen as only willing to respond,” the WCG said.

The turmoil in the communion has affected Anglican relations with ecumenical partners, the WCG observed. “Some partners are beginning to raise questions about the identity of their Anglican partner,” adding that “in the light of the ecumenical movement, there can no longer be tensions in one communion that do not have wider repercussions across the whole Christian family.”


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