The more I read the final Lambeth Document, “Capturing Conversations and Reflections”, the more I rejoice that we did not go down the road of resolutions and votes. To have a ‘snapshot’ of the engagement between the Bishops is probably of far more worth, than adding to the fossilised remains of earlier conferences, which leave skeletal resolutions disconnected from the tissue of conversation lying behind them as some sort of guide to the heart and mind of the church.
Much has been made of Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Conference, as though this is an enduring and unerring piece of truth. It has become almost a test for orthodoxy. But if this resolution has such enduring status, then all resolutions of the Lambeth Conference must be given the same status. So what about Resolution 67 from 1908? Very importantly it states
“We desire earnestly to warn members of our Communion against contracting marriages with Roman Catholics under the conditions imposed by modern Roman canon law, especially as these conditions involve the performance of the marriage ceremony without any prayer or invocation of the divine blessing, and also a promise to have their children brought up in a religious system which they cannot themselves accept.”
I am also concerned that there is not enough campaigning with regard to Resolution 6.f from 1888:
“That the most careful regard should be had to the danger of any encroachment upon the rest which, on this day, is the right of servants as well as their masters, and of the working classes as well as their employers.”
and what has been done about Resolution 36 from 1908?
“The Conference, having regard to the uncertainty which exists as to the permanence of the practice commended by St. James (5.14), and having regard to the history of the practice which professes to be based upon that commendation, does not recommend the sanctioning of the anointing of the sick as a rite of the Church.
It does not, however, advise the prohibition of all anointing, if anointing be earnestly desired by the sick person. In all such cases the parish priest should seek the counsel of the bishop of the diocese. Care must be taken that no return be made to the later custom of anointing as a preparation for death.”
But most urgently of all, how do we reconcile Resolution 19 from 1897 with 1.10 from 1998?
“That it is important that, so far as possible, the Church should be adapted to local circumstances, and the people brought to feel in all ways that no burdens in the way of foreign customs are laid upon them, and nothing is required of them but what is of the essence of the faith, and belongs to the due order of the Catholic Church.”
As I heard the conversations between Bishops from very different context explaining how issues in sexuality affected their mission within their context, social norms and cultural inheritance – Resolution 19 sounded very modern. It addresses the crux of these matters – what is the essence of faith and of order? The conversations of which I was part were really about ‘foreign customs’ being forced upon radically different parts of the Communion – and some of those radically different parts were contained within the same province!
So I am starting a campaign for Resolution 19 and it will become my ‘litmus test’ for orthodoxy.