As bishops spent a second day discussing Covenant proposals, Paul Kwong, Primate of Hong Kong; Phillip Aspinall, Bishop of Brisbane and Primate of Australia; and Charles Jenkins, Bishop of Louisiana, reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of the Conference and of the Covenant process so far.
All agreed that most things about the Lambeth Conference were very good—particularly worship and Bible study, as well as the atmosphere in which difficult discussions took place.
Kwong was “a little disappointed” that more concrete suggestions had not emerged. “I’m not saying I don’t like the listening process, but we need something concrete—some action to be taken.” “We have been beating about the bush—talking about issues for a long time,” he continued, and “we want to see that all parties have a chance to sit down and work out something concrete—from where we are—to resolve the issues.”
Kwong noted that people in Hong Kong respect what fellow Anglicans’ views and decisions, but feel that everybody is insisting that what they’re doing is correct in their context. “We are not talking about rights,” he said, “every party has the right to do what they feel right in their context. We’re not talking about that—we’re asking for sacrifice.”
“Now,” he continued, “we are asking all these people to stop defending what they do as right, stop accusing the other parties that what they do is wrong; instead we come together and say ‘what sacrifice, what concessions will you make for the sake of the integrity of the communion, for the sake of the Church?’”
He recalled the example of Florence Li Tim-Oi. In 1944, the bishop of Hong Kong ordained her to the priesthood, making her first Anglican female priest. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference and most provinces strongly criticized this move, so Tim-Oi eventually relinquished her license as priest in order to preserve the unity of the Church. She did, however, continue to insist that her priestly orders remained valid. It took thirty more years for women’s priestly ordination to be accepted by the Communion.
Kwong suggested that the Communion appoint a person or team with diplomatic experience “to go around and visit and talk face to face with all parties concerned and find out to what extent they are willing to sacrifice before we try to find a solution.”
Talk of sacrifice quickly led to the question of whether there is a moral difference between sacrificing oneself on behalf of others as opposed to asking others to make sacrifices on behalf of oneself. Jenkins acknowledged that this was a very thorny issue and said that he always tries to consider what effects his decisions might have on others. Kwong quoted a Chinese saying: “the little ‘we’ has to make sacrifice for the big ‘We,’” but quickly stressed the need to hear the voices of all parties.
What would happen to provinces which, even after extensive discussion, felt they could not agree to moratoria or other items in the Covenant? Aspinall admitted that this is the most contentious and least developed issue. He stressed that the Covenant is not designed to be punitive, but even if a church did not agree to the Covenant and suffered consequences, a process to establish reconciliation would be begun immediately.
Representing the Spouses’ Conference, Margaret Sentamu noted that the job of strengthening relationships and working through conflict throughout the Communion does not rest entirely in the hands of bishops. Like the bishops, the spouses have been sharing and listening to one another’s stories, and have sought to model unity and cooperation. “We are already modeling reconciliation on the ground,” she said, and have “sought to engage in a Christian manner—knowing we will not agree but continuing to journey together.”