The Lambeth Commission on Communion - Documents

 

To: The Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion

From: Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission

29 April 2004

Dear colleagues,

As Chairman of the Lambeth Commission established by the Archbishop of Canterbury following the meeting of Primates and Moderators at Lambeth Palace last October I want to give you an update on our work.

I thank you for the many messages of prayerful support and for the submissions we have received from different parts of the Anglican Communion. As we continue our work in your name I do not under-estimate the complexities of our tasks nor the difficulties which face the Commission. However I am greatly encouraged by the sense of common direction and purpose already evident in our work. I pay tribute to the depth of work currently being undertaken by the members of the Commission.

Following preparatory work and the first full meeting of the Commission in Windsor we are at present engaged in extensive study of certain key areas which we have identified and already agreed must be addressed in our Report. These issues concern such as the nature of autonomy, the practice of communion and relationships of interdependence as they have developed in the history of the Anglican Communion, the current status of the traditional Instruments of Unity and their relationship to each other and the interpretation of authority as we have witnessed it in the life of the Anglican Communion. The conclusions of these studies will be considered by the Commission when it meets at Kanuga, North Carolina, in June.

Prior to the first meeting in Windsor I visited the United States to meet with several groups who had expressed their concerns at the decisions of the General Convention of ECUSA and the Commission will meet representatives of differing constituencies in ECUSA during our June meeting. We have received a large volume of submissions and material from different parts of the Communion and plans are being made to meet others who have expressed opinions on the current crisis from the Anglican Church of Canada and Provinces in Africa. With the constraints of time available it is impossible for us to meet personally with all who have expressed their position on the issues but I can assure you that our analysis of opinions is both thorough and extensive.

However there are several aspects of the current situation which I feel I must emphasise.

First, the Commission needs and I believe deserves space to do its work. Actions and statements however well intentioned which express definitive positions on relationships within the Anglican Communion run the danger of limiting the opportunities and options available to the Commission. I am grateful to my fellow Primates for remaining within the letter and the spirit of our Statement last October despite the obvious differences of opinion at present throughout Anglicanism. The recent assurance of support following the meeting of the CAPA Primates has been a great encouragement to the Commission.

Second, I feel it is important that without prejudice to the Report of the Commission, we maintain the highest possible degrees of communion among those who adopt differing views at this time. In that regard those in North America who feel obliged to object to developments in the General Convention of the Episcopal Church or in the Diocese of New Westminster are still to be regarded as faithful Anglicans or Episcopalians so long as these dissenting groups do not initiate schism in their own Churches. On my visit to the United States I was impressed by those who expressed a desire to remain within ECUSA despite the strength of their feelings. Their initiatives to finding a way of maintaining communion within the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Diocese of New Westminster is further evidence of that desire but I feel such schemes will only be successful if dissenting groups are afforded sufficient support to feel their place within our Anglican family is secure. I would also hope that the wish of the Primates expressed last October that such schemes would be undertaken in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury will be observed.

Third, it is obvious to the Commission that if any groups, either dissenting from the decisions of General Convention in ECUSA, or from the forthcoming decisions of the General Synod in Canada, initiate definitive beaks from their parent church, then a different situation will arise for our deliberations. The Commission would have to regard such decisions as a serious development. But until the Commission has come up with proposals for the way in which we may handle such divisions together as a Communion, the support or encouragement of other provinces or dioceses would seem to be itself a further damaging of trust and mutual life and of the very clear guidelines concerning jurisdictional boundaries that we have agreed to adopt as a Communion at successive Lambeth Conferences.

While I cannot at this stage predict the form of the Commission's Report I recognise that the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council together with the Provinces will have to reach decisions which will have defining and widespread consequences. It would be my hope that once the Report is published we can take such decisions as necessary in a manner which is unrushed, in Christian charity and by means of due process. It is my prayer and earnest hope that the Report we are preparing will enable the Anglican Communion to move forward together in ways which will stand the test of time whatever difficulties may arise in future years for our world family.

Wishing you God's blessing in your leadership and service.

Yours very sincerely,

+ Robert Armagh.