Quo Vadis? – Questions along the Road from Lambeth - A response to CAPA\‘s Invitation

“We received   ‘The Road to Lambeth’, a draft report commissioned by the Primates of the   Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) which they have commended to   their churches for study and response. It highlights the crisis that now   confronts us as we consider the future of the Lambeth Conference. We commend   this report for wider reflection. (Kigali Communiqué, 14)”

The Road to Lambeth is an appeal for faithfulness to God. It also recommends the way by which we   keep this faith.  These are two related but distinct summons. It is important to   bear this in mind as we read the Report.  My purpose here is to heed the Global   South Primates’ advice to reflect on this draft report.

I begin with an observation on the   status of the Report.  The Report states in its Preamble that it was   commissioned by CAPA Primates in February 2006.  CAPA Primates received it “with   gratitude” on 19 September 2006.  They did not say they approved it; rather   they  “commended [it] for study and response to the churches of the provinces in   Africa”.

The Kigali Communiqué takes a more   reserved view on the Report.  In sharp contrast with the enthusiastic language   used on the Anglican Covenant processes earlier in Section 7 of the Communiqué,  the Global South Primates stated that they “receive” the Report. They noted that   “it highlights the crisis that now confronts us” and “commend this report for   wider reflection”.  In other words, they recognized the depth of the crisis that   called for faithfulness.  However, they shied away from endorsing the particular   solutions the Report offered.

What then is the status of the Road to   Lambeth? A CAPA commission drafted it and presented it to their Primates in   September.  CAPA Primates now officially recommends it for wider study.  They   have not mentioned how they will follow it up. The Global South Primates takes   note of it as a document from CAPA, and commends it for wider reflection within   the Communion.

The Primates are wise in their   decisions. We need to read The Road to Lambeth against the official   document Kigali Communiqué, and indeed not the other way around. They are not two parallel statements from Kigali that bear the same authority.

The Report identifies two crises in the   Communion: “a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership”.  Specifically, it   calls in question Canterbury’s ability in handling the doctrinal crisis. In   particular, “the central issue of an Anglican Communion Covenant is not   front-and-centre on the agenda of the [Lambeth] Conference. If any group should   be expected to consult on these most important issues, it should be the   assembled bishops of the Communion”. The supposed dismissal of the Covenant from   the Lambeth agenda underpins the Report’s radical appeal for non-attendance in   Lambeth 2008 and for convening a “Covenant Assembly” among Global South   churches.

This is puzzling.  Shortly before the   Kigali Meeting met, Canterbury issued a statement announcing that he has invited   Archbishop Drexel Gomez to head a Covenant Design Group to draft an Anglican   Covenant. He confirmed that this will be “a major and serious focus for the   Lambeth Conference”.  [1]    The Primates at Kigali greeted this in the most enthusiastic language. They   believed that “an Anglican Covenant [that is now a major and serious focus for   Lambeth 2008!] will demonstrate to the world that it is possible to be a truly   global communion where differences are not affirmed at the expense of faith and   truth but within the framework of a common confession of faith and mutual   accountability” (Communiqué, 7).  In other words, the Global South   Primates affirmed in clearest possible terms their intent to contribute in the   Covenant processes. The Covenant constitutes the test of faithfulness (and   membership).  Lambeth 2008 will be the defining moment for the Communion.

Indeed, are not the recommendations in   the Report superseded by recent events?  Is not the Spirit of God at work,  giving us more than we have ever imagined possible?  Does not this explain why   the CAPA Primates themselves did not explicitly endorse it at Kigali?

In affirming the Covenant processes, the   Global South Primates – CAPA Primates included – implicitly confirmed their   intent to be present at Lambeth 2008 to stand up and defend the apostolic   faith.  CAPA Primates did not even bother to revise the now-outdated reference   on the Covenant processes in the Report.

The Report however alerts us to one   important concern. It notes that our churches (in the Global South) need to   “reflect” and “repent”. We need, so the Report says, “to ‘listen’ and learn to   understand better the phenomenon of homosexual attraction”.  I take that to mean   that we need to attend to provide the faithful with better Christian   instruction.  Illness prevented me from taking part in the Theological Formation   and Education Task Force Meeting in Kigali. I deeply appreciate the   recommendations that my colleagues presented to the Global South Primates. My   African colleagues affirmed “the significance of the catechism and the   catechetical method of discipleship”.  [2]   The theological task in preparing a framework for liturgies and catechisms will   be a focal point in our future labour.   Catechetical instruction does not only   cover doctrinal matters; it also teaches Christian moral, opening the minds and   hearts of the faithful to understand the shape of moral life.  This is to say, Christians discipleship may call for bold actions. At the same time, we need to direct our passion with an illumined mind and a discerning heart. The legend has it that as when Peter fled from Rome, he met Jesus at the city gate. He asked “Quo vadis (where are you going)?”  Peter eventually returned to Rome to face martyrdom. At the beginning of this note, I distinguish between the call to faithfulness and the manner by which we keep faith to God.  Quo vadis?  I humbly offer this note to reflect further the way by which we should keep faith with Jesus now.  Is there a way that we can with Jesus when he is lifted up on the Cross at Lambeth?

Michaelmas, 2006

Singapore ____________________________

[1]  Rowan Williams,    “Prayers for the ‘ordinary people of God’ as covenant plans progress”. ACNS     4190.

  [2]  Global     South Anglican Theological Formation and Education Task Force Statement,”    Global South Anglicans,  

2 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. mccabe Says:

    I am certain that the ‘Covenant’ will be made tight enough to bind and chain the ‘Anglican Communion’ to ‘The Law’. I am equally certain that it will not serve the Body of Christ.

  2. Arnold Says:

    Whatch’a talk’in ‘bout Willis?