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Although the Anglican Communion came into being at a time of theological and ecclesiastical crisis – the so-called Colenso case – the Lambeth Conference of bishops has by and large managed to avoid doctrinal disputes and disciplinary cases that might have led to controversy and even disunity. Instead the Communion has functioned under the broad umbrella of biblical faith, historic order and Anglican worship, as summarized in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Although there have been tensions from time to time, e.g., over the ordination of women, most Anglican churches have been content to live with what seemed to be secondary differences. Until now. . .
The opposing trends noted above – the growth of the churches of the Global South and the tight control of power by the Anglo-American bloc – came to a head at the Lambeth Conference in 1998. The presenting cause was the acceptance of homosexuality in the Western societies and churches. Despite a determined effort by the Communion bureaucracy to blunt the issue, the Global South bishops managed to get a Resolution to the floor which stated that homosexual practice is “contrary to Scripture” and “cannot be advised.” Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality was approved by the Conference by an overwhelming majority.
The importance of this Resolution cannot be overstated. By using the phrase “contrary to Scripture,” the bishops indicated that homosexual practice violates the first principle of the Communion’s Quadrilateral and indeed the fundamental basis of Anglican Christianity (as expressed in Articles VI and XX). They were saying: “Here is an issue on which we cannot compromise without losing our identity as a Christian body.” Such was the understanding of the Global South bishops, and hence they were taken aback when Resolution 1.10 was immediately ignored and denounced by bishops of the Episcopal Church. . .
From the point of view of the African bishops, the Windsor Report was considered a vehicle by which the offending churches might realize the enormity of their actions and turn back. It was never seen by us as a process that would preempt the decisions of the Lambeth Conference or the Primates. And the Report, while restricted in its scope and cautious in its language, did present a thorough exposé of the ways in which the Episcopal Church arrogated to itself unilaterally a practice condemned in Scripture, tradition and the Resolutions of this Communion.
The churches in Africa, while grateful for the overall judgement of the Windsor Report, felt that it often did not go far enough in spelling out the needed steps of repentance and return. . .
We in CAPA want to say clearly and unequivocally to the rest of the Communion: the time has come for the North American churches to repent or depart. We in the Global South have always made repentance the starting point for any reconciliation and resumption of fellowship in the Communion. We shall not accept cleverly worded excuses but rather a clear acknowledgement by these churches that they have erred and “intend to lead a new life” in the Communion (2 Corinthians 4:2). . .
The current situation is a twofold crisis for the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith, as is supposed by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality. . .
In light of the above, we have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened. There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity. We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers. . .
We recognize the strategy employed by Episcopal Church and certain Communion bodies to substitute talk of Millennium Development Goals for the truth of Scripture. These choices are false alternatives: it is the Christ of Scripture who compels us to care for the poor and afflicted. But we must take the initiative in these areas and not accept the patronizing of those who are rich in endowments but who are not rich toward God. . .
We Anglicans stand at a crossroads. One road, the road of compromise of biblical truth, leads to destruction and disunity. The other road has its own obstacles because it requires changes in the way the Communion has been governed and it challenges our churches to live up to and into their full maturity in Christ. But surely the second road is God’s way forward. It is our sincere hope that this road may pass through Lambeth, our historical mother. But above all it must be the road of the Cross that leads to life through our Saviour Jesus Christ.