Richard D. Meadows, Jr.
Our readings in, Anglican Communion from the 19th-21st Centuries have been dominated by the modern networks and some historical approaches to Anglicanism. In spite of the historical difficulties and struggles, the continuous formulation and evolution, of the church has continued throughout the ages. The Lambeth Conference, the first meeting of the conference was held in 1867. It is a meeting of prelates, called by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It has met continuously every ten years since the inception. There have been a total of thirteen conferences with the last being held in 2008.
Lambeth Conferences are known as one of the Instruments of Communion. The Windsor Report has listed these as follows: Primates' Meeting, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council as the Instruments of Communion.
Within the Anglican Communion there have been a series of issues which have been sources of differences and frustrations on many levels. The wonderment of communion has been addressed by bringing the voices of all sides to be heard and remain in communion in spite of the differences. This has been one of the main focuses of Lambeth.
The many voices of the whole communion are held together by “bonds of affection,” so valued for its ability to hold in check the voices that would separate or destroy the communion. It however is the differences of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada in regards to sexuality and women clergy that have infuriated many others. Lambeth and the Windsor Report both address these differences by the “bonds of affection.”
The Anglican Communion has developed over the past one-hundred and forty two years. It reflects the times and images of a changing world. The Preamble states that the communion is drawn for the world and its people and they shall covenant together, unified in the name of the Lord Jesus. As simple as this may sound it has also been the challenge.
Because of Sacraments, Biblical understanding and continuous struggle, by persons of God inspired character, it has led the evolutionary changes that have occurred since the end of the post colonial era. The growth of the church globally, yet protected by the government of England can be said to have been the original intent, of the Church Fathers, a result of liturgical renewal or evolution of Liturgy and society. The unity and communion of Anglicans so far has held fast through each phase of history.
There has been in the midst of the evolution, of the church, men and women who have believed in a church, that is connected to the God who created the heavens and the earth. Glaring faults have arisen during the pre and post colonial age, and yet those of Anglican beliefs and traditions have held fast. They have held fast, to the belief that this is an inspired and consistently transforming catholic and apostolic Church of God. The Anglican Communion has become a force for good and can finally claim, it has in theory relinquished the fears of old, that would hinder provinces of other cultures and countries from gaining self governance, growth and self sustenance. A set of terms and goals older than the lambeth Conferences. Biblical history’s writings explain the original intent and expectations of the Mother Church. In conjunction with the government of England, the church was protected and supported to grow as large as the Kingdom. Everywhere there was the Kingdom, the church would be there with the understanding of religion and society would walk hand-in-hand.
The development of evangelism, education and creation of a civilized society in foreign lands could be socially and theologically distinctive and central to the Anglican identity of the Anglican church. Where else or in what other denomination did the church have the protection and support of the most powerful military in the world? Only Anglicans who proclaimed the “Sun never sets on the kingdom” had a church who could develop along side of the government. Central to the claim of Anglican identity is that the people would see God first, and then society and government. Also historically, the indigenous people as they came under the control of the kingdom would also see God, order and government. The financial cost of this endeavor can possibly never be calculated. This is the esoterically to what would have been Anglican identity at the time, that no matter what it cost in money or lives, the world wide kingdom would be established. This statement is more political than theological, but if there was no general distinction between political and religious as the kingdom was established, my statement is justified as is.
Development of clergy was central to process of establishing the church globally since the first Lambeth Conference. The goal of developing faithful men that would be dedicated to nurturing God’s people was one of the arguments throughout the resolutions of the covenant. I am however opinioned that, this was also dependant upon the origin and race of the clergy. Training of clergy, which could seem to be a non-issue becomes a hindrance to the creation of a truly indigenous church, which is now reflected in the covenant. Biblically from Paul’s teachings from the Epistles, it could be assumed, The original intent of the Apostles was to receive men who were called by God. This calling of these men was proven by their heart’s desire to serve God’s people, and more importantly answer God’s call.
Men were being afforded the opportunity strictly based upon their formal training and education. It can be implied that this would delay and stifle the mission and growth The distinctive here is that vision of the Anglican Church was more natural and worldy than the vision of the Apostle Paul. Theologically central to the idea of establishing the church was to have clergy to supply those churches. Deployment of clergy as a vocation could be interpreted from Lambeth as always having been the intent, a life shared. God’s people would be nourished and under the control of the Holy Spirit and not the government. This promulgates the idea that the establishment of the church of the people, should be indigenous and that would make it truly the church of the people. A church of the Spirit of communion would make reference to would be one where, the gospel is preached and shared among the faithful.
Lambeth Covenant speaks to autonomy of the indigenous people, along with supporting their infrastructure is vital to the success of the church being established in foreign lands. The support is both spiritual and financial. St. Paul’s words and the work of the Apostles, abiding in the Holy Spirit, could carry forth through the centuries to allow the indigenous to carry out the work of the Lord.
The condition of controlling the church and not allowing the indigenous church to become independent created a struggle that involved castigating the indigenous as “uncivilized and degraded.”
To continue in succession of the teachings of Jesus, and the establishment of a catholic church, there must be faithful men and women, who will continue to struggle in the midst of surmounting challenges of faith, and fundamental ecclesiastical life. Our readings reflect the struggle of early divisions, and civil strife, limited to the Church of England. They also reflect the struggle, to merge with an imperialistic government, become a state church, and the latter realization that the church, has become a victim of its own ambitious goals. However, the church evolves and can no longer join with the state and governmental ambitions but must stand as Jesus Christ implied to prevail against the gates of hell. Overcoming the evil of the world and joining with righteous people with righteous goals for mankind and the church.
The post-colonial example of the Church of South Africa is one of the greatest demonstrations of a modern approach to unification of the Communion. Black Anglicans through Desmond TuTu were tied to the freedom struggle. Tutu’s approach to the various problems of how the church of South Africa has been used to not only promote the health and welfare of the state and government, but the church had become a bystander in the polices which promoted the venomous hatred for the indigenous and people of color. The liberating call of Christ to set captives free, and deliver into their hands the kingdom of Christ comes through the radical power of liberating struggle of Desmond Tutu. Tutu who is English educated returns to South Africa bringing fulfilling the Anglican communion dream of establishing a church free from oppressive controls. Tutu identifies not only his own struggles within the church, and how the church is partner with the oppressive regime, but is strengthened by the struggles of political freedom for his people by his successes he experienced with the Anglican Church, I.e. the Office of Bishop of Lesotho.
The structure of the governmental oppression is destroyed, through the dismantling of the systems, which held Coloreds and Blacks from religious and political freedom. There were to be no reforms of the system of government but, the system had to be deconstructed, which is a major theme of Tutu’s theology. This however could not be accomplished with Black power alone. Tutu finds other ecumenical organizations, Coloreds, Blacks and sympathetic Whites who would join in the fight for Liberation. Tutu helps to set the agenda and goals.# This new coalition of the Rainbow People of God, along with Anglicans is created to increase the demands and the pressure for economic, social and political equality.
The struggle is now theological as it is political. His demands of change in the face of violence, strengthens his call for non-violent resistance by the people. His work is grounded spiritually in “God sending his Son to effect reconciliation to bring about the at-one-ment that would achieve the peace, justice, friendliness, compassion…God was reconciling the world to himself.”# For Tutu there was no separation of the church and the world. The priestly work of Christ has now become the priestly work of the church. Suffering, death on the cross and reconciliation were the seamless robe of Christ, that unites the church and the world, politics and religion, struggle and freedom.
Tutu accepts the call of the Apostle Paul, “As he has enlisted us in this service of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) he references the power and actions demanded by Koinonia. If the church is to remain in fellowship and unity it must take up the struggle for all Anglicans.
What currently is a central challenge to Anglican Communion and Anglican Identity is Koinonia. It can be argued, that a church in fellowship honors what makes Anglicans unique or magnifies its distinctives. Within the fellowship Anglicans declare through creed, and being an apostolic and catholic holy church, the history and faith, that we are one. In the communion the desire to see a more provincial church with indigenous control has come to pass. The Anglican Communion is also today, very provincial. Diversity and culture have not always been appreciated to its fullest, but the connection between the church and historical context have added a richness to the evolution. The growth of the church has been statistically stagnant, or in decline in some provinces, and exponential growth has occurred in other areas of the world. To the revolutionary, it has not been enough and to the evolutionary it has become what God would have it to be, the Bride of Christ.
Where there has been resistance to change and unity, the universality of the church has moved to the forefront and the church has at times joined with the earthly struggle of freedom and justice. The church has been able to become a functional partner in the global and local development of the church and its primate leaders and priests. Many Provinces have grown and evolved from the strife ridden single island church of the 1500’s. The growth of Anglicanism globally has been astounding.
The church now becomes the church of the people, that will be indigenous, liberating, reconciling and allows for and Holy Spirit inspired. Once this freedom of the people occurs through the church’s unity and struggle, it illuminates Roland Allen’s work. The struggle has changed, vis-à-vis, oppression by a minority upon a majority with race/skin color as the only determinant. The Anglican Church led by Tutu has stood in the face of many differences, its people have suffered the persecution and oppression of apartheid and realized their hope for a future of equality and peace.
Based upon the efforts, advancements and developments of the global Anglican Communion, is no longer the equivalent of the Ecclesiastical Expansion of England. Growth of the churches, self-sustenance , and self governance will not be supported at the financial levels of the past, but finally become the church the Anglican divine Roland Taylor dreamed of; Growth through the preached word, whereby men would receive the word, receive Christ, and His Spirit. In doing so the church in foreign lands would sustain itself and grow as the churches of Asia Minor during the lifetime of the Apostle Paul.