The first plenary session of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Communion met from 9th - 13th February, 2004, at St George's House, Windsor, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Robin Eames, the Primate of All Ireland. The Commission received its mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury following the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Lambeth Palace, London, in October 2003. It is in reference to that meeting that the Commission has adopted the short name "The Lambeth Commission". It has been asked to look at ways of maintaining the highest degree of communion possible in the light of developments in the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada.
The session began with a short Rite of Commissioning conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a charge from Archbishop Rowan Williams, and a meditation and opening remarks from Archbishop Robin Eames. At this first meeting the Commission saw its priority as ascertaining an accurate picture of the situation in the Anglican Communion, and reviewed the findings of previous and current commissions which have tackled the issue of communion as an aspect of Anglican life, the Eames Commission (1988-1993), the Virginia Report of the Inter Anglican Doctrinal Commission (1994-1998) and the current work of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (1999-present).
The Commission received presentations from Dr Mary Tanner (former Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches), Dr Paul Avis (General Secretary for the Church of England Council for Christian Unity), Professor Stephen Sykes (Chairman of the Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission) and Dr Chris Sugden (Director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies), who offered papers on "Decision Making Processes in the Anglican Communion", "Anglican Conciliarity: History, Theology and Practice", "The Recent work of the IATDC", and "What is the Anglican Communion for?".
In line with the Commission's commitment to operating in an open way, these presentations, and other papers and information, will be released shortly on the Commission's website: www.anglicancommunion.org/ecumenical/commissions/primates/index.cfm Details can also be found on this site on how submissions to the Commission may be forwarded for their consideration.
The Commission is saddened that tensions within the Communion, exacerbated by the use of strident language, have continued to rise in recent months. In addition, there has been the declaration from significant numbers of Anglican Provinces of impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada. Although representing a broad range of opinion across the Communion, the Commission members are united in their commitment to preserving the unity of the Anglican Communion, and to finding a way forward.
The Commission requests all members of the Anglican Communion to refrain from any precipitate action, or legal proceedings, which would further harm "the bonds of communion" in the period whilst it completes its work. Mission and ministry, including prayer for unity, remain the priorities.
The Commission has identified five themes for its ongoing work:
- issues of process in the Anglican Communion,
- the nature and purposes of communion,
- the obligations of communion,
- authority, and
- the role of the instruments of unity in preserving fellowship.
The Commission is grateful for the hospitality offered by Saint George's College, Windsor, and looks forward to its next plenary meeting in June, which will be held in the United States.