The Commission has worked hard over a whole year to find a way forward for the Anglican Communion. Its membership was drawn from across that Communion reflecting different cultures, theologies and viewpoints but its report is a unanimous one. It was not asked and has not tried to tackle the issue of human sexuality. Its brief was, given the fact that different provinces have different attitudes and understandings of various contentious matters, how do they acknowledge that fact and consult the wider Communion before making decisions that inevitably impact on the life of that wider Communion.
The presenting issues in these instances were the ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire and the approval of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions in New Westminster (issues on which the Lambeth Conference and primates had expressed their minds), but other contentious issues could arise in the future which could affect the life of the whole Communion. In other words how does a province exercise restraint and consult the wider body before taking decisions on matters which affect the life of that body and not just its own? Provinces that ordained women both to the priesthood and episcopate certainly did that. Unilateral actions by some provinces have in turn led to the actions from other provinces and archbishops, which have further fractured the Communion.
The report acknowledges the seriousness of all these issues and asks all the provinces concerned to realise the effects their actions have had by expressing their regret in disregarding the proper constraints of communion and refraining from any further actions that would harm the Communion. Its aim has been to effect healing and reconciliation. It acknowledges the need for ongoing dialogue and debate and for provinces to be willing to listen to one another and of course to the world in which it is set.
The report needs to be pondered long and hard by the provinces of the Communion and its implications studied before reacting in any precipitate way. The subtleties of the report may not be noticed on first reading. However, if the way forward advocated by this report is found unacceptable then the future for the Anglican Communion is indeed bleak.
The Most Rev. Barry Morgan
Archbishop of Wales and member of the Lambeth Commission
October 18, 2004