News reports today suggest that the Lambeth Conference, the meeting of Anglican Bishops from across the world that is scheduled to take place in 2018, has been postponed indefinitely. Although there’s no official word from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion Office, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori of the Episcopal Church reported at the recent House of Bishops meeting in Taiwan that Archbishop Welby had informed her of the postponement.
The Lambeth Conference meets every ten years and has previously been postponed twice because of World Wars I and II. This time, the postponement is not due to world war but to conflict within the Communion itself. In fact, more than 200 of the 700-plus bishops boycotted the 2008 gathering.
Lambeth is understood to be one of the four “Instruments of Communion” that bind the Anglican Communion together (in addition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meetings, and the Anglican Consultative Council. Jefforts Schori was quoted to say that Archbishop Welby told her that the next Lambeth Conference would not to be preceded by a Primates’ Meeting at which “the vast majority of are present.” Whether such a meeting is possible in the current climate remains to be seen.
If true, this seems to me a very big deal indeed. I’m rather surprised PB Jefforts Schori’s comments were not picked up and explored earlier. The Anglican Communion is knit together by means of very weak threads and the postponement of Lambeth can only mean further disintegration. In the meantime, other bodies are being created that bring together like-minded groups intent on creating their own version of Anglicanism.