“Weakening the body of Christ”

Update: The Lambeth Reader can now be found at the Lambeth Conference website.


Ruth Gledhill reports on the Lambeth Reader, “a document intended only for delegates but seen by The Times”:

Conservative bishops have been accused of breaching their duties and damaging the welfare of Christians as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, fights back against his critics.

Anglican bishops arriving for the Lambeth Conference yesterday were told to stop their backstabbing and in-fighting if they were not to “weaken the body of Christ”.

A background paper distributed to 650 bishops and archbishops attending the ten-yearly conference in Canterbury told them to remember that their relationships with each other were “fragile and tainted by sin”.

“Given the present state of the Anglican Communion it is the special collegial responsibility of the bishop to be at prayer for and with fellow colleagues,” the paper said.

“This is particularly relevant for those bishops who are in conflict with one another. Their failure to attend fervently to this ordinal vow weakens the body of Christ for which they have responsibility. This in turn weakens the bonds that all the baptised share with one another.”

The paper, written by the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, represents the start of the fightback by Dr Williams, who has been accused of showing inadequate leadership.

The paper may have been seen “only by The Times,” but much of the phrasing of the document Gledhill quotes dates back to the commission’s document from 2006, The Anglican Way: The Significance of the Episcopal Office for the Communion of the Church.

Read Gledhill’s report here, and here relatedly blog post on the first day of the Lambeth Conference here.

In September 2007 the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission members were:

The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Pickard (Acting Chair), Anglican Church of Australia

The Revd Canon Dr Philip H E Thomas (Assistant to the Chair), Church of England

The Revd Dr Victor R Atta-Baffoe, Church of the Province of West Africa

The Rt Revd Dr Samuel R Cutting, Church of North India

The Rt Revd Tan Sri Dr Lim Cheng Ean, Church of the Province of South East Asia

The Revd Dr Bruce N Kaye, Anglican Church of Australia

The Revd Canon Luke Pato, Anglican Church of Southern Africa

The Rt Revd Paul Richardson, Church of England

The Revd Dr Nicholas Sagovsky, Church of England

Dr Eileen Scully, Anglican Church of Canada

Dr Jenny Te Paa, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia

The Rt Revd Hector ‘Tito’ Zavala, Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America

According to its Communiqué September 2007,

The work of the Commission concentrated on three areas: drawing to a completion the work of the Communion Study on which the Commission has been working since its formation in 2001, revising the document on Bishops and Communion which it had originally produced during its meeting in 2006, and preparation for the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The major task of this Commission meeting was to bring to a conclusion the consultative study on the Communion. This has been accomplished successfully, producing a significant report on the nature and sustaining of Communion. The report will be offered to the Archbishop of Canterbury whose predecessor in that office established the present Commission following the Lambeth Conference of 1998. The Commission hopes to publish its report in full during the next few months and it will be presented to the Lambeth Conference.

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