For his part, Archbishop Welby is backtracking from the perception that the conference has been cancelled. An Anglican Communion News Service article contained this quote:
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has responded to inaccurate media reports that the Lambeth Conference had been cancelled by saying, "As it hasn’t been called, it can’t have been cancelled."These kinds of statements defy belief. C'mon Justin, everyone knows that the Lambeth Conference of Bishops has met in the eighth year of each decade for more than 70 years. Not to have it in 2018 is, for all intents and purposes, to cancel it.
Cancelling it, postponing it, not calling it—whatever—given the current climate in the Communion, is probably a wise thing to do. More than 200 bishops declined to attend in 2008, following actions by the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada to depart from historic Christian faith and morals.
Admittedly, all the positive rhetoric around the health of the Anglican Communion is what some leaders often believe is a necessity. While being more candid (not to say honest) might be seen as too negative and terribly un-British, the spin regarding the situation of the Communion is so unbelievable as to be preposterous. Consider this statement by Abp. Welby regarding his contact with the Primates:
"All the indications are that they want the Communion to flourish,” he said, “that they want to have meetings to discuss the issues that face us: How do we live as a Communion in a way that demonstrates very important differences over issues of sexuality?Writing on Stand Firm, Sarah Hey rightly observes:
Well, no. That is not the purpose of “meetings”—to decide how to live “as a Communion” while having “very important differences over issues of sexuality.”[Amen. Amen. Amen.]
The repeated statement by at least the Gafcon Primates, and many of the remaining Global South Primates is that the actions of The Episcopal Church are intrinsically communion-dividing. It’s not a question of “how will the Communion divide”—that division, albeit internal, has already occurred. The further question is not “how can we all live together in the midst of our profound disagreements” but is rather “what is to be done with the Provinces which have engaged in intrinsically communion-dividing actions?”
That is the question, to which an appropriate answer has already been provided by Scripture, tradition, reason, and 22 of the Anglican Communion Provinces.
Concurrently with this spin over the cancellation of the 2018 Lambeth conference comes a statement in an interview by Archbishop Welby that the Anglican Church in North America is not a part of the Anglican Communion. Well, technically, if membership in the Communion is dependent on an invitation to a Lambeth Conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury, then no the ACNA is not a member. Of course, Welby could change all that by simply inviting the ACNA bishops to the next Lambeth conference.
In any event, there are two facts on the ground that Archbishop Welby needs to recognize:
1. The Anglican Communion is already divided, as A.S. Haley very ably documented.
2. Twenty-two provinces (a majority of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion) already recognize the Anglican Church in North America (just as the Diocese of Northwest Australia did this past week). These provinces also represent the overwhelming majority of the world's active, church-going Anglicans.
Imagine a Communion that embraced the vitality and orthodoxy of GAFCON and the Global South and that disciplined the decadent and heterodox churches of the West. This could be a moment in which the Church of the 21st century stood proudly and boldly with the communion of saints down through the ages. Instead, Archbishop Welby's failure to recognize the situation as it truly exists (and his worthless and inconsequential attempts at reconciliation) will only prolong the Anglican Communion's malaise.