Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Windsor Report: A Paradigm Shift for Anglicanism

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Windsor Report: A Paradigm Shift for Anglicanism

Article excerpt

The 2004 Windsor Report prompted a variety of responses from the Anglican provinces in Africa, reflecting the different languages, cultures, and forms of Christianity found on this continent. Among African Anglicans, it is church leaders who speak most loudly about human sexuality, often ignoring other sins that are rampant in both church and society. Some leaders call for a central authority to settle issues of sexuality, but generally assert their own provincial autonomy in relationship to other issues. Their understanding of reconciliation appears to be narrower than its Pauline basis. And it seems that some leaders have more to say about human sexuality than about pressing issues in their own areas. The Windsor Report challenges Anglicans in Africa as elsewhere to reflect critically on the missional priorities of the church.

To be asked to speak on the Windsor Report after it has already been read, responded to, and commented on by different groups is a daunting task. Serving on the Lambeth Commission was an experience that at once both humbled and mightily challenged me. So even if there have been responses, it is not a bad idea to reflect on the Windsor experience.

The Lambeth Commission (appointed in October 2003) brought together nineteen people from fourteen of the Communion's Provinces: The Church of England, of Aotaeora, New Zealand, and Polynesia, of the West Indies, Kenya, the United States, Canada, Wales, Ireland, Central Africa, Nigeria, Hong Kong, North India, Scotland, and South Africa. The group consisted of both lay people and clergy, more men than women, more clergy than lay. The Lambeth Commission worked for one full year with three meetings, two in England and one in the United States. After one year the Commission produced the Windsor Report. The Windsor Report is divided into four sections: the biblical foundations of communion, the principles of communion, the future life of the Anglican Communion, and the maintenance of communion.

The section on the biblical foundations for communion in Christ lays a very helpful basis for the question of how, together, we discern what is best for the whole body. In this section the Report describes the nature of the Communion we currently share, the bonds which hold it together, the ways in which much of this has been severely tested and now threatened, and something of the ways to respond to some of the more serious of these threats.

The section on the nature of the Anglican Communion deals with the instruments, mechanisms, and legislative means of holding the Communion together and looks at why they apparently have been unable to do so in the current circumstances. In looking at this section, the members noted that the existing instruments are seriously limited in their ability to respond effectively to situations such as the current "crisis." There is a council of bishops, lay people, and clergy that is consultative, a conference of bishops that meets once a decade, a meeting of Primates which has no prescribed timetable, and an Archbishop of Canterbury.

The section on the maintenance of the Communion asks the question of how we do (or should) act now to preserve the worldwide Anglican Communion. This section is included, notwithstanding the fact that some in communion were urging the Lambeth Commission to recommend (or its dissolution. Some of these voices have not stopped. They continue to align themselves on the basis of like-mindedness on a particular issue, and this has added to the difficulties.

It is in this context and the context of this conference on Afro-Anglicanism that I wish to reflect on the role of Africa in the Windsor process, Most of the responses from Africa have been verbal; in most parts of Africa this report has not been read. It is gathering dust on the shelves of senior church leaders. Some of these leaders have issued statements about the report. A cross-section of the responses is interesting. …

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