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Boycott of Lambeth 2008 is “most serious challenge yet”: CEN 8.29.08 p 6. August 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Lambeth 2008.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to invite the American, Canadian and Central American bishops who consecrated Gene Robinson to Lambeth led to 214 bishops boycotting the conference, a study by The Church of England Newspaper has found.

A review of registration data and attendance figures gathered during the conference finds that 206 diocesan and 8 suffragan bishops declined to attend the July 16 to Aug 3 conference. While boycotts affected the 1998, 1868 and 1888 conferences—the 2008 boycott was the most serious challenge to the integrity of the meeting.

The Anglican Communion comprises 729 dioceses, missionary districts, and ecclesial entities divided into 38 provinces and six extra-provincial jurisdictions. Approximately 260 dioceses and jurisdictions within the Communion were not represented by their diocesan bishops at Lambeth. Not all absences were the result of a conscious decision not to accept Dr. Rowan Williams’ invitation to Lambeth.

A number of sees are vacant, while exigent circumstances prevented some bishops from attending. The Archbishop of Polynesia, the Most Rev. Jabez Bryce remained at home to lead the coronation services of the King of Tonga, while the Bishop of Salisbury was felled by a stroke. Pending legal proceedings prevented the Bishop of Pennsylvania from attending while bishops from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of North India have never attended the Lambeth Conference.

Zimbabwe’s uncertain political situation prevented the Bishop of Manicaland from coming while a handful of bishops were also blocked from attending Lambeth due to local circumstances.

Of those identified as absent by CEN, 214 bishops from 10 provinces made an affirmative decision not to accept Dr. Williams’ invitation due to reasons of conscience: Australia 7; Southern Cone 1; Episcopal Church 1; Church of England 3; Uganda 30; Nigeria 137; Kenya 25; Rwanda 8; South East Asia 1; and Jerusalem and the Middle East 1.

From Africa’s 324 dioceses, 200 diocesan bishops (61 percent) were identified as having refused Dr. Williams’ invitation.

At the first conference in 1867, 76 bishops accepted the invitation of Archbishop Charles Longley to Lambeth. However, the bishops of the Convocation of York declined to attend the conference in protest to the perceived usurpation of authority by Dr. Longley. In 1878, 100 bishops accepted the invitation of Archbishop AC Tait, and the misgivings felt by the northern convocation were overcome as the opening sermon was preached by the Archbishop of York.

In 1888 a handful of evangelicals, including the Bishop of Liverpool JC Ryle, stayed home citing concerns over what they saw as Anglo-Catholic pretensions to prelacy exhibited by some of the participants.

The question of women bishops attending Lambeth 1998 led a handful of traditionalists to boycott the conference. Two English missionary bishops in Madagascar declined to attend the gathering due to the presence of women bishops, while concerns by other traditionalists led Dr. George Carey to restructure the Eucharistic services to assuage their concerns.

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