Invitations have gone out from the Archbishop of Canterbury to over 850 Anglican Bishops of the Global Anglican Communion of Churches, made up of 38 Provinces. Whether all or most of those who receive invitations will accept will only be known in the long term.
However, if these invited Bishops act according to their stated principles, then it is probable that Lambeth 2008 will be cancelled or will take place as a much smaller and different type of Conference. Why? Because while the stated principles of many (say 500) allow them to attend the Conference under virtually any reasonable conditions, the stated principle of others forbid them to attend. And if they follow their consciences then they will refuse.
Let me explain, with respect to the latter point.
Bishop Gene Robinson of the U.S.A. has not been invited and this because he is an active, homosexual person living with his male partner. But who consecrated him as Bishop of New Hampshire? The answer is American Bishops for whom the admission to the Episcopate of such a man was a matter of conscience and not a matter of following the advice of over 90 per cent of the Anglican Communion. Those who consecrated and totally supported Robinson cannot on principle attend if he is not also invited. Thus maybe forty or fifty USA bishops may not accept the invitation sent to them.
Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (an offshoot of the Church of Nigeria) has not been invited and this because he is functioning within the "territory" of The Episcopal Church without its agreement. He is, in Anglican ecclesiology, an "intruder" and even a "robber". But who consecrated him? The Archbishop of Nigeria and other Nigerian Bishops. And who authorizes his ministry in the USA? The House of Bishops of the Church in Nigeria . Thus, if he is not invited, the whole (large) House of Bishops in Nigeria cannot on principle attend.
The Bishops of the Anglican Mission in the Americas have not been invited. Like Martyn Minns they function in the USA as "intruders" in the "territory" of The Episcopal Church. They were consecrated by the Archbishop of Rwanda and other Rwandan Bishops and they are authorized to function by the House of Bishop of Rwanda. Thus, if they are not invited, the whole House of Bishops of Rwanda cannot on principle attend.
The Church of Nigeria and the Church of Rwanda have close bonds with other Churches in Africa ( e.g., Uganda) and elsewhere (S.E. Asia) and these bonds require that these Provinces stand together on important matters. Thus, if Nigeria and Rwanda decide not to attend on principle then these other Provinces on principle will also not attend.
In Provinces of the West (e.g., Canada) there are individual Bishops who are wholly supportive of the "theology" underpinning the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as an actively homosexual person (and proud of it). On principle, they cannot attend if he is not invited for to do so would be to betray him and their theology.
If we add up the numbers involved in these five categories, then they become a substantial number—even half of the nearly 900 Anglican Bishops worldwide. Without them the Conference will not be truly a global conference but only a meeting of those in the "center" of the varied theological positions found in modern Anglicanism.
The Anglican Crisis continues because nothing is being solved—despite much talking and many e-mails and much traveling---as burning issues continue to be in the spotlight and in the hearts of many Anglicans.
We can but pray" "Lord, have mercy," and again, "Lord, have mercy." [visit www.anglicansatprayer.org for prayers to offer]
If the Lambeth Conference were truly and really merely and only a Conference then matters of conscience would be of much less moment. In practice, what is called a Conference is regarded ny many in 2007 as the ecclesial Body with moral authority speaking for the Anglican world and thus rather more than just "an instrument of unity."
Dr Peter Toon, May 23, 2007 firstname.lastname@example.org