I served for ten years on the United States Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue (ARC-USA). In the course of numerous discussions, I found one brief remark by an Anglican colleague especially illuminating. The remark was: "for us the THAT of communion is more important than the WHAT of communion."As the Lambeth Conference enters its final week, it appears as though, if the "what" of communion cannot be satisfactorily addressed, the "that" of communion may not hold.Austen Ivereigh continues his very helpful reflections today on the America blog:

It now looks as if the Lambeth Conference is beginning to go in the direction hoped for by both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Rome preventing schism through the centralisation of authority.

The three major proposals are these:

1. A new Anglican Faith and Order Commission which will looks a lot like an embryonic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The body would give guidance on doctrinal questions to the Anglican Communion.

2. A "blueprint" for a Code of Canon Law a set of rules which are descriptive rather than prescriptive. It is likely that these rules would prevent, say, conservative African bishops exercising oversight over conservative American dioceses which do not recognise their own bishops authority.

3. An Anglican Covenant a document setting out core Anglican beliefs and a biding agreement to abide by them. This would almost certainly exclude the possibility of a practising gay man becoming a bishop.

And he adds, somewhat portentously:



Conversely, if the proposals fail, the Anglican Church can expect a long dark night of balkanisation and Rome will all but give up on structured ecclesial dialogue. Whom would Catholics be talking to, and what would be the point?


Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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