What Type of Church Council is the Lambeth Conference?

What Type of Church Council is the Lambeth Conference? July 1, 2019

I’ve been reading an interesting article by Paul Avis, “Lambeth 2020: Conference or Council?” Theology 122.1 (2019): 1-13.

Concerning what type of councils is the Lambeth Conference as a decision making body, Avis concludes:

If most early councils were largely pragmatic affairs whose decisions lacked executive effect; if they typically searched for consensus rather than always taking divisive majority decisions; if large numbers of bishops absented themselves, even from ‘ecumenical’ councils; if they gave rise to bitter controversy; if Vatican II was a pastoral council that issued no decrees and pronounced no anathemas, but devoted itself to expounding and applying the faith of the Church; and if the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in 2016 similarly issued no canons and pronounced no anathemas and was depleted by mass absences and found its authority challenged by four Autocephalous Churches and a host of critics – if, in other words, when we look at the history of conciliarity in the Church, all this is found to be the case, then clearly there is considerable flexibility in the concept of conciliarity. Some significant councils have not operated in a juridical mode. A non-juridical form of conciliarity is not abnormal. Juridical authority cannot belong to the definition of a council. The fact that a conciliar body lacks the power to implement its teachings does not make it non-conciliar. I conclude that the concept of conciliarity is sufficiently broad and flexible to accommodate the Lambeth Conference. It is customary among Anglicans to be slightly apologetic about the Lamb Conference. ‘It isn’t a council,’ we sometimes say, ‘it’s only a conference.’ Such diffidence is misplaced. The Lambeth Conference is the highest expression fo Anglican conciliarity and as such is endowed with considerable moral and pastoral authority. May the 2020 conference use it wisely.

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