July 27, 2022

Lambeth Resolutions Come and Go

In response to claims that Lambeth resolutions "hold" until expressly repealed, and citing Lambeth 1958's rejection of the former "ban" on contraception from 1908, I noted the following:

It might be better to say that the Lambeth 1998 statement was a reflection of the majority at the Conference. There is no foundation for assigning Lambeth the capacity to speak the "mind" of the Communion. It is not a synod, but a conference. It does not issue canons, but it does make statements. Some are allowed to pass away in desuetude, while others are revisited. Three facts need to be noted:
  • The 1958 resolution (115) on contraception ("family planning") simply ignores the existence of the pungent denunciations of 1908. Moreover, the real change came in 1930 (Resolution 15) again with no mention of the 1908 position.
  • In many resolutions down the years, it is frequent practice to "reaffirm Resolution ____ of the ____ Lambeth Conference."
  • If resolutions held, some would not be so eager to reaffirm.
Taken together, I think this supports the notion that Lambeth Resolutions speak for the majority of the Conference at the time of adoption.

All that being said, I think the current revision of the Call reflects neither a reaffirmation nor a denial; it is a simple statement that Lambeth 1998 1.10 said what it said. Some like to attribute authority to it; but there is no foundation for such authority, beyond the authority of those who originated it.

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