CANTERBURY, England – Bishops at the Lambeth Conference were expected to agree Sunday on a document they hope will safeguard the future of the Anglican Communion as the once-in-a-decade gathering draws to a close.
Although the "Reflections Document" was reported not to be an official end-of-meeting statement, it will reaffirm a call earlier in the conference for moratoria on ordinations of partnered gay clergy, the blessing of same-sex unions, and cross-border interventions.
More than 600 bishops from around the world have spent the last few days of the July 16-Aug. 3 conference discussing the issue of sexuality and the draft Anglican Covenant – a document that attempts to balance the autonomy of the worldwide church body's 38 provinces with the need for communion, and offer a clear definition on what is and what is not Anglicanism.
Speaking on Friday, the Most Rev. Philip Aspinall, archbishop of Brisbane and spokesman for the conference, said the Covenant was based on the principle of "self-limitation."
Bishops stressed throughout the conference that Lambeth would not produce a definitive solution to questions over the Covenant or the issue of homosexuality, which has deeply divided the 77 million-member Anglican Communion since the 2003 consecration of openly gay U.S. Bishop Gene Robinson.
"Where we go from here remains to be seen," said Aspinall, "but there are good signs at this stage."
Bishops stressed that dialogue would continue long after Lambeth and include the 250 conservative bishops who chose to boycott the conference in protest of the presence of pro-gay bishops.
Proposals were presented earlier in the conference on the establishment of a Pastoral Forum that would act as an advisory body in the event of theological disputes. According to Archbishop Clive Handford, chair of the Windsor Continuation Group, the forum would also act as a "holding bay" or "safe space" for conservative parishes and dioceses to stop them from seeking alternative oversight from foreign primates.
A draft version of the Reflections Document said that ecumenical relations would also benefit from a document that clearly defines Anglicanism.
Speaking earlier in the conference, Roman Catholic Cardinal Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Anglicans that homosexuality and the consecration of women as bishops went against Scripture and made the prospect of full visible communion less likely.
What is at stake "is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ himself," Kasper said.
The Lambeth Conference comes to a close Sunday evening with a special service in Canterbury Cathedral for bishops and their spouses.