This week about 700 Anglican bishops from throughout the world will gather at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, for the 2008 Lambeth Conference. In convening this once-a-decade gathering, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has expressed his hope that the bishops’ relationships with one another in Christ will be deepened and that our capacity for compassionate and courageous leadership will be strengthened.
On July 20th the opening service will take place in Canterbury Cathedral – a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people worldwide. It will be a moving moment when the Archbishop sits in the chair of Augustine who arrived in England in 597. The gospel will be proclaimed in many languages. The Eucharist will be celebrated. To receive the sacrament in such an international gathering as Lambeth is to be reminded of the words of the Communion hymn:
One bread, one body, one Lord of all,
One cup of blessing which we bless –
And we, though many, throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord.
(#73, Common Praise)
A typical day at this conference will begin with worship. On July 29th the Anglican Church of Canada will host the celebration of the Holy Communion. I will preside and our National Indigenous Bishop, Mark MacDonald, will preach.
Following the Eucharist and breakfast, the bishops and spouses will gather for bible study. The focus will be the “I am” sayings in the Gospel of John. And then five bible study groups will come together to form an Indaba group. Indaba is an African word meaning “meetings for purposeful discussion among equals.” Discussions will focus on a wide range of themes, including Anglican identity, living under the scriptures, fostering communion in the interest of mission, the gospel and social justice, being Christian in a multi-faith world.
Afternoon sermons are “self-select.” They too will cover a wide range of themes – from evangelism to ecumenism to environmental concerns.
Evenings are set aside for plenary sessions – some for bishops only and some for bishops and spouses. A number of groups, agencies and societies host receptions later in the evening.
The London Day is July 24th. Everyone is invited to lunch at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the heart of London, and for tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. This day will also feature a march led by Archbishop Williams in support of the Millennium Development Goals.
Considerable time will be given at Lambeth to a proposal for a Covenant among the churches in the Communion. At a time of great tension and strained relations, it is hoped that a Covenant would enable us to maintain the highest degree of communion possible. Bishops will study what is known as the St. Andrew’s Draft and provide feedback which will then be taken into account as the Covenant Design Group prepares yet another draft for presentation at the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica.
The blessing of same sex unions will undoubtedly be discussed. While some describe this matter as a Communion-breaking issue, many more are deeply committed to an ongoing conversation guided by the principles of intentional listening, mutual respect, constructive dialogue and a capacity for tolerance of a variety of theological perspectives. For some, the conversation centers on how we read and interpret scripture. For some, the conversation needs to be expanded to include the benefit of scientific research. For some, the critical question is “what constitutes loving and responsible pastoral care of gay and lesbian couples who desire to live in monogamous, life-long committed relationships?”
My hope is that our conversations will reflect the charity expected of all those who follow Jesus. I pray that we will not break communion with one another but rather renew commitments to abide together in the fellowship of Christ’s love and peace.
Please pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury, for all the bishops and their spouses, and all those who provide staff support and volunteer service to the conference.
What follows is a list of the daily themes throughout the conference.
Monday, 21 July: Celebrating Common Ground: the bishop and Anglican identity
Tuesday, 22 July: Proclaiming the Good News: the bishop and evangelism
Wednesday, 23 July: Transforming Society: the bishop and social justice
Thursday, 24 July: London Day
Friday, 25 July: Serving Together: the bishop and other churches
Saturday, 26 July: Safeguarding Creation: the bishop and the environment
Sunday, 27 July: Worship at Canterbury Cathedral or a parish in the Diocese of Canterbury
Monday, 28 July: Engaging a Multi-faith World: the bishop, Christian witness and other faiths
Tuesday, 29 July: When power is abused: gender relationships
Wednesday, 30 July: Living Under Scripture: the Bible and the bishop in mission
Thursday, 31 July: Listening to God and Each Other – the bishop and human sexuality
Friday, 1 August: Fostering our Common Life: the bishop, the Anglican Covenant and the Windsor Report (1)
Saturday, 2 August: Fostering our Common Life: the bishop, the Anglican Covenant and the Windsor Report (2)
Sunday, 3 August: Preparing to Go Home: the bishop as a leader in God’s mission
Pray that through this conference, our beloved Church here and throughout the world will be renewed in the call to be “God’s People for God’s Mission”.
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