Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. LAMBETH PALACE

Williams sets out thinking on Lambeth Conference 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has written a pastoral letter to the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion setting out some thinking on the Lambeth Conference in 2008 and asking them to use Lent as a period of reflection about their own journeys and the challenges facing the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.  LAMBETH PALACE
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. LAMBETH PALACE

“The season of Lent is about penitence, and penitence always requires us to see ourselves more clearly in the light of God’s holiness and justice,” he wrote. “Each of us must begin again at the foot of the Cross. … Lent is our best opportunity to let God move more deeply and permanently into the areas of our lives that still resist his grace.”

Looking ahead to 2008, Archbishop Williams outlined his expectations of the priorities to be addressed by the bishops of the Communion, including a stress on theological formation.

“The main focus … will, I hope, be on ‘equipping the people of God’, a theme that has emerged very strongly from the work of the Lambeth Conference Design Group. … Lambeth 2008 will offer a unique opportunity for us to think together as bishops about what we need to equip us for building up the body of Christ for really effective, truthful and prayerful mission.”

He said that, despite the controversy on human sexuality, the Communion could not discuss the situation on any assumption that the teaching of the church had changed since 1998:

“I do not hear much enthusiasm for revisiting in 2008 the last Lambeth Conference’s resolution on this matter. In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully reopen the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion.”

But he drew attention to provisions made for the Communion to discuss and debate the matter, reminding bishops of the undertaking to collect and collate the work done in the various provinces on the issue and of the need to reflect on implications of the current controversy for the common life of the church.

“The controversies of recent years have spotlighted the difficulties we have as a Communion of making decisions in a corporate way … we shall need time to think about the (Windsor) Report’s theological principles and its practical suggestions.”

Lambeth, he said, “is a conference that that should reflect the discernment of the wider Communion, and it is essential that your agenda should be addressed in a way that is fruitful for everyone. The proposed focus on theological formation and development is a way of trying to encourage you to explore what are your own most important needs as individual bishops and as churches not to impose a plan from outside.”

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