Lambeth ’08 in retrospect

The lead editorial in the Church Times today provides an excellent overview of what happened at the most recent Lambeth Conference and some context in which to view it.

Asking the rhetorical question “What happened?” the article answers:

“They did talk about sexuality. They did talk about the threat of schism and the means of heading it off. The two-and-a-half weeks in Canterbury were not an avoid ance exercise; for it was known beforehand that the Conference by itself had no authority to resolve the crisis over homosexuality, even had the GAFCON bishops been present. For this reason, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his team devised a programme that emphasised conversation rather than resolution.

We have no quibble with the Lambeth Conference conceived as a means of enlarging bishops’ vision and enabling them to serve their dioceses better. We should not mind, even, if in 2018 the Archbishop (it might be Dr Williams: he would be only 68) clears the programme completely of meetings and turns the whole thing into a bishops’ holiday — just so long as the Conference has no executive function.

The Anglican Communion is an episcopal body, but not exclusively. Much has been said of Anglican ‘gifts’ in recent days. One is the strong sense of the equality of all lay and ordained members of the body of Christ. The expression of this in a form of synodical government that includes representation of the laity (as well as the clergy) came later to the Church of England than to other provinces; none the less, the place of the clergy and laity in the governance of the Church is now a key mark of Anglicanism.”

Towards the end is written:

This ought to have been the story of Lambeth ’08: rifts healed, suppositions challenged, sympathies gained, friendships forged. It is difficult to tell, but there was no opportunity even to try. As it is, the burden falls on the bishops to be the story as they return to their dioceses. St Paul’s message to the Corinthians, appointed for the Transfiguration, is apposite: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3.2,3). The task requires courage and a good memory. Many will want their bishop to feed back into their two-dimensional narrative of good and evil. It is a pressure that not all will be able to resist.

Read the full editorial here.

Also check out the official “Lambeth reflections document” entitled Lambeth Indaba: Capturing Conversations and Reflections from the Lambeth Conference 2008: Equipping Bishops for Mission and Strengthening Anglican Identity, and the digest of that document provided by the Church Times. Both can be found here.

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