Archbishop unveils details for Lambeth

Published February 1, 2006

Photographs from the Lambeth Conferences of 1958 (top photo) and from 1998 shows the changes in the face of Lambeth and its participants. The conference of the world’s Anglican bishops, which takes place every 10 years, will meet at the University of Kent in Canterbury from July 16 to Aug. 3, 2008.

Some details about the next Lambeth Conference of bishops have become clearer but one key question – will North American bishops receive an invitation? – can only be answered by one person: the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lambeth, a conference of the world’s Anglican bishops which takes place every 10 years, will meet at the University of Kent in Canterbury from July 16 to Aug. 3, 2008, Archbishop Rowan Williams has announced.

It remains unknown, however, whether Archbishop Williams will bow to pressure coming from more conservative bishops and primates of the Anglican Communion not to invite to the conference bishops from the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada because of their more liberal views on homosexuality. Some have warned that they will boycott the conference if American and Canadian bishops are invited.

The Windsor Report, released by the Lambeth Commission on Communion last October 2004, had also urged Archbishop Williams to “exercise very reasonable caution in inviting or admitting to the councils of Communion” Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church’s first openly gay bishop, citing “widespread unacceptability of his ministry in other provinces.” The commission was created by the Archbishop of Canterbury to find ways of arresting a schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion over the ordination of Bishop Robinson and the introduction of same-sex blessings in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster.

The commission also urged bishops who took part in the consecration of Bishop Robinson as well as those bishops in New Westminster and ECUSA who have authorized same-sex blessings to consider withdrawing “from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.” The report said the moratoria would be in effect “until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has stated that formal invitations would be issued as the time of the conference draws closer. He also stated that the invitees would include diocesan as well as stipendiary suffragan and stipendiary assistant bishops. Spouses are also to be invited and Archbishop Williams’ wife, Jane, is co-ordinating the preparations for a concurrent Spouses’ Conference.

To avoid a repeat of the 1998 conference where acrimonious debates on homosexuality took center stage, Archbishop Williams has asked the Lambeth organizing group which met in London last December to introduce what is being dubbed as a “Lambeth-lite” meeting with fewer resolutions and more opportunities for prayer, collegiality and discussion of the church’s mission in today’s world. The group – whose members were appointed by Archbishop Williams – includes one archbishop, five bishops, one laywoman and one priest from various provinces of the Communion.

Archbishop Ellison Pogo of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, who heads the group told the Anglican Communion News Service: “We are working very hard to orient the conference around God’s mission of transformation and reconciliation, seeing the bishops themselves as primary resources in this task.” He expressed the hope that through small Bible study and expanded conversation groups the bishops would “encounter God’s word anew, be engaged with one another at a very deep level, and then empowered in their vocation as leaders in God’s mission.”

He confirmed that the conference process would be “relational not confrontational in its approach with a minimum of resolutions.”


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