Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said it was a “great grief” that some bishops chose to boycott the Lambeth Conference because of deep divisions over the place of homosexuals in the church and stressed the need for prayers “to acknowledge the wound that that makes in our fellowship,” and to acknowledge the need to “mend relations that have been hurt.”
Speaking at the opening plenary of the once-a-decade gathering held at the University of Kent, Archbishop Williams said the absence of these bishops was a great grief “because we need their voice and they need ours in learning Christ together.” The opening gathering was closed to the media and a press release was instead issued today containing excerpts of Archbishop Williams’ remarks.
More than 200 of the 800 bishops invited to the conference chose to stay away and instead attended a gathering of like-minded conservative Anglican bishops and leaders in Jerusalem last month. One of 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion – Uganda – did not send any of its bishops. (The Anglican Communion has about 80 million members spread across 164 countries., according to its Web site, www.anglicancommunion.org)
The boycotting bishops and their supporters have announced the formation of a network within the Communion, promising to be the alternative to what they call a “false gospel” on issues such as homosexuality. The network, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, is being spearheaded by primates and bishops opposed to the consecration in 2003 of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay divorced father, as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire, and the approval in 2002 by the synod of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster of a motion asking its bishop to allow same-sex blessings.
Archbishop Williams said that he respected and accepted the boycotting bishops’ decisions, but expressed the hope that those present at the conference would “daily
be remembering those who are not with us, upholding them in our prayers, in our respect and love.”
He added: “I don’t imagine that simply building relationships solves our problems but the nature of our calling as Christians is such that we dare not, and I say very strongly, dare not pretend that we can meet and discuss without attention to this quality of relation with each other even if we disagree or find ourselves going in different directions.”
He reminded bishops that, “the Lord of the Church commands that we must love one another in the process and there is no alternative to that. I trust that you are here in that confidence in that willingness to love one another.”
Archbishop Williams underscored the need to keep this in mind “because we know as we meet that we are also a wounded body.” He expressed the hope that “as we seek to meet Jesus Christ in each other we hope that the wounds that are still open will in some sense also be open to receive the work of God the Holy Spirit in our work.”