Canadian bishops reflect

Published September 2, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams amd Bishop Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan share a laugh after the Lambeth photo session.

From the rare privilege of having Canterbury Cathedral all to themselves for a three-day retreat, to Bible study sessions that gave them a new understanding about their fellow workers in Christ, to trying to make sense of a new process called indaba, Canadian bishops shared their thoughts about the Lambeth Conference in blogs (Web diaries), e-mailed letters to their dioceses, and in interviews with the Anglican Journal. A sampling:

Bishop Michael Bird, diocese of Niagara

Holy ground
It will take many days and weeks to even begin to unpack the range of emotions I have experienced, the stories I have been privileged to hear, the relationships I have developed and the friendships I have made. Certainly the highlights for me were the opening retreat in Canterbury Cathedral, the walk supporting the Millennium Development Goals and the holy ground that I found each day in my Bible study group with six other bishops from around the world.

Bishop Anthony Burton, diocese of Saskatchewan

Balance of power
“In the Archbishop’s view, resolutions (notably Resolution 1.10 of the last Lambeth Conference which addressed the blessing of same-sex unions and bishops invading each other’s jurisdictions) only heighten tensions in the Communion and are rarely put into action.

In its place he has instituted a heavily managed process of small group discussions on prescribed topics, interspersed with optional lectures and presentations on related (and unrelated) topics.

Interestingly, the Archbishop has by a tour de force single-handedly altered the balance of power between his own office and that of the Lambeth Conference. For his power is now no longer simply one of invitation to the bishops to a conference which he hosts. It is one in which he now decides what the bishops can and cannot do when they gather. This is easy to exaggerate, and I know the archbishop has no lust for power, but it is worth observing.

Bishop Susan Moxley, diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

The primates
The main disappointment for me is that he (Archbishop of Canterbury) is going to call a primates’ meeting soon. There were many criticisms of the primates’ meeting as an instrument of unity in the written notes from the indaba groups and I had hoped that they would stay quiet until after the Anglican Consultative Council meeting next May.However, if their meeting can be planned to rebuild relations among them, and not turn into another bullying session, it could be helpful.

Archbishop Caleb Lawrence, bishop of Moosonee and metropolitan of Ontario


‘Pastoral forum’
My concern is how is it going to be applied? It’s called a pastoral forum but will it be pastoral? Will it ultimately be juridicial? Will it be used as an instrument to force people to conform and will it be another one of the situations where there is a right and wrong, black and white, and people will be divided from people even more?

Will it be an instrument that will lead to a reconciliation or will it simply exacerbate the divisions we are in now?”

Bishop George Bruce, diocese of Ontario

As the conversation unfolded it was very clear that for most indabas, there was a high degree of support for the Covenant. It was also clear that we do not want to walk apart and that we wished to include those who from conscience had felt unable to attend. This was no mere warm fuzzy feeling brought about by close proximity for almost three weeks. Instead, it came from genuine attempts to listen to one another.”

Bishop James Cowan, diocese of British Columbia


What’s next?
Anyone who came into this conference thinking that this was going to fix it, came here with the wrong impression. That’s not what the Lambeth Conference is for. The Lambeth Conference is about building relationship.

Bishop Linda Nicholls, suffragan bishop of Toronto (Trent-Durham)


Great hope
Being in retreat at the cathedral was a great reminder “that the church has survived deep divisions, it survived the decimations of the Reformation, you know, in terms of the physical space, it survived arguments amongst people. That gives me great hope.”


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