Lambeth: joys, challenges—and calls to answer

The chalice stands ready for a communion service in Canterbury Cathedral Aug. 7 during the Lambeth Conference. PHOTO: Richard Washbrook for the Lambeth Conference
By on September 29, 2022

At the end of the Eucharist we often are dismissed with the words, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” reminded that the work of the Eucharist is not over with the last hymn. It continues in our lives every day. That is how the Lambeth Conference ended. The Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us that it was not over on August 8—the work continues! Let me share a few highlights from my experience of both the joys and challenges of this gathering and of the work that lies ahead.

In these days of instant communication much has been written about the conference. Some of it has come from those directly engaged in the gathering, reflecting personal experiences and perspectives. Others, outside the conference, have made assumptions and shared speculations that were frankly frustrating to those attending. There certainly were frustrations within the conference, as the process for some 650 bishops to express their views had difficulties in its implementation.

However, no process could have captured the complexities and diversity of views fully, especially with the added layers of language and cultural challenges. Simultaneous translation in at least eight languages and a responsive design team willing to make changes helped overcome some of those challenges.

Most mornings began with a Eucharist hosted by one of the ecclesiastical provinces. A rich variety of liturgy, prayer and music energized the community for the day. Instead of a sermon, the host province shared a video about intentional discipleship. What a joy to see the passionate sharing of the gospel—especially with children, youth and young adults—sometimes carried out in the midst of continuing persecution and discrimination. These videos will be available to share with our church as an encouragement in our own discipleship efforts and as a source of prayers for our siblings in Christ.

A gifted band of musicians led us—with their voices, keyboard, violin, guitars and drums—in music of all styles and languages, filling the arena with joy and praise or gently accompanying meditation during communion. We were reminded that the gift of music is so important in worship and that we need to nurture musicians who can lead us with such faith and grace.

Around the plenary sessions and seminars our time was filled with conversations that helped us understand one another’s context, build relationships and pray. Through them we were invited to see the face of Christ in each other—and be grateful for the variety of ways that God is at work in the world. Whether we agreed on particular issues or not, we found a colleague in Christ in each other. I was humbled by the challenges many of them face in their work—challenges most of us can hardly imagine.

There were painful times of disagreement, too, that will require more space to share than I have here. I look forward to writing further on those challenges soon.

As the gathering came to a close, the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed us to what comes next. Pre-conference online gatherings for Bible study and relationship-building formed Phase One. Phase Two gathered us in Canterbury for worship, prayer, Bible study and discussion of the Lambeth calls. Phase Three takes those calls back to every province of the communion for further reflection.

Although the call on human dignity has received the most attention, there were nine other calls that invite us to consider how our faith touches aspects of our lives including discipleship; mis-sion and evangelism; safe church; Angli-can identity; peace and reconciliation; Christian unity; interfaith relationships; science and faith; and environment and sustainable development. How will we discuss these in Canada? What aspects of them need our attention more deeply in the years ahead?

Where will your diocese focus?

There is much more reflection ahead on the work of the conference and the ways in which we will share in it. The House of Bishops will reflect on all we experienced. I look forward to hearing how each diocese will respond, particularly to the Communion Forest Project, launched at Lambeth Palace, which invites us to consider our part in renewing Creation.

The Lambeth Conference as a gathering has ended; the work of being “God’s Church for God’s World” continues.

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