From one spouse’s point of view, the Lambeth Conference “was like the curate’s egg” – good in parts.
Joan Bubbs, a senior civil service lawyer, came with her spouse Archbishop David Crawley of Kootenay.
She said the opening service and the day in London at Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace with lunch for about 2,000 people under a marquee were “stirring events.”
But she said the plenary presentations were “superficial” and “deeply disappointing,” with no opportunity for dialogue.
Dialogue was possible in the Bible study groups, though, and Ms. Bubbs said hers was very intense. One women said to the group, “I don’t want to go home,” having endured 20 years of tribal antagonism, including homes being burnt down.
More than 600 bishops’ spouses were kept busy with the spouses’ program during the conference and it wasn’t just women who took part but also five men, the husbands of women bishops.
They participated in several educational plenary sessions and heard a variety of speakers.
During one such talk, they learned how 28,000 children die each day from largely preventable diseases. Every minute of every day eight babies die following pregnancy and one woman dies from pregnancy-related complications.
Dr. Yuji Kawaguchi of the World Health Organization related these and other startling figures, as part of a major presentation to the bishops’ spouses.
Speaking on the theme “A Healthy World? Strategies for Hope,” Dr. Kawaguchi and other experts addressed key health issues facing the world.
In 1997, Dr. Kawaguchi said, 5.8 million people were newly infected with HIV, and 2.3 million people died from AIDS.
Sheila Ramalshah, wife of the Bishop of Pakistan, described Pakistan’s allocation of only two per cent of its income to health care as “abysmal.” She said, “It seems that the powers that be have decided that it is more important to spend about 70 per cent of the nation’s income on militarism and the related repayment of international debt. Such a situation means that we are woefully ill-equipped … to serve our community through health care.”
Juliana Okine, wife of the bishop of Ghana, attributed Ghana’s growing AIDS problem to “the unlimited matrimonial powers that husbands generally wield over their wives … when it comes to contraception and AIDS protection.
“The fact that only the male condom is widely available in itself gives a promiscuous man power to sentence a woman to death if he will not use a condom.”
If there is another Lambeth, Ms. Bubbs said the organization of the conference is going to have to change.
She said the reality is that many bishops have young families and the organizers were unable to accomodate the families, suggesting that children not come.
That’s a “terrible symbol,” for the church, she said.