Thursday, January 24, 2008
Archbishop Outlines Lambeth Goals
Posted on: January 23, 2008
Joined by 30 bishops from 17 provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams announced the official program for the 2008 Lambeth Conference on Jan. 21.
In his opening remarks, Archbishop Williams pointed out that the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 was called in part in response to “a crisis about the limits of diversity allowed in the Anglican churches around the world; so there’s nothing so very new about a Lambeth Conference meeting in a climate of some controversy.”
The archbishop noted that the conference “has never been a lawmaking body in the strict sense and it wasn’t designed to be one: every local Anglican province around the world has its own independent system of church law and there is no supreme court. But the very fact of the conference shows that we have always been willing to look for ways of setting our common life on a firm basis so that we can act and serve more effectively in our world.” He said this year’s gathering will focus on strengthening the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops, and helping to equip bishops for mission.
“In spite of the painful controversies which have clouded the life of the Communion for the last few years, there remains a very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together,” he said, noting that about 70 percent of bishops invited have now registered for the conference. “These close and personal relationships, which are not often in the headlines because they simply carry on doing the work they set out to do, are part of the solid ground that helps us cope with the turbulence in other areas.”
Jane Williams, wife of the archbishop, said attendees at the spouses’ conference she is organizing will “look at some of the huge issues that face us all, and that diminish God’s people and make it harder for others to hear God’s good news. For some of these themes, we will be joining the bishops’ conference, because these are not ‘women’s issues.’ The whole people of God need to be challenged and have their needs heard and ministered to in these areas.”
Responding to questions after his prepared remarks, Archbishop Williams noted that the Global Anglican Future conference scheduled to be held in Jerusalem a month before the Lambeth Conference was not unique. “Before the last Lambeth Conference, and indeed on other occasions, there have been major international gatherings regionally, or in other ways constructed preparing for Lambeth, and I am very happy to see such regional events going forward,” he said. “But I do have real concerns that in this case there are unresolved concerns for the local Church, the Church in Jerusalem, which has pinpointed some anxieties about having such a conference at this time in the Holy Land. I hope that those can be addressed.”
Asked how the conference would address the issue of homosexuality, Archbishop Williams said one day on the schedule was reserved to consider “sexuality questions as they affect the ministry of bishops,” including a report on the listening process from the Rev. Canon Phil Groves of the Anglican Communion Office. “It [also] is inevitably going to be part of the conversations informally, day by day as people will bring to the conference what their anxieties are and what their hopes are. There will not be a resolution on this subject.”
Archbishop Williams reiterated that Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has not been invited “and it's proving extremely difficult to see under what heading he might be invited to be around.” Asked whether he had considered inviting all bishops, including CANA bishops and Bishop Robinson, Archbishop Williams said he had, but “I thought it best to stick fairly closely with what the Windsor Report recommends, that we should see this as an event for those who have accepted the general direction of the Windsor Report and haven't flown in the face of its recommendations.”
Regarding the attendance of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, inhibited by the Presiding Bishop earlier this month, the archbishop said he is “waiting on what comes out of the American House of Bishops’ discussion of that. It's not something I've got a position on yet. At the moment he still has an invitation.”