Final greetings from Canterbury, Kent as the Lambeth Conference 2022 concludes!
It has been a privilege to be here, to share in wide and diverse fellowship, which is a foretaste of heaven, to receive teaching from the Archbishop of Canterbury and others (including our own Bishop Eleanor, and two Cardinals of the Roman Catholic church), and to learn of the joys and sorrows of being Anglican in our globe today. To be with bishops who have been arrested and beaten for their faith in Christ, who daily deal with the stresses of clergy and parishioners who are refugees, and who have so few funds to support and sustain their mission in Christ puts in sharp perspective the challenges we face in the episcopal regions of ACANZP!
Our work at the conference, for both bishops and spouses, has ranged across many subjects and involved sharing countless stories of our life in Christ. The Calls made by the conference set in motion a body of work for Anglican churches seeking to be “God’s church for God’s world.”
Despite anything you may have read about the conference to the contrary, it has not been a single-issue conference. On the matter of human sexuality, perhaps the best description I have come across is this: “Lambeth Conference 2022 will be remembered as a watershed when those in favour and those against same-sex relationships accepted they were not going to agree but resolved to stay in the same Anglican Communion.” ( https://religionmediacentre.org.uk/news/lambeth-2022-justin-welby-spoke-and-the-great-shadow-faded/ )
If there is one shared experience of life today, across all dioceses represented here, it is that the climate of our planet is changing, and the change is affecting many nations: food shortages which drive people movements which provoke wars. Climate change is affecting the islands of our ACANZP church, but we nevertheless enjoy plentiful food and are unlikely to see war break out. We are blessed in comparison with so many other Anglicans. The brilliance of the summer weather here, dry, and hot in an un-England-like manner, has underlined the challenge we face as humanity on a changing planet.
There are many reports about the conference, e.g., in secular newspapers such as The Guardian, and in church media such as Church Times and The Living Church, but a first port of call if you wish to gain insight into the conference is its own website, https://www.lambethconference.org/.
One of the consequences of the bishops meeting together at Lambeth Conferences (this has been the 15th) is new understanding and new challenges for what it means to be Anglican, and what “Communion” means with respect to 42 autonomous Anglican provinces striving to be a communion of churches (rather than one single global church).
Things said through the past twelve days, especially in Archbishop Justin’s keynote addresses, are going to take months, if not years, to reflect on and to work out practically for our life as a global Communion. For instance, in Sunday morning’s keynote address, ++Justin spoke with insight on the relationship between local, provincial autonomy and interdependence as provinces forming one Communion. ( https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/speeches/archbishop-canterbury-gives-final-keynote-address-lambeth-conference )
Nevertheless, at a “gut level” assessment of the Conference, it looks like we are going to return to our homes in good heart, full of hope for a continuing life together as we acknowledge differences among us and appreciation for the relationships we have formed through many conversations.
While the Conference is important from an ecclesiological perspective (i.e., how we function and relate to one another as a Communion of churches), our sense of the main takeaway is that we have all been challenged in missional terms: how can we be “God’s church for God’s world”? As disciples of Jesus, how do we make more disciples? Where there is hurt and pain, what gospel healing can we bring to people who are suffering?
Yet, even as we focus on the missional outcomes of the conference, we acknowledge that conference conversations and talks have regularly noted that a divided church has its own healing work to do if we are to bring a message of reconciliation and peace to a hurting world.
Thank you for your prayers for the Lambeth Conference 2022—it has been brilliant, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to participate in it.
Peter and Teresa.