Two months to go and bishops are still checking in

by
15 May 2008

by Bill Bowder

Special guest: Archbishop Desmond Tutu preached at the sesquicentennial celebration closing service at the US University of the South, on Friday. With him are the Rt Revd Henry Parsley Jr and Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori LARRY WOOD/ELO

Special guest: Archbishop Desmond Tutu preached at the sesquicentennial celebration closing service at the US University of the South, on Friday. With...

BISHOPS are still signing up to the Lambeth Conference, 61 days before its official opening on 16 July.

On Wednesday, numbers stood at 620 of the possible 880 bishops in the Anglican Communion. Officials calculate that about ten per cent of sees are vacant. Nigeria has said that none of its 141 bishops will attend; nor will Uganda’s 31 bishops. This leaves fewer than 20 bishops unaccounted for.

The 15 bishops of the province of West Africa have come out in support of the Communion. In a statement posted on 2 May, the province said that it abhorred the acceptance and blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of open homosexuals and lesbians. But it also urged all members of the Communion to uphold it and its “instruments of unity”, one of which is the Lambeth Conference.

The Anglican Communion Office said on Wednesday that it had received no official notification that any of the bishops who had been invited were not attending.

“It is not wise to say who will be there till much closer to the event,” said a spokesman.

So far, 570 spouses have registered for the spouses’ conference.

This week, the organisers of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) said that 280 bishops had registered to attend. GAFCON, a conservative gathering, takes place in Jordan and Jerusalem next month. It is now clear that many bishops plan to attend both conferences.

One of the prime movers in the conservative movement, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, has confirmed that he will attend the first part of the Lambeth Conference, and his assistant bishop, the Rt Revd Henry Scriven, will attend the second half. Both will be at GAFCON. “It is necessary for us to be at both gatherings,” Bishop Duncan said.

Dr Williams spoke out this week against any bishop who thought he or she could attend Lambeth while nursing split loyalties. In an open letter to all bishops to mark the feast of Pentecost, Dr Williams said that he had been in private discussions with some bishops to warn them of the need for unity.

"In circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together," he wrote.

It was "essential" that the bishops who came to the Conference were genuinely willing to move towards unity as envisaged by the Windsor report and the Covenant process, he said.

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