Lambeth bishops in their own words

06 August 2008

Simon Sarmiento gains a unique insight into the Conference via the bishops’ blogs

Nick Baines, Croydon, Sunday 20 July

I spoke with several African bishops in the crypt of Canterbury Cathed­ral this morning. They accused “all” English bishops of preaching a false gospel, rewriting the scriptures, allowing any ethical behaviour that people like, and so on. They had no idea of the difference in polity with which English, American, and Canadian bishops have to work. The African bishop is (in their words) “a little king” and his yea is yea and his nay is nay. They do not have to deal with the complexities of English law and had no idea what these in­volved. My explanation of bishops’ being subject to law led one experi­enced bishop to say: “But that puts a different perspective on things.” Africa needs to understand the West as much as America needs to understand Africa and Asia.

Pierre Whalon, US Episcopal Church in Europe, Tuesday 22 July

I had an interesting conversation in my group with a bishop who claimed that the Americans “worship human rights”. We have apparently replaced the Word of God with a charter of human rights.

My answer is that, on the contrary, for us Americans struggling for human rights is one way we serve the Word. In our history, we have violated wholesale the rights of Africans who became our property, all backed by the Bible.

Alan Wilson, Buckingham, Thursday 24 July

All sorts of trenchant reaction has followed the news that the Bishop of Colombo’s sermon at the eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday concluded with a Buddhist chant, which one commentator described as “demonic”.

Today I was able to discuss this chant with Bishop de Chickera. Much Sri Lankan culture is essentially of Buddhist origin, he explained. What did the words mean, I asked. Four verses:

I take refuge in God the Father


I take refuge in God the Son

I take refuge in God the Holy Spirit

I take refuge in the One Triune God.

When we rush to judgement of others we do not know, like, or understand, especially on the internet, especially on the basis of rumour, it is easy to make complete fools of ourselves.

Andrew Burnham, Ebbsfleet, Saturday 26 July

English bishops have an important role here: we need to show that our practice with regard to homosexual­ity, easily derided as “hypocritical” or oppressive, is one of the few areas in which we can and should con­tinue to dominate the culture of the Anglican Com­munion.

Our practice, I would say (though some bishops have told me that this is unsustain­able), is to proclaim Christian marriage, the family, and the gospel integrity of singleness — “eunuchs for the kingdom” is a phrase that might need some repackaging — and yet all framed within a compas­sionate pastoral context that moves people on a stage when we — inevit­ably — fall short of these gospel principles.

Nick Baines, Croydon, Sunday 27 July

Please, oh please, will people stop referring to “the elephant in the room” . . .

We are meant to infer from this that the matter of homosexuality, the ordination/consecration of gay people, the reasons for the rupture in the Communion, and all matters associated with it have been side­stepped in the first week of the Con­ference.

Show me a Bible-study group that has not touched on or focused on these matters. Show me an indaba group that has not addressed in some way and to some extent these matters. The truth is that nothing is being side­stepped or avoided, but the control freaks who want to guar­antee their particular outcome have not got the patience to go with the process.

Mouneer Anis, Egypt, Sunday 27 July

The Lambeth Conference has been a time of great fellowship and strength; it has also been a time of disunity and conflict. Everything is going fairly well, but I do not believe that there is hope of a solution from this Lambeth Conference. However, I hope that we would be able to come up with a road map for a final solution to the current crisis.

There have been many benefits to the Lambeth Conference. One of the great strengths of the Lambeth Conference has been the statement from Archbishop Deng of Sudan calling for the Episcopal Church in the United States to repent and have Gene Robinson, the active homo­sexual bishop, resign for the sake of the Com­munion. This statement has shaken the foundation of the Lambeth Conference.


Paul Colton, Cork, Monday 28 July

Several days after we arrived, the receptionist in Keynes College, where I am staying, knocked on the door of my room and delivered a package. Yes, it was for me; my name and diocese were on the envelope.

Inside was a book by the absent Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester (which is not far up the road), and a note on behalf of the publisher of the book to say that it was a gift to me from two bishops (unnamed) who felt unable to be present, but who were praying for me on my pilgrimage. . .

Alan Wilson, Buckingham, Wednesday 30 July

Our group felt we needed to begin with reality. We can all fixate on “if only’s” — if only the US bishops hadn’t proceeded, if only Lambeth 1998 hadn’t been so mis­managed and poorly led, if only the Nigerians had come. All this is fantasy.

The Chief Rabbi’s holy pragmat­ism was a better starting point. Rowan is inviting us to be more humble, to listen, to repent, to enlarge our hearts. This means dying to our fantasy rallying points and hostile preconceptions, so that we attain a state of reality, responding to the call to life of the Lord who called Lazarus to life. If, on the other hand, we just can’t let go of that stuff, then we stay in the tomb.

Catherine Roskam, New York Suffragan, Thursday 31 July

Imagine my horror to read in an English newspaper this morning a headline that screamed: “Woman bishop says Third World clergy beat wives” over a picture of yours truly. . .

In fact I said nothing about violence in the developing world per se. All my comments were made in the context of the pervasive nature of violence against women all around the world. The only area I singled out was our own context, citing the recent spate of murders in the New York area of women, and sometimes their children also, by husbands or boyfriends. But, of course, those comments were not quoted. . .

Larry Benfield, Arkansas, Friday 1 August

If anything was clear in my group, it was that the bishops from many of the African and Asian countries have an acute awareness of cultural con­text that many of us Westerners do not. And just as clear is that a West­ern seminary education does not guarantee an ability to think with theological precision and honesty.


Alan Wilson, Buckingham, 19 July

This whole campus is teeming with rabbit life. It makes Teletubbyland look like a Sunday-school outing. And this lot require no outing — these little chaps are most definitely robustly heterosexual.

This whole campus is teeming with rabbit life. It makes Teletubbyland look like a Sunday-school outing. And this lot require no outing — these little chaps are most definitely robustly heterosexual.

Some wonder whether they have been intentionally supplied to add a touch of, er, bunny love to some potentially contentious proceedings. I don’t want to spread hysteria and panic about this Conference, but I feel I should share with the world this Victorian patent for “a device to extract auditory and visual information from private gatherings of bishops, commonly known as an Episcope”. It was secretly developed for the use of the Archbishop of York in 1868, to keep him abreast of proceedings which, as you will remember, he had boycotted. But these days, who would do such a thing? And why? I think we should be told.

Jonathan Gledhill, Lichfield, Saturday 2 August

This morning a minor miracle takes place. Our indaba group, drawn almost from every nation under heaven, agrees all but unanimously on the way ahead for the Anglican Communion. We agree to a mora­tori­um on actively gay bishops, on same-sex blessings, and incursions from other provinces until a Covenant can be drawn up.

We agree to a Pastoral Forum to advise the Archbishop of Canterbury and provide mediation for disputes between provinces or dioceses.

We make several suggestions for strengthening and improving the “Instruments of Communion”, including the idea that a future Archbishop of Canterbury might be elected from across the world.

We should strengthen the teach­ing office and decision-making ability of the Lambeth Conference.

The constituencies of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting need sorting out: at present they are not repre­sent­ative, and America dominates.

Forty-three out of 45 bishops agree to the moratoria and the Pastoral Forum and the other two more or less cancel each other out. There is one bishop who says that this would be too hard for his gay and lesbian people, and another who says that the American Church must repent before we can restore fellowship.

Christopher Herbert, St Albans, Saturday 2 August

So, what has been achieved?

One of my conversations with an English bishop contained a delight­ful phrase: “I think”, he said, “there have been a series of small miracles in dozens of different places in this Conference.”


It would be entirely inaccurate to suggest that everything has been sweetness and light, though the overwhelming feeling has been one of great appreciation for all that has been learnt. It is true that changes of mind have taken place, but some bishops are very clear that where they stand has not been influenced by the Conference at all.

The key question remains: “How do we hold together autonomy and interdependence?”

At breakfast this morning, a young African woman said to me: “All families have their differences but they should never separate us. As a family we should look after each other.” It’s a simple truth, but one to which we should commit ourselves in the years that lie ahead with patience, love and perseverance.

Kirk Smith, Arizona, Sunday 3 August

It was an emotionally up-and-down day. The final version of the “Reflec­tions” came out and I was not only disappointed with its content, but also with the process. We had not been given a chance to review the last and most controversial section before it was printed up, and I felt that the process had not been done fairly.

The trust that had built up over the past few weeks was rapidly evap­orating for me. But after a wonder­ful final Bible-study session and the chance to air my concerns in the final indaba group, I felt much better.

There will be a lot of questions as to “What came out of Lambeth?” I will be mulling this over in the next week or so, and will write more about it later, but it is probably easier to say what did not come out. First, no schism! Those who pre­dicted that this would be the end of the Anglican Communion were dead wrong. Yes, there is a group (GAFCON) which has already left, but those of us remaining (about 85 per cent) are committed to remain­ing together.

The other thing that did not come out was any kind of policy. There was no legislation done — only con­versa­tions were held. Finally, what will have to wait is a solution to the problems that beset us. There will be more meetings, more discussions.

As for what did come out: there is, above all, a renewed scene of connectedness in mission. As one bishop said: “We are the product of the Conference.” This new level of trust and respect and unity in Christ will serve us well in the years ahead.


For me personally, I’ve also made several very close prayer partners who will be friends for life. I’ve also got a briefcase full of ideas for how we can work with our worldwide partners on poverty and environ­mental issues.

Tim Stevens, Leicester, Sunday 3 August

But it is frankly not clear what we have achieved. The last few days have involved a drafting group in spending many hours trying to write a reflection paper on the Conference for all the bishops to take home with them. It describes our discussions and concerns in some detail.

But on the big issues around how we hold things together in the future there isn’t yet clarity. This Confer­ence has passed no resolutions and issued no generally agreed state­ments. It is therefore uncertain as to what is the mind of the Confer­ence on some of the most difficult issues. Today we shall see the final version of the document which reports the Conference, but there has been no process by which the members of the Conference can agree the text!

So where do we go from here? I shall think about that in the next few days. I shall want to give an account of the Conference to the diocese and to think through the implications of it for our overseas links. I shall also want to think about my own work as a bishop and how that has been enriched by all this.

And I shall want to reflect on the design of this Conference, because although it has been a rich experi­ence, it has not empowered the members to get their voice heard and to feel that the future direction of the Communion has been clarified.

Christopher Epting, US Episcopal Church Ecumenical Officer, Monday 4 August

Deep listening did indeed take place on all “sides” and a greater apprecia­tion for one another’s ministry con­texts and faithfulness was evident. Again, the Bible study and indaba conversation groups contributed hugely to this spirit.

Yet, in the closing plenary, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the floor to Metropolitan Kallistos, an English Orthodox ecumenical observer, who seemed to want us to reaffirm the 1998 Lam­beth resolution 1.10 on homosexu­ality, which Rowan Williams had already publicly stated we did not need to, nor would we, do.

And Dr Williams himself once again singled us out — at least indirectly — as the source of the Anglican Communion’s difficulties, with scarce reference to provinces invading US dioceses, a process which began well before the election of the present Bishop of New Hampshire.


Mark Lawrence, South Carolina, Sunday 3 August

Here’s what I wrote in my journal. For me it is primarily a metaphor of hope.

I am glad I came here for this Lambeth and worshipped one last time in the Cathedral home of Augustine and Dunstan, Anselm and Becket, Cranmer and Laud, Temple and Ramsey.

I had come to speak a word of hope and perhaps to intervene on behalf of our beloved, but in the last resolve the family refused the long-needed measures. So he just slipped away, our noble prince, one dreary morning in Canterbury, with hardly even a death rattle.

The new prince was born last month in Jerusalem. I was there —arriving late, departing early. I was never quite sure what I was witnessing. It was an awkward and messy birth. He hardly struck me as I gazed upon him there in the bassinet as quite ready to be heir to the throne. I even wondered at times if there might be some illegitimacy to his bloodlines.

But that, I fear, was my over­weddedness to a white and European world. May he live long, and may his tribe increase — and may he remember with mercy all those who merely mildly neglected his birth.

As for me, my role for now is clear: to hold together as much as I can for as long as I can, that when he comes to his rightful place on St Augustine’s throne in Canterbury Cathedral he will have a faithful and richly textured kingdom.

It is hard for me to convey the peace and providential perspective through which I have come to see the crisis we find ourselves in as Episcopalians and Anglicans. We are not primarily in some North American struggle. This is a far bigger matter than the Episcopal Church [TEC]. And although we face more than a few difficult questions in maintaining a vital, yet differen­tiated, life within TEC, I am convinced our Lord has a unique role for the diocese of South Carolina to play as Anglicanism comes to its global maturity.

David Walker, Dudley, 19 July (see above)

Highlight of the day: I met my namesake, the cartoonist, (right) whose work I’ve admired since I first found it on a website. We had our photos taken together to prove we’re really not the same person. Lowlight of the day: This is the only conference I can recall that doesn't provide good quantities of tea and coffee at every meal and break. It took me 20 minutes to find a mid-afternoon hot drink.


David Walker, Dudley, 19 July (see above)

Highlight of the day: I met my namesake, the cartoonist, (right) whose work I’ve admired since I first found it on a website. We had our photos taken together to prove we’re really not the same person. Lowlight of the day: This is the only conference I can recall that doesn't provide good quantities of tea and coffee at every meal and break. It took me 20 minutes to find a mid-afternoon hot drink.


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5 June 2019
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