WHILE torrential rain lashed the ancient walls of Canterbury
Cathedral, and umbrellas were bested by vicious gusts of wind, 26
bishops from across the Anglican Communion gathered to discuss
Since 2004, more than 200 bishops, largely those newly
consecrated, have attended training courses at the cathedral -
about a quarter of all the bishops inthe Communion. On Wednesday
morning, the main session in such a course was led by the Rt Revd
Michael Doe, a former Bishop of Swindon, and, from 2004 to 2011,
general secretary of USPG (now Us).
His was the tricky task of raising difficult issues - such as,
where does power lie in the Communion? - without focusing on the
most obvious source of division. Just a week earlier, the
Archbishops of Canterbury and York had written to all Primates,
reminding them of their commitment to caring for all, regardless of
sexuality (News, 31 January).
Several of those present said they were unaware of that letter.
One spoke of watching from the sidelines as the parties most
engaged in the battle over sexuality fought it out in the
Bishop Doe was frank about the colonial origins of the
Communion, and the conversation was painful for some. One bishop
struggled to contain his emotions when describing how Christianity
had been brought to his country, and its impact on the indigenous
There were difficult questions, too, about the current direction
of power. Were both the liberal and conservative wings of the
Church in North America exercising a "colonial" role? Was "reverse
colonisation" taking place with the rise of the Global South? Who
was telling whom what to do?
Some bishops remained silent throughout the debate, but there
was a good balance of contributions from across the Communion, and
they were gracious even when ex-pressing discontent with the status
As the next Lambeth Conference is still four years away, it was
an opportunity to witness the huge diversity of the Communion - men
and women working in the Arctic, Australia, Myanmar - not ignoring
the subjects that dominate the headlines, but going beyond this to
explore the undercurrents at play.