SEVEN bishops from countries with links to the diocese of Leeds have signed a unique communiqué, promising not to pass judgement on each other’s Churches, and to face up to issues that might strain their relationship.
The communiqué was the culmination of a five-day retreat that addressed issues such as sexuality, spirituality, and money.
The seven bishops came from countries with partnership links to the diocese of Leeds, formed out of the historic dioceses of Wakefield, Ripon & Leeds, and Bradford: Sri Lanka, Sudan, the United States, Tanzania, Sweden, Pakistan, and Germany. They were invited to the conference in the Yorkshire Dales by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines.
Bishop Baines said that they now needed to work out how to have multilateral rather than just bilateral links with each other.
In the final communiqué, the bishops agreed to talk regularly, and pray for each other, and to “check with each other’s reports about developments in one another’s church before passing judgement or comment”.
They also promised to “face honestly any future strains or challenges that threaten the unity of our church or the bonds of affection to which we are both called and committed”.
Speaking at the end of the conference, the Bishop of Southwestern Virginia, the Rt Revd Mark Allen Bourlakas, said: “We all love Jesus and the Book of Common Prayer, but we’ve been hearing how some things are much more complicated in other parts of the Anglican Communion, where the rules are different, and they simply can’t do what others can do.
“It has given us much more understanding for when things get difficult.”
The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Revd Dhiloraj Ranjit Canagasabey, said: “Sri Lanka is a wounded community. We have gone through 30 years of war as well as natural disasters and poverty. But, in a way, we thank God for that, because it keeps us focused on him; we know God is our only sustenance and comforter.
“You are a blessed nation in the UK; you have so much. But there’s also a sense of complacency here which doesn’t help you depend on God.”
The bishops have agreed to meet again before the 2020 Lambeth Conference.
The Archbishop of Canterbury praised the communiqué as a “wonderful thing” on Monday. At a special meeting with Bishop Baines, in Canterbury, Archbishop Welby said that the link could offer a template for the wider Church – starting at Lambeth Palace.