THE Lambeth Conference next year will be bigger and shorter than before — but possibly no less contentious, it emerged this week.
On almost the same day that the CEO of the Lambeth Conference, Phil George, was giving details of Lambeth 2020 to members of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates belonging to GAFCON, a conservative grouping formed in 2008 in protest at liberal moves on sexuality, were formulating an alternative gathering.
The 2020 Lambeth Conference will begin with a seven-day hospitality initiative, Mr George said. Every bishop and his or her spouse will visit churches around England and Wales. They will travel to Canterbury on Wednesday 22 July, and Thursday and Friday will be spent in retreat. There will be a separate retreat for spouses.
The two Sundays will centre on opening and closing services in Canterbury Cathedral. Thus the conference proper will last only from Monday 27 July to Saturday 1 August, including a London day. Bible studies will focus on the text of 1 Peter.
Invitations have gone out to 1232 bishops and their spouses; also to 100 ecumenical guests. A staff of about 300 is expected, making approximately 1650 people on site.
Among those invited are members of breakaway Anglican Churches, although only as observers. There is no indication yet whether any will attend, and there is pressure on them from GAFCON to stay away.
A statement from the GAFCON Primates, meeting in Sydney last week, said: “Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend Lambeth 2020 if godly order in the Communion had not been restored. They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility.
“We have not yet received a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
The statement continues: “On the one hand, we have no interest in attempting to rival Lambeth 2020. On the other hand, we do not want our bishops to be deprived of faithful fellowship while we wait for order in the Communion to be restored.
”Therefore, we have decided to call together a meeting of bishops of the Anglican Communion in June of 2020. The conference will be primarily designed for those who will not be attending Lambeth, but all bishops of the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the Jerusalem Declaration and Lambeth Resolution I.10 are invited to join in this time of teaching, worship, and fellowship.”
The proposed gathering, from 8 to 14 June, will be in Kigali, Rwanda.
The statement is signed by the Primates of Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda, Myanmar, the Indian Ocean, Kenya, Congo, Chile, South America, and the breakaway Church of Brazil, as well as Archbishop Foley Beach, of the Anglican Church of North America.
Half of these had representatives at the Hong Kong meeting of the ACC. They heard a pledge by the Archbishop of Canterbury to put in place a listening process “in order to hear the concerns and voices of people especially those who have felt themselves marginalised with regard to sexuality”. Although bishops in same-sex unions have been invited to the Lambeth Conference, their spouses have not.