THE Lambeth Conference will “look outwards” at issues such as evangelism, climate change, and economic injustice — but will also address matters of sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
Archbishop Welby was speaking at a virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon, alongside the organisers of the Conference.
He said that the “basic aim” of the Conference would be “to look outwards”. The Church should express its “evangelistic mission and its life of discipleship through engagement with the great challenges that the next 30 or 40 years will impose upon the vast majority of Anglicans, especially those in areas of climate fragility, and of political and other fragility.
“But the knock-on impact of those crises will reside around the world, and it’s something that all God’s people in this world, all the Churches, are called to respond to, and to respond to prophetically and also, above all, compassionately with the love of God in Jesus Christ.”
With this in mind, he said, some of the “key themes” of the Conference would be “evangelism and witness”, and “reconciliation, both within the Church . . . but also as a reconciling agent in a world torn by war”.
The Conference would also explore “the challenges that will come from science and technology, especially machine learning, and especially the development in the biological and physical sciences”, and the economic injustices that would result from unequal access to technology.
The Conference would also address “the key and immensely important questions that divide us around human identity and especially around human sexuality”, he said.
The Conference runs from 26 July to 8 August, after being postponed from 2020 owing to the pandemic (News, 8 July 2020). In the interim, bishops have been meeting online in groups of 20, getting to know each other, praying together, and discussing issues.
The organisers of the Conference describe it as having a tripartite structure, with these pre-Conference discussions as the first stage, and post-Conference reflections as the third.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said that, as chair of the Lambeth Conference Design Group, he had “worked . . . to ensure that each member of the team, which represented a diversity of views from across the world, brought their voices and experiences into the planning process. . .
“In seeking to accommodate a different emphasis brought by different constituencies in the Communion, whether geographical, theological or other, we adopted a ‘both and’ approach instead of an ‘either or’ approach. This meant working to accommodate and make provision for disperate voices to be heard, hopefully providing an example of how to handle tensions and disagreement within the Communion.”
More than 650 bishops are expected to attend the Conference in person, along with 480 spouses. Those who are not able to travel will be invited to participate virtually.
The Primates of Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria have been vocal in their refusal to attend, citing disagreements about sexuality and biblical interpretation (News, 10 June).
None of the diocesan bishops from those three Provinces is expected to attend, although they have been invited individually. “Letters have been written, phone calls have been made, but they have not responded,” the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said. “We will miss them, but their voices will not be heard.” He described the situation as “regrettable”.
Archbishop Welby reiterated that any of the bishops or archbishops from those three Provinces would be very welcome if they changed their mind.
“We have said very clearly that if they walk through the door on the first day we will sing hallelujah. We would love to see them here or online. But that is their choice.
“The Anglican Communion is a communion, it is not a hierarchy: we don’t give each other orders, our Provinces are autonomous, but interdependent. And that means we can’t order each other around, and I praise God for that.”
Archbishop Welby also confirmed that the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Jackson Ole Sapit, would also not be attending the Conference, although some bishops from his Province will.
Archbishop Sapit will be present virtually, however, in the form of a video interview with Archbishop Welby in which they discuss a passage from 1 Peter.
Archbishop Sapit opposes same-sex marriage, and attended the first GAFCON conference in Jerusalem in 2018, but has insisted that he does not want the Anglican Communion to splinter (Interview, 30 November 2018).
The question whether same-sex spouses of bishops would be invited to the Lambeth Conference has been a matter of contention. In a statement in May, the primates of Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda suggested that the possibility that the spouses of homosexual bishops might be invited demonstrated that “Canterbury . . . is becoming too tolerant and complicit in the arrogance and errors of the revisionist Anglican Churches in the West.”
In his reply , Archbishop Welby assured the Primates that he hadn’t invited any same-sex spouses. That decision has in turn been described as a “plain injustice” by the Bishop of Argyll & The Isles, Dr Keith Riglin, (News, 17 June).
In a podcast interview with the Church Times on 11 June, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange, said that “it’s not right” that same-sex spouses weren’t invited.
“My prayer is that we can get beyond this as soon as possible,” the Primus said. “We shouldn’t be judging people’s attendance at something based upon the love they show for someone else” (Podcast, 11 June).
On Wednesday, Archbishop Welby said that he’d “had this discussion at great length” with bishops in Scotland. “I don’t agree with the bishops’ view, but I certainly don’t object to them saying it; it’s a view that a significant number of people hold.”
ONE of the distinctive features of this Conference will be the use of the term “calls” for the positions agreed, which had previously been called “resolutions” (News, 10 June).
On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser on the Lambeth Conference, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, said that “it was felt that the phrase ‘resolution’ was sometimes a bit confusing for some people because it could possibly suggest that decisions at the Lambeth Conference in some way do impinge or impose on Churches, which, of course, they don’t do.”
Another reason for adopting “calls” rather than “resolutions”, he said, was because this Lambeth Conference would be “significantly shorter” than past Conferences, “and we focus, therefore, the main outcomes on the main themes being discussed.”
Bishop Thornton, who was Bishop at Lambeth until his retirement last year, explained that the format of each of the ten “Lambeth calls” would be based on one of the themes of the Conference, and start with a reflection on a relevant passage from 1 Peter (which will also be the subject of the Conference’s daily Bible studies).
“They then have a paragraph where they declare what it is that the Church has always believed about a certain topic,” Bishop Thornton said. “For example, there’s a ‘call’ on mission and evangelism; so it declares what the Church thinks about mission and evangelism.
“Then there’s a paragraph, which in a way is perhaps the most important paragraph, where it says what the bishops gathered together in 2022 want to affirm about mission and evangelism for today. And then there’s a final series of what you might call specific requests or calls. Some of those will be to the Church, some will be to the world, some will be to bishops, some will be to other aspects of the Anglican world, who, no doubt, will be listening carefully to what the bishops are saying.”
During the Conference, he continued, each ‘call’ would be discussed by the bishops, who would be given an opportunity “to indicate whether they think these ‘calls’ have their support or not, or whether some of these ‘calls’ might need further work”.
The Conference organisers, he said, were particularly mindful of “what happens next”. To that end, each “call” would contain a paragraph that specified “which parts of the Anglican Communion are responsible for taking forward some of the thinking, acting, and some of the hopes that are made explicit in the calls”.
Bishop Thornton said that the purpose of the “calls” was to record “the decisions made by the bishops at this Conference. So, to that extent, they become, in effect, what has in the past been called resolutions.
“But what we’re trying to do is make clearer the fact that these decisions are decisions of the bishops gathered together. And . . . there’s a sort of third phase to this Conference, which is a new thing in being explicit. . . For example, some of the calls might well say ‘We would like a report on this matter to be given to the ACC meeting . . . in 2023.
“So there will be a process and a clarity by which some of these decisions will be taken forward or monitored, or the way in which these decisions then impinge or influence or are taken forward in Provinces is made clear. . .
“The decisions of the bishops are clearly labelled as such, and also with clear labels to say, how might this be taken forward, and who has some responsibility: which group within the Anglican Communion world has responsibility for ensuring what happens next to these decisions.”
The chief executive of the Lambeth Conference Company, Phil George, revealed that the Conference looked set to cover its costs, despite the granting of full bursaries to cover the cost of attendance to more than half of those due to attend.
The price — £4950 — has been maintained since bookings were first made in 2020, despite the costs involved in postponing the Conference and running a programme of virtual meetings over the past two years.
The Conference has also been extended by two days, partly to take into account the fact that a planned “Big Hello”, in which bishops from around the Communion would stay in dioceses around the UK, has been shelved, partly owing to continuing concerns about Covid-19 (News, 28 January).
The Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Emma Ineson, said: “What is lost is the opportunity for bishops to meet people in dioceses, and vice versa.” But she hoped that the segments of the Conference being broadcast online would go some way to compensating for the loss of a direct connection with dioceses, relationships that “remain there, and are present all year round”.
Dr Ineson said that the extra days would give the delegates time to acclimatise and meet one another, face to face, often for the first time, though the virtual events over the past two years meant that many knew each other well already.
Breaking even was possible, Mr George said, thanks to the many external donors who had contributed relatively small amounts, less than £1000. All donors would be named on the Conference website, he said.