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Lambeth Conference has rejuvenated the Anglican Communion, says Bishop Poggo

30 September 2022

Neil Turner/Lambeth Conference

The Archbishop of Canterbury with the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, during the Lambeth Conference’s closing service, in Canterbury Cathedral, on 7 August

The Archbishop of Canterbury with the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, during the Lambeth Conference’s closing service, in Canterbury ...

THE Anglican Communion is buoyed by the energy and positivity resulting from the Lambeth Conference, the Standing Committee has reported, after its first in-person meeting since the pandemic began.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday morning, the Communion’s new secretary-general, the Rt Revd Anthony Poggo (News, 30 September), said that the Lambeth Conference had had the effect of “rejuvenating our Anglican Communion and strengthening the relationships on which [it] is structured”. He found it “hopeful and uplifting. . . While there are some negative narratives continuing to emerge from some groups and commentators (many of whom were not in fact part of the conference itself), this seems to be a minority.

“It remains important that we continue to highlight and amplify the positive reflections, while not being ignorant of those viewpoints which may be less favourable.”

The Standing Committee’s vice-chair, Margaret Swinson, told the press conference that work had happened in an organic way that would continue with the implementation of the Lambeth Calls. “We have the ability to make a difference to people across the Communion, particularly those people a lot of the world forgets,” she said, describing it as “a real jewel”.

The Primate of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, said that perspectives of the Communion differed depending on context. “We have a lot of interaction with communities, especially in Africa,” he said. “People expected a different outcome from the Conference — there is encouragement that we are touching people’s lives and that we have stood together as a Church.”

The Revd Inamar de Souza, from the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, said that, first, the Lambeth Conference and, since then, the late Queen’s funeral (News, 23 September) had caused people to look again to the Churches. “We can fight for human rights and especially for unity,” she said. “We have had to overcome situations together, sit at the same table.”

She continued: “We are not a big Church [in Brazil], maybe 200 communities in a 240 million population. But we have an impact to say words that are needed: we have the foundation to address things that need to be addressed.”

The meeting received reports from official Anglican Communion commissions and networks, including Safe Church, Science, Environment, Youth, Health and Community, and the Indigenous Network. From the Commission on Evangelism and Discipleship came the ambitious target of “one million new church plants in ten years”: a change of culture which both Archbishop Chama and Mrs de Souza believed to be realistic.

“We are planting churches every Sunday, every day, in Africa. The need is huge, but this is achievable,” Archbishop Chama said. “We need to look for more theological education and formation, and look to empowering women, fighting for human rights and for increasing leadership among indigenous people.

“If we can build a safe Church in our own communities, with good objectives, people would have the desire to join.”

Mrs de Souza said: “In Chile, the plan is that when a church reaches a certain size, it plants a church, and, when that church reaches a certain size, it plants another. It is exponential multiplication, based on people who have experienced what they live and breathe.”

Bishop Poggo described the work of the Mothers’ Union in many Provinces as “one of the hidden secrets” of the Anglican Communion. Much was happening that was not reported in the mainstream media, such as the work of peace and reconciliation in South Sudan, he said.

On progress towards relations with the estranged Provinces of Rwanda, Nigeria, and Uganda, Archbishop Chama said that a “plan of engagement” was under way, and discussion of a middle way: “We have a vision. We do talk together.”

Initial proposals for a new international Anglican Schools Network would build on work happening around the Communion. “Every province has a gift to share,” Ms Swinson said. She spoke of work that she had witnessed in Egypt, where the monitoring and treating of anaemia in pre-education was enabling children to enter education from a healthier base.

The open airing of matters such as gender-based violence and violence against women — identified by the Anglican Women’s Network as “a high-priority area of concern” — was something else leading to change, Archbishop Chama suggested.

“People are learning to think differently. As a Church, we have taken this seriously,” he said. “The Mothers’ Union took it up as core business. Within that, we are now saying that the way marriage is looked at culturally has to change. It is the foundation of Jesus Christ, who talked about equality and respect.

“You can’t change the culture overnight. But, as a Church, we are working very hard to say to women, ‘You can do it.’”

The director for gender justice for the Anglican Communion, Mandy Marshall, draws attention in the Committee’s report to particular initiatives, such as a training programme on “men, masculinity and gender-based violence” in the Anglican Church of Kenya.

The Communion was taken seriously by bodies such as the United Nations, committee members said. “There is an understanding that faith communities reach right into the heart of the world,” Ms Swinson said. “We shouldn’t underestimate our influence. We have that line of sight to the street, but also that access to people who are making serious strategic decisions.”

The Communion also had a strong part to play in combating fake news, especially over vaccination programmes. Bishops’ going public about having been vaccinated was regarded as a positive step.

Preparations are advanced for the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Accra, Ghana, in February 2023. Its focus will be the Five Marks of Mission.

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