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First invitations to 'reflective and learning-based' Lambeth Conference go out

Posted on: May 22, 2007 4:07 PM
ress briefing today: Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion (left) and Mr Tim Livesey, Public Affairs - Lambeth Palace
Photo Credit: ACNS
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Press Media Release

From Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office, London

The first invitations for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, to be held in Canterbury next summer, are being sent out today by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The gathering, which is set to be the largest Lambeth Conference in the history of the Anglican Communion, brings together bishops from the Churches in the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion together with ecumenical and other invited guests.

The 2008 Conference is intended to comprise nearly three weeks of shared retreat, common worship, study and discussion. It differs from previous gatherings in that the bishops will begin the conference with a period of retreat and reflection. It is planned that much of this retreat time will be held in and around Canterbury Cathedral.

The first set of invitations are being sent today to over 800 bishops of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. In his letter of invitation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, pays tribute to the Conference Design Group whose members, led by the Archbishop of Melanesia, have, with his full support, proposed a programme with an emphasis on fellowship, study, prayer, the sharing of experience and discussion, all aimed at equipping bishops for their distinctive apostolic ministry:

“Their vision and their advice has been an inspiration at every stage so far. I am hugely excited by the possibilities the programme offers for a new and more effective style of meeting and learning, and for greater participation, which will help us grow together locally and internationally. … it will also be an opportunity for all of us to strengthen our commitment to God’s mission and to our common life as a Communion. In connection with this latter point, we shall be devoting some time to thinking about the proposals for an Anglican Covenant, and about other ways in which we can deepen our sense of a common calling for us as a coherent and effective global Church family.”

“The Conference is a place where experience of our living out of God’s mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion in which the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God’s Word and shared reflection. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.”

Mindful of the speculation that has surrounded the issuing of invitations to the Conference Dr Williams recalls that invitations are issued on a personal basis by the Archbishop of Canterbury and that “the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the Communion”, and that invitation to the Conference has never been seen as “a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy”. Nevertheless Dr Williams recognises in his letter that under very exceptional circumstances an invitation may be withheld or withdrawn. Under this provision, there are a small number of bishops to whom invitations are not at this stage being extended whilst Dr Williams takes further advice.

Other invitations – to ecumenical representatives and other invited guests – will be sent out in due course. Bishops’ spouses are being invited to a parallel conference; invitations for this will be sent later in the year by Mrs Jane Williams, who is the host.

Ends

The text of the Archbishop’s invitation is below:

‘Dear Bishop,

I am delighted to invite you to the Lambeth Conference of 2008 and I very much look forward to our gathering together as bishops of the Anglican Communion.
The dates of the Conference are 16 July-4 August 2008 and I trust you will already have heard something of the vision for the Conference as it has been unfolding. It will focus on our equipping as bishops for leadership in mission and teaching, and it will also be an opportunity for all of us to strengthen our commitment to God’s mission and to our common life as a Communion. In connection with this latter point, we shall be devoting some time to thinking about the proposals for an Anglican Covenant, and about other ways in which we can deepen our sense of a common calling for us as interdependent members of the body of Christ.

This will be my third Lambeth Conference and I am very confident of the quality of the programme being developed for it. I want to offer my warm public thanks to all those from across the world who have worked so hard at planning this – especially the devoted Design Group under the Archbishop of Melanesia, those who attended the St Augustine’s Seminar last year, and our Conference Manager, Sue Parks. Their vision and their advice has been an inspiration at every stage so far. I am hugely excited by the possibilities the programme offers for a new and more effective style of meeting and learning, and for greater participation, which will help us grow together locally and internationally.

Because there has been quite a bit of speculation about invitations and the conditions that might be attached to them, I want to set out briefly what I think the Conference is and is not.

The Conference is a place where our experience of living out God’s mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion when the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God’s Word and shared reflection. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.

But the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion, which would require us to be absolutely clear about the standing of all the participants. An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.
At a time when our common identity seems less clear that it once did, the temptation is to move further away from each other into those circles where we only related to those who completely agree with us. But the depth and seriousness of the issues that face us require us to discuss as fully and freely as we can, and no other forum offers the same opportunities for all to hear and consider, in the context of a common waiting on the Holy Spirit.

I have said, and repeat here, that coming to the Conference does not commit you to accepting every position held by other bishops as equally legitimate or true. But I hope it does commit us all to striving together for a more effective and coherent worldwide body, working for God’s glory and Christ’s Kingdom. The Instruments of Communion have offered for this purpose a set of resources and processes, focused on the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposals. My hope is that as we gather we can trust that your acceptance of the invitation carries a willingness to work with these tools to shape our future. I urge you all most strongly to strive during the intervening period to strengthen confidence and understanding between our provinces and not to undermine it.
At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution.

I look forward with enthusiasm to the Conference and hope you will be able to attend, or your successor in the event that you retire in the meantime. My wife Jane will be writing with an invitation to the Spouses Conference which will run in parallel to the Lambeth Conference. Further communication to bishops will follow soon from the Lambeth Conference Office, including details of the costs and a reply slip on which you can respond formally to this invitation. It would be a great help if these replies were received by 31 July 2007. In the meantime, should you have any queries about the Lambeth Conference itself, or if you will be retiring before the Conference, please contact the Lambeth Conference Manager at invitations@lambethconference.org or consult the Lambeth Conference website www.lambethconference.org.

I trust you and your diocese will join with me in praying for God’s gracious blessing of our time together.

Yours in Christ,

Rowan CANTUAR:

Ends

Press Media
Tuesday, from 12 Noon - 6 p.m.
The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon,
Secretary General of the Anglican Communion
will be available for press media briefings (no interviews)
Direct line: +44 207 313 3925
From UK: 0207 313 3925

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