The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, sets out his thoughts on the Lambeth Conference in 2020 and addresses a misunderstanding that has emerged in some online blogs.
As I travel around the Communion, it has been encouraging to see the level of excitement and enthusiasm growing about next year’s Lambeth Conference. The Conference team has now received bookings from 27 different provinces. Bishops and spouses from around the world are signing up all the time and it is clear that momentum is building.
I am also excited about the Conference. The theme of being God’s people for God’s world is so important at a time when so much of our world is hurting. We are a resurrection people who have been transformed by God. And, as the Archbishop of Canterbury says in his video about his vision for the Conference, we are to be key in God’s transformation of the world around us. It is going to be wonderful to see bishops and spouses come from across the globe to be part of this amazing event.
I need to clarify a misunderstanding that has arisen. Invitations have been sent to every active bishop. That is how it should be – we are recognising that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend. But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury has had a series of private conversations by phone or by exchanges of letter with the few individuals to whom this applies.
The Design Group, which comprises members from all of the regions of the Communion, is continuing its work on the programme under the wise chairmanship of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In his video he has spoken of creating a “beautiful rhythm” of gathering together to pray, worship, walk and talk, wrestle with issues, break bread and reflect. He also makes an important point about difference. The Communion has always had what he calls “push and pull” on issues and this should not be a distraction – it is something to be celebrated. The Conference is not a meeting of like-minded people; it is space in which we can gather to express difference. And so everyone who is invited should come.
The Design Group’s task is not easy: there are so many issues competing for space in the programme. A number of important subjects will be discussed including mission and evangelism; reconciliation; economic justice. Human sexuality will also be one of them.
As the months go by there will be lots of information, comment and speculation about the Lambeth Conference. In his latest video, Archbishop Justin talks about how bishops can be preparing and stresses the importance of prayer. He urges us especially to pray for those we might disagree with and resist being swayed by gossip and rumour. Instead he advises us to try to find out the truth.
I invite you to join me in praying for the bishops, their spouses and all those involved in the Conference that it will honour the Lord God and be a blessing to His precious Anglican Communion.