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God’s Church for God’s World: 2020 Lambeth Conference takes shape

Posted on: October 13, 2017 3:34 PM
Members of 2020 Lambeth Design Group take time out of this week’s meeting for a group photo.
Photo Credit: ACNS

The group tasked with designing the next Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops has been meeting this week to continue their preparations. The Lambeth Conference is one of the Anglican Communion’s four instruments of unity, and brings together bishops from across the world, usually once every 10 years. This week, the Lambeth 2020 Design Group have been at the Anglican Communion Office in London to further explore the details of the next Lambeth Conference, which will take place in Canterbury, England in 2020.

The group’s members report a general feeling of excitement and importance around the theme “God’s Church for God’s World”, and expressed a hope that it could powerfully impact the Communion in its entirety.

“The theme we are currently working with is “God’s Church for God’s World”, and it truly summarises our hopes and aspirations for the conference,” Phil George, the chief executive of the Lambeth Conference Company, which has been created to run the event, said. “I’ve just spent the last four days working with the Design Group which has been a very exciting experience.

“It’s been so exciting to be here and discuss the wide variety of topics that we hope to talk about, debate, discuss together in 2020 and the programme by all accounts is going to be a very exciting one.”

Mrs Matilda Ntahoturi, the wife of Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, the former primate of Burundi and the new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, has replaced Josephine Mujawiyera from Rwanda, who has stepped down as a member of the group. She commented: “I was happy to be able to participate in something great, ‘something bigger than me’, as we say. To be a part of something that is planting that will grow bigger and will bear many fruits.”

This idea of aspiring to be a part of something greater carried through conversation this week. The chair of the Lambeth 2020 Design Group, the Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, said: “This is a beautiful theme that reminds us to look at something greater and bigger than ourselves, and not to quibble around the little things within the family – not to gloss over them – but also to celebrate who we are within God’s Church in God’s World.”

Another Design Group member, the Revd Dr Emma Ineson from Trinity College in Bristol, England, commented: “It’s a chance to think about what God is calling us to bring to his world as a church and how do we serve his world, how to we bless the world, and bless the communities that we are part of.”

As the team dug into the meaning of the theme that they’d decided upon at their first meeting in March, they began to focus on the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. They discovered its relevance, not only for the week of the meeting but for the entire Lambeth 2020 conference. “We got really excited as a planning group,” Dr Ineson said. “We sat together and read some portions of Ephesians and just the realisation that God’s world is so alive for today, because so many of the themes talked about in Ephesians are current for the Anglican Communion and for the world today.”

She went on to explain how the Design Group plans to incorporate Ephesians into the Lambeth Conference, including a daily small group study on one chapter per morning in order, as Dr Ineson put it “to allow what God says to us through it to inform some of the things we are going to look at through the rest of the day.”

Overall, the group was positive about their progress, and how they hoped the Lambeth 2020 Conference will impact the Communion. “I’m very excited indeed for the forthcoming Lambeth conference in 2020,” Phil George said. “We have the largest gathering of bishops hoped for coming from across the Anglican Communion and [there] could be as many as 1800 people including spouses.”

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said that he was “very encouraged” by the progress made during the week. “We are developing various ideas around the theme of God’s Church for God’s World. I would invite the Communion to continue to pray for us as we draw together these ideas.”

Design Group members spoke about the real sense that focusing on the meaning of God’s Church in God’s world can have a lasting impact, not only for the Anglican Communion, but all throughout the globe. “And we hope that people go out feeling really excited and commission and empowered to take what they’ve learned from God’s word and from each other to the context that they’re in and we pray that people have a new energy and vision to see what God is doing in their own place,” Dr Ineson said.

They said that the theme of God’s Church for God’s World is about identity, particularly our identity as Christians, and what that truly means for how we live as a Church. As Archbishop Thabo put it: “the theme of God’s Church for God’s World really reminds us that this is God’s Church and that we are just custodians.

“We’ve been entrusted with this heavenly institution here on earth and again this is God’s world, it is not ours. It calls for a degree of better stewardship, a degree of care, because the author and the owner loves it so much and so dearly and the owner took a risk by entrusting it with us mere human beings.

“But it also says where we have erred, where is disunity, we need to pick up our pieces and work to not our own goal but to the goal that Jesus Christ has set that we may be one as He and the Father are one.”

The other members of the 2020 Lambeth Design Group are the Revd Dr Robert Heaney from Virginia Theological Seminary in the US; Bishop Pradeep Samantaroy, the former Moderator of the Church of North India; the Bishop George Sumner from the Diocese of Dallas in the US-based Episcopal Church; the Bishop of Sabah, Melter Jiki Tais, from the Province of South East Asia; and Bishop Joel Waweru Mwangi from the Diocese of Nairobi in the Anglican Church of Kenya.

In addition, the group includes the former Bishop at Lambeth, Bishop Nigel Stock, who will serve as Chaplain to the Lambeth Conference; and director of the Lambeth Conference Company, Professor Michael Wright from the Church of England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also participated in this week’s meeting.