The Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, has called on Anglican bishops to attend the next Lambeth Conference despite differences within the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Thabo chairs the international Design Group, brought together by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to plan the once-in-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops, which will take place in Canterbury, Kent, in 2020. “I know people talk about the fabric of the communion as torn”, he said, “but we are all fallible human beings in need of God’s love and grace, and we need each other.”
Archbishop Thabo made his comments in a video on the Lambeth Conference website. In it, he says: “As said in Sepedi [the language of Northern Sotho]: one bangle doesn’t ring, two bangles will make a beautiful noise. So we are never alone in this journey.
“Whether you agree with where the communion is, whether you don’t agree, come and express your difference in this beautiful space which is a gift from God. Don’t just stay at home and say ‘I’m not going’.
“We want to hear that voice. It’s not a conference of like-minded people; it is a conference of Anglicans. I mean, for God’s sake, Anglicans, from our inceptions, we’ve always had push and pull. So push and pull should not be a distraction, but it should be celebrated.
“It’s what I call at home, ‘celebrating the gift of difference’. So I encourage all bishops and their spouses to make every possible effort to come and see what God is doing through us in his world.”
Speaking about the shape of the Conference, Archbishop Thabo said that it would begin with a spiritual retreat, a time to say to bishops and their spouses “hey, shut up . . . and listen to God; and listen to one another in silence.”
He said that after the retreat, “we will worship together; we will walk together; we will talk together; we will love together; we will wrestle together; break bread together; reflect theologically and in mission bring ourselves and bring our dioceses and provinces into that space.
“And then, as my predecessor but one used to say, ‘God is not finished with us’; and God will actually continue his work in us and through us for the Anglican Communion.”
In a separate video on the website, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke of how bishops can prepare for the Lambeth Conference, beginning with prayer. “My vision for this conference is that, if nothing else, we emerge as a Communion that is visibly more deeply committed to prayer and the reading of scripture.
“So pray, and read scripture together; get into the swing of it in a new and fresh way. For example, between Ascension and Pentecost, there will be the fourth 10-days of Thy Kingdom Come. . . Get involved in that. It’s a time for prayer for mission; prayer for God to warm the hearts of those who need to hear the good news of Jesus.”
He continued: “Pray for those you disagree with and resist the urge to be swayed by gossip and rumour. So when you hear something, don’t necessarily believe it, turn to God and say ‘if that’s true, I pray for him or her’. But also, try and find out the truth.”