Photo Credit: ACNS / Tumilty
Organisers of next year’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops have announced that 502 bishops and 382 spouses have so far registered for the decennial event, with the numbers rising each day. Registrations to date come from 39 of the Anglican Communion’s 45 member Provinces and Extra Provincial Churches. “In comparison to the 2008 event when registrations had not started at this point, this is a most encouraging position to be in”, Lambeth Conference Chief Executive Phil George said.
The Lambeth Conference is one of four “Instruments of Communion” of the global Anglican Communion. Invitations are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the bishops of the Communion to gather for prayer and discussion.
Setting out his vision for next year’s Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby expressed his hope that it would be an opportunity to meet the world’s need for the good news of Jesus Christ, saying that the world “needs to see it in our actions, envy it in our love together, and hear it in our confident proclamation of the good news of Jesus.”
Amongst the first to sign up is Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu of Te Tai Tokerau in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. He told the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) that it was important for the bishops at next year’s Lambeth Conference to discuss issues of peace and justice; the Church’s response to the effects of Climate Change and its impact on humanity and the environment; poverty and injustice; and theology and Anglican ecclesiology.
“The hope is that I come back to New Zealand refreshed, renewed and fulfilled by the Lambeth experience”, he said. “I gained a critical insight, at the Lambeth Conference in 2008, into the lives of other bishops who were very different to myself in terms of theology and churchmanship. I learned that I had more in common with them in terms of the challenges and blessings I experienced in my ministry and leadership as a bishop.”
The Bishop of Montego Bay, Leon Golding, a suffragan bishop in the Church of the Province of the West Indies’ Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, will be attending his first Lambeth Conference. He told the ACNS that he was “looking forward to creating new friendships and learning more of the nature of the Anglican Communion.”
He said: “The most important issues the bishops need to address is those that divide. A divided church, which is different from a diverse church, cannot give creditable witness to a divided world. It will be my first time. I suppose I hope to take away a better understanding and appreciation of Communion of which I am you.”
Another first-time attendee is Bishop Vithalis Yusuph of the Diocese of Biharamulo in the Anglican Church of Tanzania. “2020 will be my first Lambeth Conference as a new and young bishop, so what I’m looking forward to most is the fellowship with my fellow bishops globally”, he said.
“The most important thing that bishops should address at Lambeth Conference is how can we walk and serve together as Anglican family apart from our differences! God is love and there is no way we can help and encourage each other if we separate mission and love”.
In addition to “making new friends”, Bishop Vithalis said that he hoped the Lambeth Conference would provide a “new perspective to rehabilitate our Anglican Communion”.
A bishop with less to travel than most – the Bishop of Burnley in the Church of England’s Diocese of Blackburn, Philip North, told ACNS that he was “looking forward to a greater sense of the global nature of Anglicanism and feeding from some of the evangelistic energy of Anglican churches in the global south.”
He added: “I hope we can focus above all on issues around the environment, poverty and social justice. In addition we need to think about what it means to disagree well on those issues that divide us and so I hope that all theological viewpoints are richly represented.
“I hope that we come away more fired up about sharing the Gospel, building the Kingdom and giving a voice to the poor in the name of Jesus Christ. I hope also we can develop a greater unity of purpose as those who share a common mission under Christ.”
The Bishop of Buhiga in the Anglican Church of Burundi, Evariste Nijimbere, will be attending his first Lambeth Conference. “My expectation is to experience the work of God in the worldwide Church, and have new friends, learning from others”, he said.
He said that the Lambeth Conference would be an opportunity to address the objectives of the Anglican Communion and think together how to move forward. “People of God sitting together can shape each other and encourage each other through fellowship”, he said.
Responding to the large number of registrations, Phil George, said: “It is very encouraging to have so many bishops and spouses already registered to come. I am delighted that we have received more than 880 bookings so far.
“The process of delivering invitations to over 165 countries is not straightforward and some have taken a lot longer than expected to arrive. So the initial request to register by 31 March was always seen as an encouragement to do so rather than a fixed deadline. Of course, the guest list is changing all the time as new bishops are appointed and others step down. But I would encourage all who have now received their invitations to sign up as quickly as possible and ideally by 31 July 2019.”
The last Lambeth Conference, in 2008, attracted 623 bishops and a smaller number of spouses.