Lambeth Conference 2008
University of Kent at Canterbury
Sunday, July 27 through Friday, August 1, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I left off in my last epistle that the morrow would bring the 11th Sunday after Pentecost and a journey to Canterbury Cathedral for worship. Well, the day began with an early bus ride to Canterbury and the opportunity to be in a pew and share in a regular 11:00 a.m. Sunday service in this historic Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided and celebrated; the Dean of the Cathedral preached, and for him this was probably not a “regular Sunday morning” as the congregation consisted of about 500 bishops and spouses (some of the bishops attended elsewhere) along with regular Cathedral attendees. Following the service we were treated with a most wonderful luncheon out in the yard of the Cathedral amongst the trees, flowers and conversation.
Following lunch and a brief period of visiting, it was off to catch the public bus to get back to the campus of Kent University for a meeting with another bishop and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori about the work and status of Communion Partners. This was followed with a brief pause to grab something to eat and then on to another meeting before calling it a night.
I did have a break one evening with a trip to Lambeth Palace, the Canterbury residence of Archbishop and Mrs. Williams, for a reception hosted by the Archbishop and his wife, Jane. This was an “informal” gathering in their garden with about eighty people present. They have hosted a number of these events since our arrival here, and by tomorrow night, they will have entertained about 670 bishops and their spouses. The residence is nestled within the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral, yet truly set apart due to the tremendous size of the Cathedral compound as a whole.
The schedule each day has continued on about the same format as previously reported — early Eucharist (with a different Province leading the worship), Bible study group, Indaba gathering, and then a break for lunch. For most of this past week our afternoon schedule has focused on the work of the Indaba gatherings and as reflected by the “listener” of each group. This time, set in a format that embraces questions, answers, and comments or opinions pertaining to the various aspects related to the individual Provinces and wider Communion and that which was being reported by the Reflection Committee.
This ninety minute period is followed by special meetings/hearings on the issues facing the Communion in this continued period of tension that is truly being experienced through most of the Communion due to the action of the American and Canadian Churches. A pause in the day is taken as we gather for Evening Prayer, followed by dinner and again meetings that lead us into a late hour at which I say to myself, “Enough is enough, I am going to bed.”
Tuesday afternoon (July 29) provided time once again for each of the Provinces to meet individually, and as with the previous meeting of this sort, the one hour time allotment was consumed pretty much by announcements and a few questions.
Realizing that all at home are not following the events of each day on the Internet, I will share that also on Tuesday, July 29, the Archbishop presented a “President’s Address” at the conclusion of Evening Prayer. Being perfectly honest, I must report that this was not received with the same enthusiasm as his opening address about a week and a half before. Within the context of his message he did an excellent job of reporting on the state of the Communion with regard to where the two extremes of the Church are at this time. However, the bottom line of the address spoke to the basic need for the division within to endeavour to speak from the centre. This would require sacrifice as each took “a step toward the centre” and was stated without reference as to what was required of this assembly to enable this to even begin to happen. This was a difficult ending for most in attendance and was reflected in the absence of a response by the gathered community.
As the week has progressed, more time is being invested in our Indaba groups and a multitude of other settings, in the critical work that is before us, and this being the issues of sexuality and the problems related to this issue, and incursions into dioceses. This work includes the labour and reports made to us by the Windsor Continuation Committee and the Covenant Development Group in sessions presided over by the members of these respective bodies. Needless to say,there is much to be accomplished before we wrap up the meeting with a final plenary on Sunday afternoon, and the concern of most is what the outcome of the past eighteen days thus far will bring forth.
Frustrated by much, I shared with the group this day, “Just think what it would be like if we were spending these many days and hours looking at how we together could be evangelizing the world and introducing people to Jesus!”
This, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is what God is calling us to do in Western Louisiana and points beyond in the mission field we share. Take note of Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last …” May we be mindful that Jesus is not asking us to go and do these things, but has “appointed” us and therefore there is an expectation that we will go forth in this charge faithfully.!
.. and this is where we are at the end of Day Eighteen.
In closing, I will confess the thought of boarding a shuttle in about 53 hours (4:00 a.m. Monday) and heading to Gatwick Airport in London is comforting. I give thanks to God that Susan, a wonderful faithful companion in ministry will await me at the airport, and that as a diocese we can be together once again to continue to be about the Lord’s business.
As I have often said, in the words of St. Thomas More, “Pray for me as I will for thee …”
Blessings, prayers and affection,
The Rt. Rev’d D. Bruce MacPherson
Bishop of Western Louisiana
and President of Province VII