Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Some responses to the Lambeth Conference from the Bishop of Barking

The Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd David Hawkins, has asked for this to be posted on the Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream website.

12 August 2008.

The Lambeth Conference has come and gone but the rich encounter will live long in our hearts and minds.

The process of the Conference (Bible Study and Indaba), although approached with scepticism by some, clearly won over the vast majority of delegates. This was so comprehensively expressed that some were calling for another conference in five years time in order to continue the Indaba discussions!

The Indaba process ensured that every bishop, including the quietest and those speaking through translation, had ample and equal opportunity to express their views. Although this method did not favour the ‘parliamentarians’ (often predominantly white and western) it did ensure maximum participation at a deep and personal level.

What emerged through the listening and reflective process could not have been predicted at the outset of the Conference. In spite of the absence of approximately 200 Gafcon Bishops the centre of gravity of the conference settled in a ‘traditionalist’ position with regard to interpretation of Scripture and a desire to find a covenantal expression of Anglicanism. This was also the quiet and consistent lead given by the Archbishop.

What this means is:

  1. The communion retains Lambeth 1:10 in its entirety with a call to do more effective listening to the different positions with regard to human sexuality.
  2. We shall press ahead with improving the St Andrew’s Draft of the Anglican Covenant.
  3. ‘There is widespread support’ for the three moratoria of the Windsor Process.
  4. ‘There is a clear majority support for a pastoral forum along the lines advocated by the Windsor continuation group and a desire to see it in place speedily’
The absence of the 200 Gafcon Bishops was keenly and respectfully felt and their absence itself created a certain ‘presence’ in the conference.

There were a significant number of Gafcon bishops present at Lambeth. There were bishops for whom it was very costly to attend and very costly not to attend.

At the informal meetings of the UK Evangelical bishops and Global South bishops there was a plea that we urge our Gafcon Bishops and clergy to join hands with these two constituencies of traditionalists and not to split off. Together, traditionalists represent the majority of the leadership of the Anglican Communion and a considerable majority of it’s membership. Divisions among the traditionalist constituency will do the health of the Anglican Communion no favours at all.

As Evangelicals we have a long history of splits and divisions – may we resist this temptation at this important time on our Communion history.

Many ‘revisionist’ bishops from the Episcopal Church and Canada were exposed to personal conversations with bishops from many different cultural settings and theological positions and vice versa. These encounters were valuable and respectful and caused a maturity and depth of discussion not experienced widely before.

Although the present formulations of the Covenant may make it difficult for some of the TEC and Canadian bishops to abide by the expectations, they clearly wish to remain within the Anglican Communion in some shape or form. The rich experience of Lambeth 2008 has only intensified that wish at the same time as making it seem less realistic than ever in a structural sense. Time will tell.

I returned from Lambeth inspired and humbled by the costly and sacrificial ministry and leadership going on in all l30 countries of the Communion. The Communion is going through challenging times but it is in surprising good heart.

David Hawkins
August 2008

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