Here’s a piece I wrote for Lambeth Witness. It’s in this issue here (PDF).
Lambeth: The View from the English Pew
by Simon Sarmiento
I’m fairly sure the average English churchgoer thinks that the Lambeth Conference is something of great importance to bishops. After all it gives them a chance to get away from home with their wives for over two weeks, and the Church Commissioners will pick up the full tab. Unlike their American counterparts, they are already accustomed to the primitive plumbing facilities of English university residence halls, which they experience every July when General Synod goes to York. But hey, it’s free.
I don’t believe though that many Church of England (CofE) parishioners think that the Lambeth Conference is of importance to them. They know that the Church of England is ultimately controlled by Parliament, via powers delegated to the General Synod, but they also know that the General Synod is very rarely able to agree on anything very quickly, if at all. So the chance of anything changing in their parish church because of something a Sudanese bishop said is rather remote.
And most parishioners know that what the national newspapers and television tell them about the CofE is rubbish anyway. They know this because their parish clergy, especially those who are members of General Synod, tell them this all the time.
And because the average churchgoer doesn’t read the Church Times, the only thing they will ever learn about Lambeth is what they hear in the pulpit. Lots of sermons have been preached in England recently about the Conference, and how important it is to pray for the bishops, including those not coming. In fact the main thing most people know about this conference is that hundreds of bishops are staying away. They may not be very clear about why this is, but one thing they are all certain of: it’s not the Church of England’s fault.