Thinking Anglicans

Lambeth: clarity needed

Another interview by Pat Ashworth was in last week’s Church Times and is with Archbishop of South-East Asia. Read Clarity needed before next ACC — Archbishop Chew.

Archbishop Deng’s suggestion that 500 of the bishops had been present at a meeting of provinces of the Global South on Monday was described by someone who had been there as a huge over-estimate: the number was around 150. But his claim that 17 provinces agreed with the statement was thought extremely likely to be accurate by the Archbishop of South-East Asia, the Most Revd John Chew…

…“Sudan came out with the statement for reasons of their own, and felt they had to say something. It was important for them to make that statement, and we appreciate them for that. I don’t think you will find any of the Global South provinces disagreeing with what they say. The way they put it will be coming from Sudan, but the essence — yes.”

Archbishop Chew had not studied the statement, but there was nothing new in it, he suggested: it repeated Windsor and was consistent with the Primates’ statement from Dromantine. “They are not calling for anything new, which would have been unfair. They are saying that if we do not take up what we have committed [ourselves to] seriously, then even in the eyes of the secular world, our credibility is reduced…”


Lambeth: telling it like it is

Pat Ashworth at the Church Times blog has interviewed the Bishop of Botswana, read it in full here.

THE FURORE over the Archbishop of Sudan’s comments last week is dying down: a bit of excitement that grabbed all the headlines, including our own. The story is moving on. But many have since observed that the official statement on sexuality that came from the Sudanese House of Bishops (and with which 17 provinces concurred) did not contain a call for Gene Robinson’s resignation. That came in the afternoon press conference, a day after the statement was put into circulation.

Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia was one of those expressing puzzlement. “We had a meeting of six to eight American bishops with Sudanese bishops, all having diocesan links. It was a very helpful meeting because we respect and appreciate the Sudanese position and at the same time welcome their commitment to remain in relationship with us: we accept that we have much to learn from them and they seem to welcome our participation in their lives,” he said on Saturday.

“Archbishop Deng Bul made it clear at the press conference. He was asked what he would do if he were Gene Robinson. It was a speculative question and he said if he was Gene Robinson, he would resign. It was not a formal call from the Sudanese bishops. He did not repeat that to us as a demand at all.”

The Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba, was even more forthright on the discrepancy between the statement and the views expressed later by Archbishop Deng. “My personal view is that it wasn’t helpful at all. I can understand where they are coming from in being in a Muslim context. But having said that, I am also aware that somebody organised that position. In the context of the conference it’s regrettable that it was done but here are other factors at play and we need to name those factors.

“We are using each other at times for ends which are not constructive. That’s just one example of people being used. Another is that people are continuously talking up the absence of our brothers from four African provinces from this meeting. But the point is that a lot of those brothers of ours – 200 is a nice round figure – would have wanted to come here. That’s important to say.”

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.” He finds it therefore a paradox that while they stay at home, some of the American allies who have been working with them – for example, Bishop Robert Duncan and others – are here…


UK government grants asylum to MacIyalla

Changing Attitude reports that:

UK grants asylum to Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria

As Ruth Gledhill notes on her blog about this, Lambeth Diary: Nigerian gay Christian activist granted asylum:

This is extremely rare here and a clear indication of how seriously the British Government is taking the attacks and threats made against him in Nigeria. It will also surely send a signal to bishops meeting here about this whole issue, to be on the agenda of indaba groups this week…

and the Church of Nigeria still has this statement on its official website.


Lambeth: Sunday and the scorecard

I spent all of Friday and Saturday at the conference, staying overnight on campus. Some of each day was spent in the Marketplace, where I was helping Dave Walker, the cartoonist, who has a stall there selling his products, but obviously he can’t be on the stand at the same time as he is being cartoonist in a tent elsewhere on the campus.

All of the bishops I talked to so far have been positive about the state of progress, though I did see a few eyebrows raised when I told them what Rowan Williams had said to the press on Friday about the success rate of Indaba groups (around 80% going as expected).

Jim Naughton spent some time on Saturday trying to assess where the Conference had got to so far, see Live: where things stand. As I am quoted there saying that it was late in the 1998 conference before things started to get really difficult, I thought it might be useful to link here to what I wrote on the corresponding Sunday of 1998. I titled it then “calm before the storm”.

Tom Wright wrote a letter home about the Lambeth Conference so far. Read it on Fulcrum at Mid-Lambeth Conference Letter to the Diocese of Durham. He also seems reasonably up-beat about progress to date. I must admit I thought one of the most interesting tidbits of information was:

this is the first time for nearly a year that I have had more than seven consecutive nights in the same bed

which seems quite remarkable given that the Diocese of Durham covers only 987 square miles according to the CofE Year Book, and thus on the small side by global communion standards.

However, it does put into context the problem he had last Saturday when, while he was giving all those interviews to newspaper reporters, he was at the same time trying desperately to find his missing robes to wear for the opening service. In the event, he had to go without, as they had not been posted to him from Bishop Auckland, as planned. (The parcel which at one time was thought to contain the Bishop of Durham’s convocation robes turned out in the end to contain the shoes of the Bishop of Chile.)

I talked to Archbishop Phillip Aspinall fairly late on Saturday afternoon, and was rather surprised to discover that he had no idea at all of that morning’s (rather sensational) UK national newspaper headlines about the conference. This would not be surprising for your average jobbing bishop attending the conference, but he is after all the frontman for the official daily press conferences and I would expect someone or other to have made sure he was properly briefed before that started (at 1.30 pm).

More generally, and more worryingly, the bishops did not seem to be aware of the documents being issued by official bodies like the Windsor Continuation Group to the conference and also to the press. I am left wondering how such information is being disseminated INSIDE the conference itself.


News from the Big Blue Tent (11)

Well, I did what I said I was going to do: took the train to Dover, bought a map and bottle of sun tan lotion, then walked along the cliffs to Samphire Hoe (the country park made out of the Eurotunnel spoil heap) read my book for a good three hours then retraced my steps slowly along the coast to catch the London Victoria service back to Canterbury. The sun has shone all day, but hazily enough for me not to burn and I now feel thoroughly into the plot of “Animal’s People”. I’ve had a good supper (before the queues), a cooling shower and made liberal use of the after sun spray.

So what to write about today? Perhaps it’s a chance to give a sense of where I feel I (personally as opposed to the conference as a whole) am at this instant on the Anglican Communion issues we’re going to be dealing with next week. I may well change; I have to be open to that if I’m taking the process seriously, but this is how it feels this middle Sunday evening.

I think it is possible to envisage some sort of covenant document, broadly along the lines that the Design Group have come up with, which uses the traditional Anglican formularies for the bulk of its text, recognises that as Anglicans our mission is to enculture the gospel along with evangelising the culture, and clearly avoids attempting to lay down the line on doctrinal issues that are not part of the historic creeds and on moral positions. A covenant will need to have some criteria for determining whether a particular church is adhering to it, and there have to be ways in which new areas of concern can be raised and addressed in a timely fashion where they are so grave, have so wide an impact or are sufficiently divisive not to be simply matters that provinces (or dioceses) can determine autonomously without being called to some form of account. My area of greatest scepticism is whether such a covenant can ever be used to deal with matters that have already become rancorous.

I’ve heard enough stories this last 10 days to know that even TEC bishops who voted against Gene Robinson are facing territorial incursions from parishes who think the game is now pick-a-bishop. That really will not do. We mustn’t let this particular issue off the hook again.

And so to bed! I read and study my bible habitually, prayerfully and hard, learning both from the insights the Holy Spirit provides me and from the long tradition of piety and scholarship within which I am continually formed and reformed. My personal conclusion is that what St Paul and the Old Testament are condemning are not faithful, loving and stable same sex relationships as we see them today but rather matters of cultic sex, sex as the expression of a particular power relationship, and promiscuity. The other main argument, that God didn’t create Adam and Adam, collapses into a narrow form of Thomism (in which every “thing” can have only one good and natural purpose) that is explicitly rejected in the Prayer Book (and its revisions) marriage service and therefore cannot be claimed as Anglican.

Nonetheless, if I ever thought this issue could be “adiaphora” (something a local church can determine without needing to heed others) I no longer do. The consecration of a bishop in an active same sex relationship has certainly helped some Christians in North America to feel more fully accepted by the church, official liturgies and blessings for such partnerships have done the same for the couples involved and their friends. But the price is being paid elsewhere, particularly in places where Christians are on the defensive or in a minority in relation to Islam, and are often seen as slack on topics such as the consumption of alcohol. In countries like these male homosexual activities are often still criminal. There is no way they can tackle these issues at present in their contexts nor could they defend themselves by saying that “it’s not us, it’s just the Americans”. Indeed the very fact that it is the USA (in many parts of the world I doubt Canada is adequately distinguished) leading that plays into the anti-imperialism and hatred of America that is so strong across the globe. Invasion by American cultural values is no more popular than invasion by its troops.

As a C of E bishop I recognise that were I to insist on carrying out the consequences of my own views on this subject rather than upholding what Synod and the House of Bishops have agreed then I would have to resign. But my Anglican ecclesiology and catholic spirituality teach me to be obedient to the collegial will, properly expressed, not least because I might well be wrong. Equally, I believe that any individual church that claims to be Anglican needs to have a polity which gives full weight to the whole communion. It’s here where I find I am looking over the next few days to my American brothers and sisters for reassurance.

Highlight of the day: a good long read.

Lowlight of the day: the campus shop had closed when I got back and there’s no beer in the fridge.


Lambeth: Sunday news

The Telegraph has a report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones which is headlined Homosexual bishops face Anglican Church ban.

This refers to the third report from the Windsor Continuation Group, which is due to be released on Monday afternoon. See here for the first and second reports. According to Wynne-Jones the third one will say:

The paper, “How do we get from here to there?”, stresses that it is vital that an Anglican Covenant be agreed so that churches around the world are mutually accountable and united by a common set of beliefs. This must happen as soon as possible, it says, to prevent further haemorrhaging of the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexual clergy.

Until a consensus is reached, the American and Canadian churches must refrain from consecrating more homosexual bishops and carrying out blessing services for same-sex couples, the paper says.

If they do not, they will face being pushed to the margins of the communion and find themselves excluded from the councils that are central to the governance of the Church.

This was of course what the original Windsor Report recommended in 2004. But it also recommended an end to boundary crossings, and now it seems that recommendation may also be repeated:

The African churches, which oppose having practising homosexuals in the clergy, will be told that they must stop intervening in the affairs of other churches as their actions are deepening the rift.

Nigerian and Ugandan archbishops have taken control of dozens of parishes in America and Canada opposed to a liberal agenda.

It seems extraordinarily unlikely that the Nigerians, Ugandans, and indeed the Kenyans or Rwandans, would now agree to undo this, no matter what TEC or ACC agreed to do.

The Sunday Times published a long interview with Bishop Gene Robinson by Rosie Millard.

The BBC reports on a sermon given by Rowan Williams at St Dunstan’s Church, Canterbury today and broadcast on BBC Radio 4, in Anglicans ‘must resolve tensions’. The full text of the sermon is here.


News from the Big Blue Tent (10)

Thanks to those who are adding comments to this blog. I’ve taken a decision that my time is best spent writing the daily instalment than making individual responses, but do rest assured that you are all part of what I am carrying with me into the various sessions here.

Last night and today we’ve looked at environmental issues. The figures for how much the carbon dioxide level has gone up in recent years were, alongside plenty of other statistics, both frightening and compelling. And, given that Anglicans don’t subscribe to the “let’s use the world up so that Jesus will come back soon” heresy, we need to effect the moral leadership that is our only option for a problem market capitalism is singularly unfitted to deal with unaided. I spoke with a bishop from the Pacific region who has already seen five islands disappear under the water in recent years; one from Tanzania told us that the snows are melting from the summit of Kilimanjaro; a colleague from Zambia spoke of how the rainy season which should last from October to late April is now down to December-March. What bishops do in their bedrooms gets put into perspective when we recognise that those bedrooms may be uninhabitable or under water within a generation.

The conference process goes on and there were some deeply moving moments in my Bible Study Group this morning. The group of 15 or so listeners (one from each indaba) has now been chosen. These bishops will produce the draft documents that will eventually be processed by the conference into something that Rowan told us after Evensong today should not be a record of what was said but provide clear and prophetic direction to the communion. I don’t as yet have a full list but I do know two good friends; Michael Perham of Gloucester and Bill Godfrey of Peru are on it. These are people in whom I have confidence.

After lunch we had the Lambeth 08 photo. For forty minutes the staff painstakingly arranged all 670 or so of us in tiers whilst we sweated in the afternoon heat, close proximity and convocation dress, and regressed to schoolboy/girl status. At the point when the whole thing seemed to have completely bogged down we burst into a spontaneous rendition of Amazing Grace (a full four verses) which defused the situation.

The programme has been quiet since then; Evening Prayer was led by TEC. There were plenty of people there (except for a number of English bishops who have shot off home for a 24 hour break) and it was one further nail in the coffin of the rumour that significant numbers of TEC bishops are deficient in Christology (or other areas of doctrine). Tonight there are a handful of fringe events but I’ve bought a can of decent beer and am watching a favourite old film (Pleasantville) on my laptop. Tomorrow I’m skipping both the options of the cathedral and civic reception or a parish visit and will take a train to a decent beach where I can enjoy a long walk and a good novel.

Highlight of the day: the amazingly proficient choir of TEC bishops and spouses who helped lead Evening Prayer.

Lowlight of the day: discovering that the train I need tomorrow goes from the further away station.


opinions during Lambeth

Rowan Williams writes in the Guardian about A new spiritual politics of limits

Terry Philpot writes in Face to Faith about how The Catholic church has done much lately to protect children, but little to protect priests.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about John Donne on a chill island

In The Times the Credo column is written by the Archbishop of Sydney. No, not that one, the other one. See World Youth Day took Sydney by storm and prayer.

Earlier Simon Barrow wrote on Ekklesia about Peacemaking after Christendom. Read more about his book Fear or Freedom?: Why a Warring Church Must Change.

In the Church Times Giles Fraser wrote Try being transformed by joy.


Lambeth: The View from the English Pew

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
Thinking Anglicans

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.


Lambeth: Saturday morning news reports

(I realise earlier reports for the past couple of days are missing, but I will start the catch-up process with the most recent material.)

Guardian Riazat Butt Lambeth Conference: Archbishop of Canterbury backs Anglican ‘Holy Office’
Telegraph Martin Beckford Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams backs ‘Anglican Inquisition’
The Times Ruth Gledhill Anglican version of the ‘inquisition’ proposed to avoid future schism

What is this about? It is about this document, available here. Right at the end is this sentence:

The Common Principles of Canon law Project ( Anglican Communion Legal Advisers Network) gives a sense of the integrity of Anglicanism and we commend the suggestion for the setting up of an Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on ecclesiological issues raised by our current ‘crisis’.

Ruth Gledhill explains further in her blog, Lambeth Diary: Anglican ‘Holy Office’.

Robert Pigott has a diary entry for 25 July about this press conference, see Agreeing to Disagree here.

In the Church Times blog Pat Ashworth had Rowan on ecumenism – all in the same boat.
And here is the Anglican Journal report on this story, by Marites Sison Proposal calls for creation of Faith and Order Commission
and Episcopal News Service has this report by Mary Frances Schjonberg, Lambeth Conference begins considering ‘difficult situations’
and Religious Intelligence has a report by George Conger Lambeth: Is Inquisition on the cards?
and the Living Church has a report by Steve Waring Archbishop: Communion Faith and Order Commission Gains Momentum.


News from the Big Blue Tent (9)

It was the turn of the Church of North India to lead the Conference Eucharist this morning. It’s surely no coincidence that the Indian bishops have been more prominent participants in the various events I’ve attended since. Having presided at the breaking of the bread with us they have gone on, like an extended Ministry of the Word, to break open their stories and their lives through the rest of the day.

The conference theme for Friday has been Christian ecumenism. There are huge differences of context between a majority denomination in a majority Christian community and a small church in a land where some other faith dominates, but what all seemed to have in common is that ecumenism works best in places with natural shared boundaries (a town, an island, a nation) but it’s much harder going at intermediate levels where jurisdictions overlap and often make it hard to assemble meetings of the necessary people. It also appears easier to be ecumenical when there is an obvious shared task, particularly in response to a crisis. Someone offered us a lovely quote from Desmond Tutu, that apartheid was too big a problem for the churches to tackle it separately. What I’m increasingly feeling though is that much of what we do is an infantile form of ecumenism based on “what can we all do together?”, grown up ecumenism must lie in what we empower some to do on behalf of all.

It feels like we’re now close to being ready to tackle some of the Anglican Communion agenda items directly. Whilst they are certainly not more important than what we did in London yesterday they are matters for which the conference, as one of the Instruments of Communion, has a particular responsibility and locus. We’ve built relationships and allowed divisive issues to emerge where they have come up naturally and it has been OK. I even get a sense that for some the encounters (let the lobbyists shudder) have led to bishops reflecting on and maybe revising their positions.

I took my daily tour round the marketplace earlier, to honour the efforts of those who have come to Canterbury to be with us. I’m trying to let myself be drawn into conversations both with those whose positions I share and others whose viewpoints I find antithetical or even (in one or two instances) slightly disturbing. Partly, I think it’s important to be open to having my attitudes challenged and changed and partly, as my chaplain used to say when he’d invited the JWs in for a chat, when they’re talking to me they’re not talking to anyone else.

I’m writing somewhat earlier today in the hope of getting to sleep sooner, so I’ll blog something tomorrow about tonight’s plenary on the environment and climate change – another issue far too important to get pushed off the agenda.

Highlight of the day: Meeting Professor Grace Davie, whose work I’ve long admired and whose arguments I’ve written papers attacking. Her work in the sociology of religion has paved the way for humble empirical theologians like myself to do our work.

Lowlight of the day: writing this blog then the program crashing before I’d saved it, so I’ve had to type it all in again. But, dear reader, you’re worth it!


Lambeth Conference: Paul Handley on the press

This week’s Church Times press column is available on day of publication and is written by the Editor himself.

Read Press: Saying no to the media by Paul Handley which includes this:

…THE RELATIONSHIP between the press and the conference organisers — mediated through the media team — is deteriorating nicely. Having been told earlier that journalists could not attend the cell groups, the indaba groups, or the “self-select” seminars, and some of the plenaries, it was found that the fringe meetings were also out of bounds, unless the meeting organiser agreed otherwise. A journalist had been ejected from a meeting (on the subject of mediation) the previous evening.

The latest news was that members of the press were also barred from the 7.15 a.m. eucharist, because “it is important for bishops and their wives to be able to worship freely”. The image conjured up was of obtrusive television interviews being conducted at the communion rail. Journalists do actually know how to behave themselves during services. It felt like dragging our Lord into the organisational pettiness. The least the organisers could do is to lay on a public eucharist before the bishops’ service.

THE OTHER ROW on Tuesday was about a list of those attending. This has not yet been forthcoming — and might never come forth — because of “security reasons” (10.30 a.m. press conference) or “privacy laws” (1.30 p.m. press conference).

We did wonder, briefly, whether the security reasons had something to do with Radovan Karadzic masquerading as Rowan Williams (see below); but the Archbishop later visited Dave Walker’s cartoon tent, and there was no hint of a Serbian accent.

Lots of press questions were about the presence of bishops from provinces that had previously announced that they were boycotting the conference. “Nigerian bishops” (10.30 a.m. press conference) changed to “a fax from a Nigerian bishop indicating that he was coming” by 1.30 p.m. “So,” a German reporter asked dryly, “the fax is here but not the bishop?”

After a tetchy discussion about all these restrictions, a journalist asked, without a hint of irony: “What, then, is the point of our being here?” A member of the media team said grumpily afterwards: “Well, you asked to come here.”


Lambeth: some press comment

Church Times leader: Wheat and tares in Canterbury

Economist Going their own way, by God

Comment is free Theo Hobson The Anglican communion has never been stranger

International Herald Tribune Chloe Breyer The Anglican Church’s shifting center


Common Cause applies to be a GAFCON province

Common Cause Partnership Welcomes Jerusalem Declaration.

The statement includes this:

The intention of the CCP Executive Committee is to petition the Primates Council for recognition of the CCP as the North American Province of GAFCON on the basis of the Common Cause Partnership Articles, Theological Statement, and Covenant Declaration, and to ask that the CCP Moderator be seated in the Primates Council.

Comment on this is collected at Episcopal Café see Petition for a North American province of Gafcon.


Keeping the media at arm's length

Pat Ashworth writes on the Church Times blog about this.

See The Lambeth Conference: Keeping the media at arm’s length.

…Our morning press briefings bristle with tension and frustration. The Church House communications team are brilliant: they go the extra mile for us every time and are taking all the flak for whatever higher authority has decreed that we cannot have a list of the 670 bishops who are said to be present. Lawyers and privacy laws have been mentioned. Today we are told there will be a list, but that bishops can decline to be on it. So our readers worldwide – whose Church this is – cannot know whether their bishop turned up or not…

…It’s the story of our lives, speaking to somebody afterwards, if they’ll speak to you at all. It’s second-hand reporting. It just won’t do. None of the bishops’ seminar options, the ‘self-select sessions’, are open to us. I look at the range of issues and am desperate to sit at the feet at some of the renowned people from all over the globe who are leading them.

Here is everything that matters, everything the Church should be engaging with. What wouldn’t I give to go to The Deadly Co-epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS, chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town? Or The Consequences of Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa? I want to know about the Church’s role in peace building and conflict resolution. The mission challenges posed by eastern spiritualities. Christian responsibility in relation to the Holy Land. And the rest.

I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. I want to see the flashpoints, hear the burning things I hope the bishops want to say from their own contexts. I don’t want someone else to tell me what was said. The conference is heavily in debt and there’s all the more need for us to know it is doing its work. The only result of keeping the media at arm’s length like this will be the headlines that everyone’s expecting and nobody wants.

Let me repeat that last sentence:

The only result of keeping the media at arm’s length like this will be the headlines that everyone’s expecting and nobody wants.


News from the Big Blue Tent (8)

We haven’t been in the tent today, we’ve been in London.

I could write about the lunch that Rowan and Jane hosted for some 1500 friends and colleagues in their back garden, or the graciousness of Her Majesty who won the hearts of the conference and our guests with her legendary conversational gifts in another back garden a mile or so away. I could congratulate the staff, stewards and drivers who managed the logistics of decamping the entire conference a two hour journey up the road for a day. If you want a funny, it would be the line from a well-known hymn quoted by the bishop next to me as several hundred purple clad bishops headed in unison for the Embankment Station urinals, “All one body wee”. But the only real story today is of how we marched together to uphold the Millennium Development Goals and to call for a radical commitment to justice and mercy from (especially) the governments of the wealthy nations, and of how Gordon Brown pledged his commitment in person.

We marched not simply as well-fed bishops of the west but as bishops and spouses from (we were told) some 130 or so countries. Many of those marching live in places torn by war, depleted by poverty, threatened by climate change. They come from dioceses where children have no schools, curable diseases kill many and harvests fail. Physically it was a march of 1500 churchmen and women, symbolically it was a march of the 80 million Anglican worshippers we represent and a march for the sake of the billions in whose countries we live and work. Crowds lined the streets and applauded. Some stopped what they were doing and joined us as we journeyed past the great departments of state in Whitehall, past Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, past the Abbey and over the river to Lambeth.

I’ve been in meetings before where Gordon Brown (UK Prime Minister) has spoken on the subject of poverty, so I knew it was a passion of his. But even for me, let alone for those hearing him for the first time, this was a speech to remember. It was an integrated effort of heart and mind. Without visible reading of notes he drew on both the macro-economic statistics of poverty and the individual, named, people he has met at the point of their deepest need. There was oratorical flourish in his comparison of the effects of the speeches of Socrates and Demosthenes on their audiences (was this a subtle contrast between himself and his predecessor?). He set everything within the great tradition of campaigning and action on behalf of the oppressed and excluded by Christians and other faiths. But the crux of the speech was in the specific commitments he made on behalf of his administration, and which he pledged to take to the United Nations debate in September. I must have spoken to dozens of people as the day rolled on; I didn’t find anyone who was less than full of admiration for what we had heard.

Can we take this on into the rest of the conference, as a reminder that the world and we have bigger issues to address than what bishops do in their bedrooms (in my case mostly sleep and blog)? I hope so. The next few days will tell.

Highlight of the day: that Prime Ministerial speech

Lowlight of the day: returning tired to the campus tonight to yet another huge queue at the one outlet and handful of overstretched staff distributing food. But unlike many around the world we did all (eventually) get fed.


Lambeth: catching up with news reports

The Times Ruth Gledhill
Bishops invited to give tribal politics a go at the Lambeth Conference
and Cardinal Ivan Dias: Anglican Church suffering spiritual Alzheimer’s
Also Lambeth voices: a panel of Anglican bishops share their views with Faith Online

Guardian Riazat Butt
Call at Lambeth for gay bishop to resign post
and Cardinal accuses Anglican Communion of ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’
Also Conference diary

Telegraph Martin Beckford
Liberal churches have ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’, claims Vatican cardinal
and Church needs a miracle to survive, says Archbishop [this is not Rowan Williams speaking]

BBC Robert Pigott
Lambeth diary: Anglicans in turmoil
and Anglicans accused of ‘demonising’ Windsor Continuation Group

Religious Intelligence George Conger
Vatican official in warning to Anglican bishops
and Akinola: Conference attendance ‘is immaterial’


the other statement from Sudan


This evening, the other statement issued yesterday by the Sudanese bishops has been published by ACNS. This is headed Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the Situation in Sudan and it starts out with this:

We, the Sudanese Bishops gathering at the Lambeth Conference, would like on behalf of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) and the whole Sudanese people, to acknowledge and appreciate your prayers and support during the 21 years of war in Southern Sudan and in reaching the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement / Army (SPLM/A) on 9th January 2005. The CPA provides the basis for a just and sustainable peace in the Sudan. We give thanks to God for the agreement and express our support for all efforts to ensure its full and timely implementation.

After 21 years of war, in which more than 2 million people lost their lives and more than 4 million people have become refugees or internally displaced, we are greatly encouraged at the new future offered by the CPA. However, we remain deeply concerned that the conflict in Darfur, in Western Sudan, continues unabated, and at the localized conflict in several places which threatens stability and the sustainability of peace…

Please do read it all.

A helpfully annotated copy with hyperlinks added, can be found here. Thank you, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.


Lambeth: other news reports from Tuesday

(This article has been delayed, sorry.)

More4News, the programme produced by the Channel 4 News team for the More4 digital channel, had a report Tuesday evening on the Lambeth Conference, and the Bishop of New Hampshire. You can watch the report by going here.

Anglican Journal has Lambeth Conference will deal with ‘breakdown of trust’ by Marites Sison concerning the Windsor Continuation Group.

And also, Zimbabwe talks provide ‘a little hope’, says bishop.

The full text of the presentation by Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in the Roman Catholic Church, can be read on ACNS at The church needs apologists, not apologisers, Cardinal Dias says.

ACNS had two articles relating to the presentation by Brian McLaren on Monday evening. See Evangelist praises passion of bishops and A chat with Brian McLaren.

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News from the Big Blue Tent (7)

There was a game Sue and I used to play with the kids on long car journeys. Someone starts by saying, “My aunt went to Paris and brought me….” and names one item. Player two repeats exactly what player one has said, and adds one item at the end”. And so it continues (what we mathematicians call a process of iteration). Anyone who fails to correctly recite the entire list is eliminated. Take this as a metaphor for the Conference.

We began last Thursday with bible study; on Sunday we added plenary sessions; Indaba groups started on Monday; Tuesday saw the first self-select sessions; today we’ve had a double dose with the introduction of fringe events and hearings. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the real conference process is that whoever, by sometime late next week, can recite in order, all the different types of event we’ve had on the timetable, will get to decide the Anglican Communion’s policy on sexuality. And actually, I can think of plenty of worse ways.

Tonight I was part of a group putting on a fringe event for bishops who are Visitors of Religious Communities. It was well attended, lively and constructive. The monastic orders (who are well represented in the chaplaincy team here) reflect the overall life of the Communion: in places where the church is growing they are typically growing, in other places they are seeking to develop fresh expressions of community life to reach out to those no longer attracted by past formulations. In England the concepts of poverty, chastity and obedience are about as counter-cultural as you can get – in fact the mere notion of making a lifetime commitment is pretty hard to grasp for those who have grown up in a culture where nothing, including the three traditional foci of career, locality and relationships is forever.

The Hearing was the hardest event I’ve been to yet. These broadly relate to the Covenant or Windsor processes. Bishops get three minutes to speak to whoever chooses to turn up. It’s not a forum for formal debate, there are certainly no motions, amendments or votes, but the platform (today they were the Windsor Continuation Group) take back all that is said, together with comments submitted in writing, and process it into a further statement to the conference. I reckon something like two thirds of the bishops attended today’s session. We heard at first hand the real anguish that the divisions are causing to people on all sides of the questions. Speeches were delivered with pain and passion, but with grace. It was pretty heart wrenching, but then that’s exactly how it should be.

Chaos reigns over the arrangements for London tomorrow. Many of us UK bishops had not spotted an advance notice telling us we’d need passports or driving licences for this. The details of what we are allowed to take or not take failed to get read out in some indaba groups. When I asked at the information desk I was told that I must take suntan lotion but cannot take any form of bag (except a lady’s handbag). “So, how do I carry the suntan lotion?” I asked. After a reflective silence one of the helpers suggested I carry it in my pocket. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to transport a part used container of lotion in my trousers, it sounds potentially very messy.

Highlight of the day: I visited the “Holy Socks” stall in the marketplace ( – believe it or not). Having not worn socks for thirty years I threatened to picket it, but the lady (who’s from Scotland) was so nice that I promised to give her a blog mention instead.

Lowlight of the day: the university failed to adjust the time settings on the air-conditioning to take account of evening meetings (clearly something students never have) so we sweltered in a packed lecture hall for our evening fringe event until the events people (hats off to them) brought in several large electric fans.