The retreat finished at lunchtime today after a fifth and final address from Rowan. Among the gems was a quotation from Alan Ecclestone (I did my curacy in the parish next door to where Alan spent many years; I always found his writing more complex than Rowan’s!) that “episcope is insight as well as oversight”. The main theme took us into Hebrews and the notion of Christ who clears a new and living way so that we can go where otherwise we could not. Christians (and bishops in particular) lead by following Jesus. Writing it down makes it sound simple and obvious, but there’s a huge depth in what we have heard and it sets the context within which we will turn to the conference part of Lambeth on Monday.
Various ecumenical guests joined us this afternoon. There is enormous support for us from orthodox, catholic, protestant and pentecostal denominations, mostly in presence but some with letters of greeting. Reading all the titles of the writers made me wonder whether the problem we have with Anglican authority is that we just don’t have impressive enough words in front of our names. If Rowan styled himself catholicos, supreme head, patriarch, holiness or beatitude who’d dare oppose him? Personally my vote is for “His beatitude”, there’s something about Rowan that encapsulates what Matthew 5 is all about. We had a reading from the works of the sixth century St Dorotheus. I’m starting a rumour that he/she is the patron of Changing Attitude.
It’s been humbling to eat and speak with bishops from Sudan and Zimbabwe. To hear stories of the faith lived out under persecution from bishops whose courage and humour are intact. As when I went to Peru three years ago, it has convinced me that the Anglican Communion may seem to make little difference in England, but to these leaders of small, young churches in difficult and hostile surroundings it matters hugely to be part of something global and steeped in history. The catholicity of Anglicanism is far more at stake here than it was at General Synod two weekends ago.
Highlight of the day: I met my namesake, the cartoonist, whose work I’ve admired since I first found it on a website. We had our photos taken together to prove we’re really not the same person.
Lowlight of the day: This is the only conference I can recall that doesn’t provide good quantities of tea and coffee at every meal and break. It took me 20 minutes to find a mid afternoon hot drink.