Thinking Anglicans

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.

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JCF
JCF
12 years ago

“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.”

Nice reality-check, Simon: thanks.

TWP
TWP
12 years ago

“They know that the Church of England is ultimately controlled by Parliament, via powers delegated to the General Synod…” Ultimately, the C of E is guided by God. God just happens to use Parliament and the General Synod as instruments through which God’s grace might reach God’s people. I am exceedingly reticient about /how/ Parliament matters in this equation, but right now, it’s still there… “the chance of anything changing in their parish church because of something a Sudanese bishop said is rather remote.” Theoretically, I agree here. But… An ecclesiology that takes seriously that Christians are the Body of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Father Ron Smith
12 years ago

I agree with TWP – that the C. of E. Councils are open to being guided by God, the same as any other Christian organisation would claim. However to say that Archbishop Deng of the Sudan has any sort of hot-line to God, that cannot be accessed by the other bishops of the Communion, is to question the degree of ‘unity’ that he hopes to encourage by his recent statements to the press about homosexuals in the Church. His call for the resignation of Bishop Gene is counterproductive to his call for collegiality in the Church. Does he think that… Read more »

TWP
TWP
12 years ago

Of course the Abp of Sudan doesn’t have a unique direct hotline to God. However, I deliberately used the ambiguity of SS’s message to focus upon the /other/ Sudanese statement re. the troubles of that country. The fact that both statements were made in close succession might, viewed from a certain anthropological viewpoint, reveal how the statements speak to one another. I wonder (and it’s only a vague wondering) whether an attempt to draw boundaries in a geographical area leads to a desire to draw boundaries upon the human body and its entrances and exits. It just so happens that… Read more »

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