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.