So, this is the year of the Lambeth Conference for this decade (26 July to 8 August, 2022). The last one was in 2008. There should have been one in 2018. Contretemps in the Communion postponed it to 2020. Covid postponed 2020 to 2022. It's been a big deal for bishops since the first one in 1867. It's been controversial, none more so than 1998 with its resolution 1.10 which at the time seemed to settle the Communion on the matter of homosexuality, but it turned out that was far from the case. (It is not the purpose of this post to review that particular historical narrative).
Subsequently Lambeth 2008 assiduously turned itself away from the making of resolutions as far as possible and was a big talk fest (indaba) which my then bishop, Richard Ellena of the Diocese of Nelson, described in the following terms: "I believe (at this stage – and there are still two days to go) that this has been the most expensive exercise in futility that I have ever been to". (Again, it is not the purpose of this post to review the worthwhileness of that Lambeth Conference, but clearly not all found it a profitable exercise).
So, what are the prospects for this year's Conference? Will it not be an exercise in futility? What is the purpose of the Conference and does it have a "big thing" it is trying to achieve?
In the end, I can't offer a pre-Conference answer to these questions. There is a "big thing" inasmuch as there will be foci in the Conference in the troubles that beset our world today and what we as bishops might say in response to them - and presumably any formal Conference statement will encourage our dioceses to continuing engagement in the tackling of these troubles. The theme of the Conference is "God's church for God's world" and I like the note that the church is "for" the world.
On the main Conference webpage we read this:
"Convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury in 2022, the Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs.With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World - walking, listening and witnessing together,’ the conference will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world.
The journey to the conference starts during 2021, where there will be opportunities for prayer, dialogue and reflection, involving the conference community – and wider Anglican World."
It looks like our reflection and dialogue will focus on matters such as the conflictual nature of our world, and the threat of environmental disaster and the diminishment of life through poverty and inequality.
Mind you, a world faced with environmental disaster doesn't quite cut it for some bishops as a "big thing." Thus:
"The Communique issued after the Primates’ Meeting of March 2022 in Lambeth Palace, London, was silent on the agenda of the proposed Lambeth 2022, which is a ploy to evade the crucial issue of human sexuality. The conclusions reached by the Primates suggest that the subject of human sexuality is not on the agenda at the next Lambeth Conference, as if the problems generated by the admission of homosexuality as a normal way of life as opposed to Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998 could be swept under the carpet.
Human sexuality is not a moral issue to be wrapped in the garment of human rights which allows for distortion of fundamental biblical truth."
The planet is burning up, but that is "peripheral"!
Well, let's see what happens. I would be a bit surprised if nothing is said about human sexuality. Conversely, I have no personal desire to go to a conference which has nothing to talk about except the well worn conversational grooves of Anglican differences over homosexuality (1998-2022 edition).
I would love to find through the Conference how much we have in common as members of a global church when our globe is facing so many common challenges! That would be a "big thing" ...
In the meantime, apparently if we don't get Covid, or Covid-again, then monkeypox is spreading.