As we have compiled and distributed this prayer bulletin each day, we would like you to know that SOMA & Crosswinds Prayer Trust are much indebted to many people who have made up the team-work over Lambeth’s 21 days. 

We have had our own SOMA Lambeth team on the ground at Canterbury, providing daily information (led by Stephen Dinsmore of SOMA UK).  We have had a prayer team nearby, for the whole three weeks, listening to God, and praying for the bishops, led by Hilary Steynor.  We also have a dedicated technical team in Singapore, servicing the website's database engine.  More than 15,000 people, from all around the world, have visited www.praylambeth.org/ since Lambeth began (where the Prayer Briefings are all available).  

In addition, the daily e-mail Bulletins sent to the In-Boxes of those who registered, seem to have gone to every continent and many nations.  Many recipients of the e-mails are prayer organisations, who are in turn forwarding e-mails on to intercessors on their lists.  Others are printing off the pdf’s and circulating printed copies of the Prayer Briefings within their churches. We have heard from overseas dioceses that are forwarding the Bulletins to every parish.  So we shall never know how far, and to how many, these www.praylambeth.org  missives have reached.  We don’t need to know.

Who are the dissidents?

Dr Williams believes that “speaking from the centre in Christ” means being willing to put aside the fact that you believe the other to be “wrong”, and focus on why the other believes what he or she believes.  In his Presidential Address this week, he gave an eloquent description of the contrasting standpoints and concerns of conservatives and liberals.  And then made his appeal for ‘generous love’ and mutual understanding ‘from the centre’.

Across the 21 days of the Lambeth Conference, I expect most of us have struggled to follow the complexities of past Anglican history, long reports and multiple acronyms.  I hope you have managed to turn many of these issues into prayer - and, above all, into prayers for the bishops themselves (the central purpose of this www.praylambeth.org exercise, as +Rowan himself endorsed on our web-site).  We have sought to bring you a cross-section of the events and debates. The Bulletins could have been much extended - but we refrained.  May I be allowed a personal contribution, as Lambeth draws to a close?

As Lambeth reaches its closing stages, it looks as though schism has been avoided, but unity not achieved. No ‘quick fix’ solution to the profound disagreements is in prospect. But the distant horizon is a tad less stormy, if the ‘Covenant mechanism ’ is allowed to generate the profound corrections that are vital.

Rowan Williams has told the bishops that unless they come up with a set of the common values, shared Anglican principles, and an agreement to abide by them, he could see nothing but further disintegration ahead.

The agreement - or "covenant" - will not spring fully-formed from the conference, and will need to be ratified by each of the 38 autonomous Anglican Churches in the world. Its chances of success, in some degree, depend on how much of the renewed sense of fraternity and goodwill, will be retained when the bishops scatter next week to their homes all over the world. The Lambeth Conference has invested heavily in the Indaba discussions (rather than resolutions and debates) so that each bishop could take part - rather than just “the usual vocal suspects".

Anglican identity crisis?

The issues before the bishops at Canterbury have been soft-focused, by some commentators, into the question ‘Can we recognize the ‘Church’ in one another?  Or to put it another way, ‘Do we see Christ in each another’? 

One influential background fact, not widely reported, is that no less than 70% of the bishops have never attended a Lambeth Conference before.  This being so, they have needed time to ‘play themselves in’ and adapt to each other, to linguistic and cultural settings, as well as to the Agenda.

The opening Retreat, Bible Studies, and ensuing Indaba groups have greatly contributed to this process and to the building of personal relationships, which are being highly valued. 

Rowan’s address, characterised by some as adding to a polarisation of the Conference, has at least been a frank recognition of the underlying divisive facts. Opinions differ as to whether this was fence-sitting or faith-building.  However, across the theological spectrum, a great many valuable relationships and clarifications are being forged.  Lambeth has not been all bitterness and quarrels (though there is plenty of it). So we are glad to acknowledge that much that is positive has already come from Lambeth.  Also to hold to a firm conviction that much is still wrong at Canterbury, and will not be helped by ‘Norman Vincent Peale mushy niceness’ (as it has been termed) which side-steps  the real issues, which are crucial for the integrity of the Gospel.

 

This Bulletin provides an opportunity to read, for yourself,  the passionate address delivered by Archbishop Rowan Williams on Tuesday evening. 

Most of the media have provided summaries, only a few honourable exceptions have done more.   The primatial address is eloquent and powerful.  But will it be effective?

In Bulletin 12, a comparison was made between the recent inferno at Weston’s pier (icon of a seaside town) and Lambeth (icon of the global Anglican Communion). The point of the analogy was that, in both cases, there is actually much more to Weston, and to Anglicanism, than these ‘flagships’ (much though the icons are missed if destroyed).

 

The much anticipated Second Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Conference was finally delivered on Tuesday evening. 

In a powerful address, Rowan Williams appealed to the bishops at Lambeth:

'At the moment, we seem often to be threatening death to each other, not offering life,' he said. 'What some see as confused or reckless innovation in some provinces is felt as a body-blow to the integrity of mission and a matter of literal physical risk to Christians. 

The reaction to this is in turn felt as an annihilating judgement on a whole local church, undermining its legitimacy and pouring scorn on its witness.