Missing Lambeth but still building relationships

By on May 31, 2022

As we move towards the summer months, I have had a few questions about the Lambeth Conference that is taking place in the UK this summer. This is a decennial gathering of bishops and their spouses from across the Anglican Communion convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first conference was in 1867. This year’s July 26 to Aug. 8 conference expects to welcome about 600 bishops from the 185 countries that make up the Anglican Communion. All except the LGBTQ+ bishops have been invited to bring their spouses. That spouses are invited at all and that dioceses are expected to cover the costs of this confounds me and strikes me as antediluvian.     

For a variety of reasons, I have discerned that I will not be attending the Lambeth Conference this summer. The history of this conference is complicated. At its best, it’s one of the “instruments of communion,” building relationships across the vast and diverse communion. At its worst, it has been a place where fractious debates about human sexuality have taken place.     

Lambeth is not a governing body and has no authority over members of the communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury serves as the “first among equals” of Primates across the communion.   However, over the years, Lambeth has passed various “resolutions.” Most of them get little or no attention and the few that have, all dealing with matters of human sexuality, have resulted in conflict, disunity and harm. It has been decided that no resolutions will be passed at Lambeth 2022.  

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In preparation for the in-person meetings, there have been a few Zoom meetings where bishops have been invited to meet with other bishops from across the communion in small groups. I took part in one of these and enjoyed the relationship building and collegiality. This would be the best part of the in-person meeting.  

However, at this juncture in my episcopacy it is here in the diocese that I need to concentrate my time and our collective resources for relationship building. There is a fair bit of travel and relationship building that needs to be done within our own diocese. I plan to spend the summer continuing to travel up and down and across this beautiful diocese, building relationships of understanding and trust. Tara and I are working through the list of parishes and making sure I am scheduled to go to all the places I have not yet been in person. Over the summer months, I very much look forward to travelling, among other places, to Port Alberni, Denman Island and Gabriola. My colleagues in the House of Bishops who are attending Lambeth will pass on their learning and experiences, and while the time change is a challenge, I will also have the option of “Zooming” into some of the Lambeth sessions.   

We are living in changing times. The importance of in-person meetings and relationship building must be balanced with fiscal realities and climate change. We also need to discover a truly post-colonial understanding of the Anglican Communion. I trust that, in the years and decades to come, God will help us discern new and more life-giving ways to live into our communion and unity.    

Author

  • Anna Greenwood-Lee is the 14th bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia and the first woman to hold that position.

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