The Journey to Canterbury
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Tomorrow evening, I will board a plane in Raleigh and set out on the journey to the Lambeth Conference, a journey that has been years in the works. Initially it was planned for the summer of 2020. Thanks to COVID, the conference was rescheduled to this summer. The conference will be based at the University of Kent with worship at Canterbury Cathedral and a visit to Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Normally, this conference happens once every ten years, but the last conference was in 2008.
As I understand its history, along with the plans that were initially shared for this year’s event, the purpose of the Lambeth Conference is to bring together bishops from across the worldwide Anglican Communion for worship, for study of the scriptures, for prayer and for conversations about what it means to follow Jesus and to serve as bishops in the various parts of the world where we each live. The Lambeth Conference is not intended to be a legislative body for the Anglican Communion, or to express the “mind” of the whole church. And yet now, in these last days before Lambeth, we have learned that we will be asked to “vote” to affirm our support for a number of “Lambeth Calls” that were only sent to us on July 18th. This points to a very different process than what we had been led to expect, and one which will appear to many as legislative. Further, with one of the specific calls, we will be asked to affirm our support for a statement drawn from the 1998 conference that “upholds marriage as between a man and a woman.” I think you can understand why there is growing anxiety about the work that lies ahead for us in the next two weeks, and the possibility of significant conflict and division!
For those wishing to learn more about the Lambeth Conference, here is a link to the conference’s website.
With this letter to you, I wish to affirm a number of personal commitments:
First, I affirm my continuing commitment that the sacrament of marriage will be open to all people in the Diocese of East Carolina. If you’re new to the diocese, or have forgotten what I wrote then, here’s a link to my November 2019 Pastoral Letter on Marriage.
Second, I affirm my commitment to stand in support of my LGBTQIA+ siblings during the time that I am with my colleagues at the Lambeth Conference. As a sign of this commitment, Sandy and I made the difficult decision that she would not accept the Archbishop’s invitation to travel to Lambeth with me, to participate in a parallel program designed for spouses, since the spouses of my gay and lesbian colleagues were not similarly invited.
Finally, I affirm my commitment to participate fully in the worship, study, prayer, and conversations of Lambeth. I will trust in God’s Holy Spirit to lead us, and I will commit to listening deeply to my colleagues. As your bishop, I will do my best to represent well the breadth and depth of our experience as followers of Jesus in the communities of East Carolina.
I invite your prayers for me, and for all of the bishops who will gather for this summer’s Lambeth Conference. Please pray that we will be attentive to God’s will for us as bishops, while we are together at Lambeth and when we return to our dioceses. Please pray for the unity of God’s church, including the Anglican Communion, and for the work that God gives all of us to do in the world in which we live. May God’s Holy Spirit grant us clarity, charity, courage, and peace!
Yours in Christ,
P.S. I will do my best to “report in” from the conference, with “Letters from Lambeth” to be shared from the Facebook page of the Diocese of East Carolina and here on our website.