The 2008 Lambeth Conference officially began this evening with a formal welcome by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
In his brief opening remarks, Archbishop Williams spoke candidly about the tensions and divisions within the Anglican Communion. He spoke of the grief that is ours to share because of the absence of those bishops who have chosen not to attend. “We need their voice,” he said, “and they need ours in learning Christ together.” He went on to invite our prayers, our love, and our respect for those who are not here, observing that while we are indeed a wounded body, “the body of Christ is always a wounded body because we are a body of sinful human beings.”
The emphasis during our time together, he reflected, must be upon deepening our relationships, not imagining naively that building relationships alone will solve our problems but understanding that we dare not pretend to address the issues before us without first offering one another the kind of deep and loving attentiveness to relationship that Jesus in fact commands.
To that end, our time together over the next several weeks will be grounded in daily prayer and bible study—the source from which our other conversations will flow. As Archbishop Williams observed, “scripture gives us the language that draws us together, and we need to be fluent in that language.
I couldn’t agree more, and I feel privileged to have been invited by Archbishop Williams to facilitate one of the numerous small bible study groups that will meet each morning. The focus of our study—very ably prepared by members of the conference design team—will be on the “I Am” sayings found in John’s gospel. For those who may be interested, I have posted the biblical readings for the next week on the sidebar to this page—something to note or use in any way you feel led, perhaps even to pray along with all of us here.
Over the next two days, we will be on retreat at Canterbury Cathedral (down the hill from the University of Kent where we are staying). During that time the grounds of the Cathedral will be completely closed to the public, and in addition to listening to addresses offered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, we have been invited to use that time of silence simply to rest, to be still, and to be fed by God.
The tone this evening was, to my ear, both realistic and hopeful. We should not expect, Archbishop Williams stated in a dose of realism, that in two weeks time we shall find a solution to our problems. It is however realistic, he observed (even faithful I would add) to hope that in two weeks time “we will find the trust that will give us all the energy to change in the way that God intends.”