A characteristic which appears to be common to all bishops is that they have opinions. So, if you take 650 bishops and bring them to a campus in Kent, you have 650 opinions about most matters you discuss. If, as a commentator on church matters, you want to run a particular slant to a story, then you are almost guaranteed to find an opinion to support the line you are taking – even though it may only be a 1/650th of the truth.
As we poise midway through this Lambeth Conference this appears to be exactly what is happening here at Canterbury and a distorted picture is emerging about Indaba Groups, the Bible Studies and the Conference outcomes.
I can report that I am really enjoying both my Bible study group and the Indaba Group – they are good opportunities to share experiences, clarify what others are thinking and they give focus as we address key areas for our mission and ministry. Most important of all, they are forums for building relationships and, in a Communion which is fundamentally about relationships then, that is no bad thing. So this 1/650th of the conference is encouraged by the process and valuing an outcome which feels deeply spiritual, as we build bonds of fellowship and trust.
There are those who want to rush forward to address the BIG issue, sweeping aside less important issues for the Communion. But how could we meet as a worldwide communion and not be engaged with the challenge for the world coming from global warming? Earlier this evening Professor Chris Rapley , Director of the Science Museum, encouraged the Communion to fill the vacuum of moral leadership in the world as we face of the mounting evidence that unless we change the way we release carbon dioxide, then the damage to the planet’s atmosphere is going bring disastrous consequences.
Over the past 10 days I have met so many bishops who are clearly leaders in their community. Together, we represent a body of leadership which is well placed to give the moral leadership which is so absent from the politicians. To do so we would have to re-order our priorities. Issues within human sexuality are important, how we shape our Communion and cope the variety of approaches to the authority of scripture is important – but our stewardship of God’s gift in creation is fundamentally important for a church whose vocation comes from the one who came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
So the Conference goes on, my Indaba Group has moved off process and is finding its own way to address the issues, whilst my Bible Study Group has become an increasingly good place to be. The outcomes are at present ‘soft’, which is frustrating for those who want ‘hard’ outcomes. I think that these will follow quite swiftly, but they will have more ownership because they will come from the relationships which this conference appears to be fostering.
I was talking with another Bishop earlier today and he agrees with this analysis – so this blog represents 2/650ths of the opinions here at Lambeth.