One historic feature of the Lambeth Conferences is for the bishops of the Anglican Communion to confer on matters of shared concern, bringing a diverse range of cultural and ministry perspectives. For this reason, a dynamic engagement and communication process is being developed for the Lambeth Conference, so that bishops can engage with conference topics before and during the event. It is being described as an ‘invitation’ process.
At the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference, the aspiration is for the bishops’ shared engagement to culminate in a series of calls to action to the wider Anglican Communion – a set of invitations to the wider church, championing what it might mean to be ‘God’s Church for God’s World’ in the decade ahead. The ‘invitation’ process is being shaped by members of the Lambeth Conference Design group in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was discussed at January’s Primates’ Meeting in Jordan which brought together archbishops, presiding bishops and moderators from the Anglican Communion for discussion, reflection and prayer.
The whole process will build on the conference motif of ‘Walking, Listening and Witnessing Together’ and create space for prayer, preparation, reflection, dialogue and future planning.
Bishops engaging together
The different stages:
Before the conference – preparatory work
Bishops attending the Lambeth Conference will be asked to undertake some preparatory work ahead of the event. This will include reading a collection of short documents on different topics relevant to the main conference theme, the Bible Commentary on the New Testament letter of 1 Peter and an online survey. Bishops will also be encouraged to consult with young people in their dioceses, to bring their future-oriented perspectives on what it means to be ‘God’s Church for God’s World’.
During the conference – discussions
During the Conference itself, bishops will be invited to engage with core topics in a variety of ways, building on the preparatory work. This will include keynote plenary sessions; Bible studies, small group work and sharing feedback through technology designed to gather responses and opinions in a large venue setting. An enabling document is being compiled to support this process.
Conference outcomes – engagement across the Communion – the ongoing process
At the conclusion of the conference, the aim of the invitation process will be to generate some beneficial and lasting outcomes, conveyed through ‘invitations’ to the wider Anglican Communion. Sent from the bishops to the Anglican Communion, the invitations could take a variety of forms, such as commending initiatives, encouraging action or renewing commitment.
They would have the twin purpose of expressing and mobilising shared commitment to ways the Anglican Communion might collectively respond to pressing challenges and opportunities. Dioceses, parishes and individuals around the world would then consider how they might best respond to the invitations from the bishops and take them forwards in the decade ahead.
At Lambeth Conferences, bishops cannot legislate for the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Their deliberations can nonetheless be influential, carrying moral weight. The ambition of the Lambeth Conference invitations process will provide a timely opportunity for bishops to provide fresh impetus for Anglicans to ‘walk, listen and witness together’ in their shared vocation to be ‘God’s Church for God’s world’.
Further details will be shared with bishops attending the Lambeth Conference in the months ahead.