What does it mean to Proclaim Good News? A summary of last month’s reflections from Bishops’ Conversations – August sessions.
On the 3rd and 5th August, the second round of Lambeth Conference Bishop’s Conversations took place.
The bishops met online via Zoom in groups of around 20 and will continue with their group for the duration of the six-month programme.
Exploring what it means to be ‘God’s church for God’s World’, the conversations involve prayer and bible study, and aim to help bishops listen and learn from one another’s ministry settings and experiences.
Last month, explored being ‘Called in to Hope and Holiness’, based on 1 Peter 1:3 and what it means to ‘Proclaim Good News’.
This short summary draws out some of the stories and reflections from the discussions.
Stories about proclaiming the Good News and transforming of lives and communities
There was a rich variety of stories from across the world, some bishops describing how their churches have been displaced from the centre to the outskirts, “seeded” in new places. Clergy are now moving from house to house to minister to their communities as opposed to waiting for people to come to the church buildings. There has also been a renewal of lay leadership. Many have used digital and online platforms, while also trying to ensure that no-one is forgotten during this time of pandemic, allowing new people to connect with the church. Clergy have had to remain strong and faithful even during difficult times of personal loss including the loss of income and security.
Another recurrent theme was the strengthening of ministry among First peoples. A bishop reported that in one area the gospel ‘is spreading like wildfire amongst a people who had practised witchcraft and did not know the God of Heaven’. Related to this is development of more indigenous local leadership.
Through zoom the church has been able to make contact with those suffering domestic abuse in a safe way. It has also offered medical support such as through an oxygen bank in the Church of North India. The feeding and caring for isolated and marginalised individuals and communities, not least those who have fallen off the government’s radar, has occurred in many dioceses, with churches becoming ‘centres of wellbeing’. ‘There is joy in proclaiming good news through acts of love and compassion’. The theme of hope was dominant in many conversations – hope of new birth in difficult times. And in different places the Lord’s table has become the ‘fulcrum of hope’.
Creative initiatives have also included the creation of a beautiful mural made out of 12,000 bottle tops by children and adults in rural Ireland, the transformation of a car park into a green space for the community by a cathedral in Quebec, the exhibiting of a peace sculpture made out of knives used in violent crime in Hereford, a walk in solidarity with Muslims in Toronto after an act of terrorism targeting a Muslim family, and the joy of spending time with young people in diocesan camps in Phoenix after a year of not being together.
What does it mean to be God’s Church for God’s World?
Many groups reflected on the need for bishops and their churches to be prophetic as well as pastoral. ‘God is calling us to be open to new ways of being the church. We need to reach out to people where they are instead of waiting for them to come to the church.’ ‘The understanding that the church is not a building gains more relevance during this time.’ ‘We must be open to surprises and seek the future that God is making.’ ‘Since the mission is God’s we can do nothing by ourselves but must totally trust him to use us as his vessels.’
Some groups emphasised the need for the care of creation through carbon-lowering initiatives including tree-planting. The need for listening and reconciliation was stressed by many of the groups, with a need for Christians to affirm that ‘God is with us’, which is not always about making things immediately better but standing with people in the middle of what they are enduring. ‘We are called to love the world that God loves, not to withdraw from it.’
Some groups emphasised the need to put aside our disagreements and focus on sharing our hope with all people: ‘the church is like a tree, with each branch connected to the same trunk, and with each member having a role to play.’
To sum up: ‘Being God’s Church for God’s World involves assuming a posture of humility and recognizing that we are not in a position of power’; ‘being God’s Church for God’s world will mean a greater focus on the common good, with one another and beyond our congregations’; ‘the body of Christ is called to model deep hope in the midst of pain and suffering. We will have to dig deep with our message of hope, to provide visible expressions of hope to this hurting world.’
The next round of Lambeth Conference Bishops’ Conversations is due to take place on 7 and 9th September.
The session title is: ‘Called to Mutual Love’. Based on 1 Peter 1:22 to 2:5 the session will explore what discipleship looks like in the 21st Century.
You can find out more about the September sessions here.