Lambeth Design Group puts down foundations for Lambeth 2020 planning
The Lambeth Design Group has been meeting this week at the Anglican Communion Office in London, to plan for Lambeth 2020. The group, coming together for the first time, has been chaired by the Archbishop of Capetown, Thabo Makgoba, who described the initial sessions as “very encouraging.” An early decision was to fix the venue for Canterbury, starting in the last week of July, 2020.
Among those taking part was the Bishop of Nairobi, Joel Waweru Mwangi, the Bishop of Sabah, Melter Jiki Tais, the Bishop of Dallas, Dr George Sumner, the Moderator of the Church of North India and Bishop of Amritsar, Pradeep Samantaroy, the Revd Dr Robert Heaney of Virginia Theological Seminary, Mrs Josephine Mujawiyera from Rwanda and Ms Cathrine Ngangira, a member of the Community of St Anselm at Lambeth Palace.
Archbishop Thabo described the atmosphere as robust: “We didn’t gloss over the issues before us and we acknowledged we can only do it through the prayers of others and through an interrogation of the missional issues before us.” Archbishop Thabo said the theme that emerged for Lambeth 2020, God’s Church for God’s world, would encourage a celebration of difference: “I am humbled by the fact that in spite of the challenges there are people that are willing to celebrate the gift of the Anglican Communion and the fact that we were addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that is an affirmation of the process.”
Bishop Samantaroy described the theme of “God’s Church for God’s world as “inclusive and contemporary – because it gives room to include a lot of issues and is theologically very rich; I am hopeful the ambience of Lambeth 2020 will be a celebration of our diversity.”Josephine Mujawiyera said the week showed that whilst “we are all different in the Church, we can talk the same language. Everyone here has been concerned about Lambeth 2020 and tackling the issues that are affecting the Communion.There is a feeling that the group is responsible for and working towards the success of Lambeth 2020. We have a desire that the outcome of 2020 should be a strengthening of the Communion, despite our differences.” The Revd Robert Heaney said there was a good spirit in the room and that difficult issues weren’t avoided: “As followers of Jesus how can we not have hope – even amid conflict and differences?” Cathrine Ngangira, in her early twenties, from Zimbabwe said it was really exciting to be part of the group : “When I received the invitation to be part of this I thought maybe it was a dream. Walking into morning prayer on the first day I shivered. Being the only young person I am positively looking forward to working in this team and to the conference. I feel this is going to be exciting. But not easy. However this week, what we have managed to cover, I am encouraged by the coming together and the fellowship -we have become more like family. We come from all these different places and this week we have shaped the structure of how we are going to get to Lambeth 2020.”
Archbishop Thabo said the role of spouses at Lambeth 2020 was also being examined,with the possibility of them being brought more into the mainstream of proceedings rather than having a parallel programme – “to reflect that we do ministry together and that spouses help Bishops to fulfil their ministry.”
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon said: “the team, coming from diverse cultural backgrounds, blended very well. The half-day retreat with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the midday Eucharist helped to get us focused on Christ and His Church of which the Communion is a part. I praise the Lord for what we were able to achieve even at this first meeting.I am encouraged and hopeful of bigger and better things ahead.”
Archbishop Thabo:“God is smiling because there is a group of dedicated Episcopalians and Anglicans from all over the Anglican Communion, put together by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General, who are committed to birthing an innovative, creative Lambeth Conference, where we could listen to each other under God and in our own contexts and commit, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to participate in what God is up to in the world.”
I can’t think of anyone better than the Archbishop of Capetown. Primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa, ++ Thabo Makgoba, to Chair the first meeting of the Lambeth 2020 Design Group in London, recently. The successor of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his post as Primate of A.C.S.A., and member of the Primates’ Council of the world-wide Anglican Communion, Archbishop Thabo is a stand-alone supporter in the Global South of the new inclusivism that most Western Provinces of the Communion seek to encourage in the future mission of the Churches of our Communion.
Whether, or not, the members of the GAFCON Provinces of the Communion; who have conjured up their own ‘Primates Council’ – constituted separately from the ACC Primates Council, because of their opposition to the more liberal interpretation of Scripture relating to gender and sexuality issues embraced by the non-Global South Provinces – will choose to attend ‘LAMBETH 2020’ is yet to be ascertained. However, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘Primus-inter-pares’ of the Anglican Communion The Rt. Revd Justin Welby is hopeful that there will be no ‘non-starters’ at this newly-called Lambeth Conference cannot be doubted.
Of course, no ‘Design group’, of itself, can hope to determine the future of the Anglican Communion. But if this first meeting is anything to go by; its participants are keen to do what they can to repair the damage done in the Communion by separatist activities in the GAFCON Provinces; by seeking ways to accommodate the cultural differences that so obviously exist between the Global South and Western Provinces of the Church on matters of gender and sexuality that have so polarised the differing understandings of how best the Anglican Communion might co-exist into the future.
The prayers of all of us will need to be exercised in order to bring about the good fruits of a desire for unity that has been expressed by so many of us – despite differences of opinion and threats of schism on matters that affects our common humanity.
“Jesus, mercy; Mary, pray!”
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand