Biblical Preparation for Lambeth Conference, 2020

New Testament scholars to lay the biblical foundations for the Lambeth Conference

Posted on: September 11, 2018 9:47 AM

Professor Jennifer Strawbridge will convene the meeting of 35 leading New Testament scholars from around the world for the St Augustine Seminar.
Photo Credit: Chichester Cathedral
Work to begin laying the biblical foundations for the next Lambeth Conference will get underway later this year when 35 leading New Testament scholars from different denominations around the world gather for the St Augustine Seminar at Lambeth Palace.
Around 800 bishops from around the Anglican Communion will gather at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, in the summer of 2020 for the once in a decade Lambeth Conference. As part of their time together, the bishops will engage in Bible study around the first epistle of Peter (1 Peter) and the St Augustine Seminar will begin the work of preparing materials for the studies.

Some 35 New Testament scholars from Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, Egypt, India, Ireland, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK, and the US will take part in the St Augustine’s Seminar. The participants come from different churches of the Anglican Communion and a wide spread of other denominations, including Methodist, Presbyterian, Uniting Churches of Australia, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and Armenian Orthodox Churches.

The Seminar will be convened by Professor Jennifer Strawbridge, Associate Professor in New Testament Studies at Mansfield College in the University of Oxford. The group will consider the text from 1 Peter and help to draw up critical thinking to help shape the Bible studies and other aspects of the Lambeth Conference. After the initial meeting in November, a smaller group will convene at Lambeth Palace again in May 2019 to draw together resources.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “I am looking forward immensely to the St Augustine Seminar in November. This gathering will play a significant role as we seek God’s wisdom on developing and refining themes for the Lambeth Conference.

“The book of 1 Peter is a personal favourite of mine. There is so much in it that is pertinent for the Church, for the world, for the times we are living in and for us as we seek direction for the Anglican Communion in the years ahead.

“The expertise and insight of the theologians who gather will be vital in informing the thinking in areas such as the daily Bible expositions, group Bible studies and homilies. I pray it will be a stimulating and exciting time together.”

Professor Strawbridge described her participation in the St Augustine Seminar as “an absolute honour”, adding: “I have admired the work of many of those in attendance; and am excited to see what happens when so many incredible, convicted, and faithful hearts and minds are brought together to discuss scripture and the Church.

One of the focuses of Lambeth will be on collegiality and my hope is that this seminar will model precisely that as we use the lens of Scripture to explore what it means to walk together in a connected but not necessarily relational world. Moreover, my hope is that this group will think creatively about different approaches to biblical study, including ways of disagreeing well over the meaning of a text.

“The focus of the seminar will be intensive work on 1 Peter set alongside the overarching theme of the Lambeth Conference: God’s Church for God’s World: walking listening and witnessing together. Thus, members of the seminar will think about 1 Peter theologically and in context. But such a focus will be set alongside the wider themes drawn from 1 Peter such as our calling in Christ, our communion with Christ, the proclamation of Christ, and the exhortation in 1 Peter to shepherd the flock with humility.”

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(Thanks to ‘Anglican Taonga‘ for this article)

At a time in the worldwide Anglican Communion, when member Provincial Churches are divided on issues of gender and sexuality, and their understanding of these matters from biblical exegesis; which has led to the rising up of factions (GAFCON and FOCA – many of whose bishops have indicated that they will not be at the next Lambeth Conference in 2020) – this coming Seminar to study the collegial implications of the first Epistle of Peter should have a real influence upon the outcome for those Anglican Bishops from all other Provinces who will be attending the  next Lambeth Conference.

With the combined scholarship of some of  the foremost theologians of Anglicanism and other Christian disciplines, the prospect of finding new grounds for discussion of how the ethos of collegiality can still prevail – even in a Church of differing opinions on the interpretation of the Scriptures which, currently is the source of schismatic severance in individual Church congregations as well as in Provinces of the Anglican Communion – is at least hopeful.

It will be interesting to see what sort of questions will be formulated from the outcomes of this Biblical Seminar that will be presented to the Bishops of the Communion who will be gathering at the historic meeting of the diocesan bishop in Conference at Lambeth. The question might be asked; Will the bishops of the dissident provinces of the Communion be sufficiently influenced by the outcome of this Biblical Seminar so that they will want to attend the Conference? Or are minds already made up, regardless of this invitation to collegiality? 

Only time will tell. In the meantime, the rest of the Anglican Communion will continue to open itself up to the prospect of seeking new wisdom from the writing of the Universal Church’s First Apostle.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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