We’ve been experiencing what the Lambeth Conference Programme enticingly calls ‘Ordinary Day 1’ This is without prejudice to the fact that we arrived here last Tuesday and will not leave until Sunday week. Ordinary Day 1 has been long.
For me, even if nothing else happened here, it would be worth it for the Bible Study Group. As we get to know one another better, we edge closer to the difficult stuff. Given that we have another two weeks, I look forwardwith anticipation to where we may get to.
The press – not that I have time to read it – seems to have been treating the Conference fairly harshly. Inside the wire, it remains an extraordinary meeting place of the world church. And as bishops and their spouses begin to loom up in front of one for the second or third time, the conversations become more substantial. I made a particular effort today to talk to one or two traditionalist bishops from The Episcopal Church [that means the USA] We talked about dioceses seeking to move themselves to affiliate to other provinces and the difficulties which this creates. For them the issue of Gene Robinson is merely symptomatic of a whole range of issues – most of which are about theological formulations. ‘If people cross theological boundaries, the result is that others will have to cross physical boundaries.’
Themes wrap around one another. Eucharist this morning was led by the South Koreans – the Gospel about frightened disciples in the boat in the storm seeing Jesus walking on the water. The Korean Archbishop preached about experiencing fear as ‘the absence of God.’ They invited the Japanese Primate to say prayers of reconciliation. Our Bible Study pondered the fact that the disciples were in one boat – like the gospel book carried in a boat by the Melanesian Dancers in the Cathedral on Sunday. They didn’t try to throw each other out ..
Today also saw the start of the Indaba Groups – groups of about 40 in which we shall attempt to deal with ‘the issues’. Doubters? Yes – probably most of us on some levels. But, as Rowan Williams said, the former ways of doing things weren’t notably successful either.
But in the end, the extraordinary thing about this Conference is that – even though 200 bishops have stayed away – it is all here. Everywhere one goes, the Anglican Communion and its issues are there in microcosm. I sat in the Cathedral just across from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Bishop of Pittsburg and tried to wrap my prayers around them. All over the Cathedral, I am sure the same thing was happening.
Saying of the day? An American bishop who described the low-church culture of some of the congregations in his diocese as ‘snake-belly low.’