Thursday, July 31, 2008

Collapsing the Scrum

Our Lambeth journey continues and we are only a few days away from its conclusion. As I have said elsewhere, for me, it has been simply and successfully a gathering and place of encounter: meeting and engaging with other bishops from other parts of the Anglican Communion and addressing the issues in respectful, mutual dialogue. I couldn't have asked for more: it is the sort of Lambeth I have prayed for.

This process hasn't suited everyone, particularly those who feel they need swift resolutions to a crisis. If I have one main worry at this stage it is that someone will try to collapse the scrum - to stop the play and disrupt the process by demanding a new process or a U-turn in our current process at this eleventh hour.

As is so often the case with people, so it is, I believe, with Anglicanism: our greatest strength, paradoxically, may also, at times, be our weakness. So it is with our diversity and inclusiveness, but these are worth clinging to. And all this will take time and many more weeks of listening into the future.

Pray that no one will try to collapse or pull down the scrum!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

As others see us

Yesterday evening I was a guest of a member at a dinner of The Nikaean Club held in honour of the ecumenical participants at the Lambeth Conference. The after dinner speaker was Cardinal Walter Kasper.

I had never been to the Nikaean Club before and knew little about it. Now I know a good deal more. It was set up by Archbishop Randall Davidson in 1925 to commemorate the sixteenth centenary of the First Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church held in Nicea in 325.

It exists 'to further relations with non Anglican Christian churches, to assist students from such churches and to offer hospitality on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to representatives of such churches.'

Along with the many members who were there last night were the great number of ecumenical guests attending the Lambeth Conference as well as representatives of those churches with which we are in Communion.

Being there last evening prompted me to highlight for you my experience of the wonderful contribution non-Anglicans are making to our gathering, our work and our reflection. In my Bible Study Group we have a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (who is currently President of Princeton Theological Seminary) and, together with him, in our larger Indaba Group we have a Swedish Bishop, a Moravian Bishop and a representative of the Lutheran World Federation. Each of them has been a blessing and, frequently, at just the right moment, one of them has had the right word for we Anglicans.

Thank God for them: they help us to see ourselves as others see us.

Pick 'n Mix Resolution

I said I would return to mention the exhilarating address by the Chief Rabbi. However, meanwhile it has been widely reported elsewhere. There were so many gems in it. He spoke about how, on the one hand, contracts are agreements with mutual benefits, covenants, on the other, are about respecting the intergrity and dignity of the other. Covenants are about relationships: coming together to share interests and lives. He said:

'Contracts benefit; covenants transform"

Yesterday I went to an optional session called 'African Voices'. We heard the voice and stories of LGBT Africans from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Their message was simple: 'We are here!' While the event was reasonably well attended I counted only 7 bishops there (including two Irish and one Welsh).

So much for the listening that the resolution of Lambeth 1998 (1.10) enjoined on bishops! It seems it is indeed possible to pick 'n mix which parts of that resolution you prefer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dining Hall Security Alert

Yesterday was an exhausting day which started peculiarly but was enlivened by moments of grace.

The peculiar start was arriving for breakfast at Eliott College to find a small crowd gathered outside. There was a security alert. Some time later the police emerged with a black suitcase with a piece of string hanging out of it - not someone's laundry but, I was told, a case of books for a book launch. That's one way of promoting your book!

More important, while I was waiting outside I met David Mac Iyalla who had bundles of the daily newsletters for InclusiveChurch. Davis is a Christian, an Anglican, from Nigeria and is gay. (Strange - I have heard several African bishops and two archbishops say in recent days that there are no gay people in their countries). Davis is the leader of Changing Attitude Nigeria, a group that works for equality for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of the Anglican Communion. I was glad to meet him and to have the opportunity to hear part of his story from him face to face (in contrast see my post of yesterday!). He fled Nigeria in 2006 having received death threats.There are some reports that he has also received death threats (which the British Police have established have come from outside the UK) since arriving at the Lambeth Conference. This week Davis' application for asylum in the United Kingdom has been granted.

As the day went on it was searing hot. The Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Spain came to my rescue. Just before my Indaba group he came up to me and said that Ana (his wife) had said to him that since the Church of Ireland had given his Church in Spain the apostolic succession that they wanted to give me a gift. 'It is a fan for gentlemen,' he said ' without flowers.' And so I am now the proud owner of a very clerical looking (and very effective fan). Roll on those over-heated churches in Cork, Cloyne and Ross who always turn up the boilers when the bishop is coming. I shall now arrived equipped with a liturgical fan!

In the afternoon I needed the fan for the hearing session organised by the Windsor Report Continuation Group. Nothing to report there: same old, same old.

And what an evening! The evening lecture was enthralling. It was the first time since arriving that I could say I was exhilarated. Our lecturer was the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks. More about him later in the day. I've missed the morning Eucharist and need to get to the dining hall where I trust there will be no more book launches!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not Here - but Here

One of the sadnesses of the Lambeth Conference 2008 is the absence of about 230 bishops. To be honest though, I could not say that I am specifically missing anyone: the conference campus is a busy heaving crossroads of cultures and it seems that most facets of Anglicanism are, in some way, represented.

Those who did not come ought, in my view, to have come. They should have come to make their point face to face and to engage in dialogue.

Instead, it appears some who are not here have devised other ways of being a ghostly presence, making pronouncements from afar or from elsewhere. Still others are finding ways to make their presence felt in other ways, albeit anonymously.

My own direct experience of this left me bemused. Several days after we arrived, the receptionist in Keynes College, where I am staying, knocked on the door of my room and delivered a package. Yes, it was for me; my name and diocese were on the envelope.

Inside was a book by the absent Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester (which is not far up the road) and a note on behalf of the publisher of the book to say that it was a gift to me from two bishops (unnamed) who felt unable to be present but who were praying for me on my pilgrimage.

I asked around and discovered that I was the only one in my bible study group, for example, who had received one. I was bemused. I still haven't found many others who also received them.

Nonetheless, in the spirit of the gift and in order actively to engage with the two absent bishops who are praying for me I emailed the publisher to say 'thank you' for the gift and asking him to reveal the names of the two bishops.

The response today was that he (the publisher) did not know either. He said

I am afraid that I have absolutely no idea. Chris Sugden mediated between them and us.
What is Canon Chris Sugden (executive director of Anglican Mainstream) doing mediating the distribution of books at Lambeth? I don't even know him!

Why do two non-attending bishops feel the need to send a book (by another non-attending bishop) to a bishop who is attending? Why did they do it anonymously? Surely it should be possible to engage face to face; we are a Church after all. I hardly think they lack courage or are afraid of me.

In fact, why didn't they just come to Lambeth, join in, and say to me what they seem to have wanted to say?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Indaba Works

Our Indaba has started to work. Now it is beginning to do what, I believe, it is meant to do.

I say that ours is beginning to work, not because we have solved issues or had a breakthrough. The real breakthrough was the breakout from our designated Indaba topic and schedule and agreeing, as an Indaba group to enter into conversation together and to address our own articulated concerns. This is what Indaba should be as I believe it was first offered to us by the Archbishop of Canterbury when, last April, he announced that we would use this process. He said:

We have given these the African name of indaba groups, groups where in traditional African culture, people get together to sort out the problems that affect them all, where everyone has a voice and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or a common story that everyone is able to tell when they go away from it. This is how we approached it. This is what we heard. This is where we arrived as we prayed and thought and talked

So this is what we are doing. I don't know what is happening in all other Indaba groups but I understand that some others have also re-shaped their Indaba process, for the good.

It is true to say also that I have heard a number of people say that they don't like the Indaba process. I suspect that at least some of these are those who are good at speaking in big assemblies; others are missing the opportunity of wooing or whipping up the whole crowd, and still others, sad to say, for whatever reason best known to themselves, would, it appears, be happy to set aside the journey towards mutual understanding in order to precipitate that crisis that some people so desperately seem to want. Yes, want!

For now, for some of us at least, after a hesitant start, Indaba is working. And this is coming from one who, as my friends and colleagues know, hates small group work!

Something else, Indaba may well have something to teach us all in our western cultures in the shaping of our ecclesial lives and even our synodical processes. But then Indaba takes time, time and more time - something we in the west seem to have all too little of.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Common Ground in Strange Places

Yesterday was my first opportunity to choose a self-select session, as they are called. They run in the late afternoon. Typical for me - the one I went to did not make the official programme and was announced at short notice. But it pulled a crowd.

Hot off the press is a small but significant booklet (only 125 pages) The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Yesterday it was distributed to the bishops and introduced to those of us who went to a self-select session chaired by Archbishop Barry Morgan (Wales). Among those who spoke were Canon John Rees (legal adviser to the Anglican Consultative Council) and Professor Norman Doe (Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff University).

Professor Doe (and no one has done more than he has to examine the laws of the churches in the Anglican family) introduced the work done by the Anglican Communion Legal Advisers' Network.

This publication is indicative of a work in progress. It is not a book of laws or a code. It is the fruit of detailed analysis and comparison of 44 sets of laws from throughout Anglicanism. It is a description of the common principles identified and how they were formulated as common principles. It is not a project designed to give everyone the same ecclesial legal system.

There are 100 legal principles (macro principles, as Norman Doe, calls them) which show common ground that we have which fall into eight common categories throughout the Communion: Church Order, the Anglican Communion, Ecclesiastical Government, Ministry, Doctrine and Liturgy, Ecclesiastical Rites, Church Property and Ecumenical Relations. The 100 macro principles unfold further into sub-statements (650 micro principles) where there is also common ground.

Yes, friends, more common ground - and in places that don't immediately come to mind!

I celebrate this (and am hugely interested in it - no surprise there, Canon Law is my thing), however, I am among those who do not believe that law alone can hold us together. Our laws, as the examination and study of them show, manifest our shared inheritance, our common pilgrimage and are further evidence of our deep-rooted connectedness with each other as a family of churches.

As I say, law alone, cannot, I believe, hold us together. This is why I am inherently quizzical about the idea of the proposed Anglican Covenant and am determinedly opposed to the appendixed scheme for regulating (enforcing?) that Covenant.

And for those of you who hate things legal and worry about its role in the life of the Church you will be glad to know that the very first of the Common Principles address your concerns:

'Law exists to assist a church in its mission and witness to Jesus Christ.'

'Law is not an end in itself.'

'Law should reflect the revealed will of God.'

'Law is intended to express publicly the theological self-understanding and practical policies of a church.'

'Laws should reflect but cannot change Christian truths.'

Common ground - for now - in strange places indeed. Such is the importance of this legal work that 62 - almost a tenth of the bishops at the Conference - attended yesterday's self-select session.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sub-Themes and Public Lavatories

Yesterday brought one of the sub-theme's of the Lambeth Conference to its ultimate, but purposeful, climax: queuing! (Hats - ecclesiastical, sartorial and Ascot-like was another sub-theme yesterday but enough of that, for now).

Unlike the three hour queue for registration, the daily queues for food and the periodic queues for busses, here was the whole Conference, joined by their friends in one long procession of public intent. 38 coaches left Canterbury from 7.15 a.m. onwards decamping the entire Lambeth Conference to central London where we were deposited on the Embankment. (The stewards and volunteers are already the heroes of this Conference to my mind).

The funniest queue of the event to date has to have been the procession of purple-cassocked, ecclesiastical-hatted bishops, accompanied by their elegantly dressed spouses, proceeding, at rush hour, through Embankment Station, along the Embankment where a queue formed for the public lavatories. What struck me was how few of the commuters even noticed or turned an eye as dozens of purple cassocks and hats and fashion icon spouses passed them as they emerged from the turnstiles to their daily grind in central London. Not for the first time it dawned on me that really for most in the world they do not know we are here or meeting; and if they do, for more, we are not relevant to them; they are not bothered or we do not catch their imagination.

But within two hours we caught the imagination of many and the Lambeth Conference hit the headlines for its manifest unity.

Joined by brothers and sisters from other churches and from other faiths, and accompanied by hoards of media, marshalled by our own ever-efficient stewards and the Police, we set off down Whitehall at 10.30 a.m.

Our goal was to highlight the eight Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 with a view to attaining them by 2015. Now we are more than half way to 2015! What of the goals? 'Keep the promise' our plackards challenged and 'Halve Poverty by 2015.'

Along Whitehall, past the Houses of Parliament on one side and Westminster Abbey on the other, along Millbank, over Lambeth Bridge and into Lambeth Palace where we were addressed by the Archbishop, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Helen Wangusa (Anglican Observer at the United Nations)

The Prime Minister was moved, moving and enthusiastic: 'This is one of the greatest public demonstrations of faith this country has ever seen,' he said, 'You have sent a symbol, a very clear message with rising force that poverty can be eradicated...'

Today, like the retreat days, was a day of unity, fellowship, common ground and shared purpose. These positive things seem to be the order of the day when we focus on the issues which, to my mind, matter most. We had a wonderful lunch in a marquee in Lambeth Palace garden and later enjoyed the hospitality at afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace.

We returned on the two hour bus journey to Cantebury, weary but fulfilled pilgrims: tired feet and legs, and singed bald patches inspite of judicious use of a biretta.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Walk of Witness

A brief input today! We are up early (4.50 a.m.) to head for London for the Walk of Witness.

Afterwards we will have lunch at Lambeth Palace. Oh, and afternoon tea somewhere else later.

It strikes me that if I needed to be in Whitehall for the 10 a.m. start for the walk of witness I could do that from Cork also on the 7.35 a.m. flight and I wouldn't have had to get up at 4.50 a.m.! I am already looking forward to my lie in tomorrow until our usual 6.00 a.m.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One track minds

Sad to say, from the word 'Go!' I have had the feeling that some people are here to talk about only one thing: sex. That's not good enough. The Church deserves better and many people expect more.

The days of Retreat were wonderful: these were days too of introduction, reunion and international networking.

Sunday morning's worship seems to have been a watershed point. Many thought the Sermon was stunning (as I did): others were 'seriously disturbed' by it (as one colleague put it to me).

My first real inkling that all was not well in some people's minds was on Monday morning when one bishop from the Global South - someone I had not previously known but whose company I have been keeping and building fellowship with - approached me and asked me if I could explain what people were doing on the campus handing out leaflets on behalf of InclusiveChurch. He did not understand why they were here. Moreover, he could not understand how 'that woman (the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church) who had been involved in the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson had been allowed to take part in the liturgy in an English Cathedral the previous Sunday.' He told me he was going to stay in his room from then on. I urged him not to. I explained about the freedoms we gave people in this part of the world to express and circulate their views and advised him that he could choose whether or not to engage. I encouraged him to go to the MarketPlace and to speak directly with the people he felt should not be there. (Later in the day I saw him accepting the offer of literature from the Lesbian and Gay Christians stand in the MarketPlace). The Bible Study for that morning spoke about the storm that blew up while the disciples were out in the boat. Jesus came to them and said 'It is I. Do not be afraid.'

Then - and you know as much about this as I do from the press (for we are living in a very dispersed campus where we seldom see many and we are working through small Indaba groups) - a Statement was issued by the Sudanese bishops calling for the resignation of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Sadly, I detect an impatience with the new process which calls for patience. Two days is not a fair trial of any new method. If the people in the pews rejected any of our innovations on the basis of two outings we would soon point out to them that it takes more than two encounters with the new to explore its potential.

Meanwhile, here at Lambeth, I detect this impatience on the part of some, if truth be known, to get on with talking about what they seem principally to have come here to talk about: sex!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Half Naked Dancers and Grass Skirts

It is so annoying - from the perspective of one who is attending Lambeth - to see how some of the headlines, and indeed reports themselves, seem to trivialise our work and celebrations.

I mentioned before that moving moment at the heart of our Opening Eucharist when Melanesian Religious (Sisters and Brothers) lovingingly placed the Gospel Book in a model boat and carried it, accompanied by their energetic dance and pipe music.

In one report the headline stated 'Shindig begins with nerves and half-naked dancers'. Another inanely found it necessary to refer to 'grass skirts in the aisles'. This is an international gathering! Doh!

One report states:

Then the entertainment began. The gospel reading about the uprooting of weeds was preceded by a troupe of Melanesian dancers, wearing grass skirts and playing pan pipes.

First of all, it was not entertainment. It was an act of solemn Christian worship at the outset of our celebration, in this Conference, of the life of the Anglican Communion, however vulnerable or imperfect. Second, the Gospel Book was carried, not by 'a troupe of Melanesian dancers' but by some of those - men and women - who have heard God's call to give their lives to ministry, who work in challenging and demanding parts of the worlds, and whose commitment, sacrifice and joy put many of ours to shame.

In their traditional dress, with care and love, energy and protection they took the Gospel Book and placed it in a boat (a symbol of the heart of their life, their communication and their survival as island communities) and brought it through the Quire, under the pulpitum (screen) and down the steps to the east end of the Nave (amid the body of the Cathedral - itself emblematic of the Ark of Noah; the Church as a boat) where the Gospel was read from the Compass Rose - the symbol of worldwide Anglicanism, where the Good News was proclaimed by the Deacon. A message announced to all parts of the world.

As it was read the Brothers and Sisters gathered around it, as we are all doing, more than ever - gathering around the Scriptures - in this Conference.

So much for 'shindig and half naked dancers' - that's not what I witnessed!

Lambeth Incident!

This is our resident Lambeth Cartoonist - Dave Walker.

(Not Dave Walker, the Bishop of Dudley who I have known since I became a bishop nearly ten years ago: we were on the same baby bishops' courses at Launde Abbey).

Dave Walker is making a difference at our Lambeth - giving us a smile and, in a very perceptive way, making us reflect about ourselves.

We got a fright yesterday because the rumour went around that he had gone. In fact he was setting up his stall in the Marketplace and another group annexed his tent on Campus - temporarily: a disturbing Lambeth incident.

It just shows how we can easily get the wrong end of things - a valuable lesson and cautionary tale for our discussions and our listening to each other.

Have a look at Dave's cartoons

Here is one of them!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A living map

Being here gives you a sense of the international family we belong to. It is like living in a map of the world.

I've kept a note. I've spoken with about 129 of the approximately 650 here - obviously I've said 'hello' to many and seen even more again, but these are the Bishops I have spoken with so far:

Polynesia, Adelaide , Brisbane (Western), Brisbane (Southern), Melbourne, Perth (Goldfields), Central Solomons (Melanesia), Vanuatu (Solomons), Faisalabad (Pakistan), Aipo Rongo (Papua New Guinea), The New Guinea Islands, Taiwan, Colombo (Sri Lanka), Brasilia; South Western Brazil, Algoma, British Columbia, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Kootenay, New Westminster, The Arctic, Toronto, Alabama, Albany, Arkansas, Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Easton, Eau Claire, Europe, Fort Worth, Georgia, Indianapolis, Lexington, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Northern Indiana, Rochester, Southwestern Virginia, Virgin Islands, Virginia, West Texas , West Virginia and the Presiding Bishop (all the Episcopal Church in the USA). Nassau (the Bahamas). Botswana, Nord Kivu (Congo), Seychelles (Indian Ocean), Bungoma (Kenya), Southern Nyanza (Kenya), Capetown, Port Elizabeth, Saldanha Bay, St Helena, and Zululand (all Southern Africa); Ezo and Ibba (both Sudan); Central Tanganyika and Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Bath and Wells, Birmingham, Blackburn, Burnley, Lancaster, Canterbury, Maidstone, Ebbsfleet, Carlisle, Chichester, Horsham, Repton, Europe, Crediton, Plymouth, Guildford, Dorking, Grantham, Bolton, Middleton, Norwich, Oxford, Buckingham, Reading, Doncaster, Sodor and Man, Southwark, Croydon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Woolwich, Southwell and Nottingham, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Dudley, York, Hull and Whitby (all Church of England), Aberdeen and Orkney, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Brechin, Argyll and the Isles and Saint Andrews (all Scotland). St Asaph, Llandaff, Swansea and Brecon, Monmouth and the Archbishop of Wales (all Church in Wales). The Lusitanian Church. The Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain. Cyprus and the Gulf, Egypt and last, but not least, the Bishops of the Church of Ireland.

I am at Lambeth!

Such is my reputation for disliking conferences (on the second day the Archbishop of the Church in Wales exclaimed to me 'Paul, you're still here!'), I thought I had better produce the evidence.

Here it is: top middle of the photo; first to the left of the back row of the choir in the stalls at the back of the Quire - there I am - at Lambeth!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Lectionary Speaks - but all not welcome

If you had sought them out deliberately you couldn't have chosen better. But they didn't and God spoke to us through the readings assigned for use in the Church of England today.

'Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?' (Isaiah 44)

'Like a temple of unity is the city, Jerusalem. It is there all tribes will gather... For the love of my friends and kin I will bless you with signs of peace.' (Psalm 122)

'I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.' (Romans 8)

The Gospel Book was carried in a boat by the dancing Melanesian Brothers and Sisters to the Compass Rose from where it was proclaimed.

And then the climax, when the Bishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka) referred to the Gospel (the parable of the wheat and the weeds): 'But the householder replied...Let both of them grow together...' (Matthew 13). Movingly and gently he concluded his sermon with a haunting Buddhist chant.

The Eucharist was sung to a Congolese setting and many other languages pervaded the celebration and prayers. Again today and throughout our praying, when the Lord's Prayer is spoken in hundreds of languages it is an intense and moving moment.

There were drums and trumpets, rhythm and fanfare and the choir sang an anthem Beati Quorum Via (Psalm 119.1. Music by C.V. Stanford). During Communion they sang O sacrum convivum (Words: St Thomas Aquinas; Music: Garbiel Jackson) and - appropriately - Loquebantur variis linguis - the apostles spoke in many tongues (Thoamas Tallis)

And the hymns? We sing a love that sets all people free (Words: June Boyce-Tillman and music: Woodlands); Christ triumphant ever reigning (Words: Michael Sayward and music: Guiting Power); Jesus the Lord said, 'I am the bread' (Words: Indian origin and music: Urdu melody arranged by Geoff Weaver); Earth's fragile beauties we possess (Words: Robert Willis and Music Kingsfold - Ralph Vaughan Williams); and O for a thousand tongues to sing (Words: Charles Wesley and Tune: Lyngham).

But one hymn, at the end of the Communion challenged uncomfortably: Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live... All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place...' (Words and Music Marty Haugen). As I sang I realised that in one sense all are welcome, however, on this day all were not welcome as all had not been invited. That is our sadness and our challenge.

A difficult choice

I am up early. I have my Cantebrury Cathedral ticket beside me which 'permits entry to the precincts, the robing venue and enables you to take part in the procession.' For now I need to put cuffs on my rochet and am wondering is it red or black chimeres? And praying this will be the most difficult of choices to be made in the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The eve of a formal Lambeth start

Here we are on the eve of the formal start. The last few days have been all about the Retreat.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been at his rivetting best - nurturing and feeding us. I look out from the University of Kent at Canterbury and in the evening light below I see the Cathedral. Some of the Archbishop's phrases from the past three days resonate again: 'Each one of us is a place where the Son of God is revealed.' But - 'there is more to be revealed than any one life or Church can reveal.'

'As bishops we are deeply unreliable allies: many causes want us on their side. We have to make clear that there is more: "I am going to have to let you down in the name of Jesus"'. 'The bishop is bound to be both friend and stranger.'

'The only way Christians can lead is by following....Our mission is not taking Jesus where he has not been before but going to where he has already gone before us and cleared the way.'

Tomorrow is a new day and will bring a formal start with the Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral and an afternoon briefing about the Conference programme. For now the sun goes down, our ecumenical guests have been welcomed and we have prayed and dined together.

Lambeth begins - and a BLOG begins

The Lambeth Conference 2008 has begun!

We arrived Wednesday(16th) at the University of Kent at Canterbury for the official registration although many have been hovering incognito for days before hand and settling in.

Parishioners - old and young - from the Diocese of Canterbury wearing yellow sashes are acting as human signposts and hundreds of young people and young adults are here as stewards from all over the Anglican/Episcopal world.

The two and a half hour queue to check in was a pleasure. It confounded the media hype: most have come, bishops in large numbers from all over the world. Queuing is the order of the first days (quite normal until the Conference ‘beds in’ one bishop at his third Lambeth told me)

Dominating the campus skyline (as you look from below in the city of Canterbury) is a Big Top - not a circus (we hope) - which is where we meet for plenary sessions of both the Bishops’ and the Spouses’ Conferences and for worship.

Today started early: matins at 6.30 a.m. and the Eucharist at 7.15 a.m. followed by breakfast and our Bible Study. The Groups are named after saints - I am in ‘Saint Bernard’. We are eight in each group as we study the Gospel of Saint John together. ‘Saint Bernard’ Bible Study group is made up of the Bishops of Botswana, Edinburgh, Brisbane, Easton, Croydon, Saskatoon, Plymouth and Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

We spent the rest of the day and the following day in Canterbury Cathedral (via Starbucks) on retreat. We have the Cathedral and its surroundings to ourselves: stunning and inspiring (not just the Cathedral, but the Archbishop of Canterbury also).