A group of bishops from across the Communion, led by Bishop George Sumner of Dallas, today published a letter in which they express their hopes for next year’s Lambeth Conference. This letter is but the latest development in the run-up to the conference, which has already been marked by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposed exclusion of same-sex spouses and threats of boycotts. (See some of the Cafe’s previous coverage here, and here.) An excerpt from the letter:
At Lambeth, though a fractious family, we ought still to think of our fellow Anglicans in the best light possible. For example, there have been many important movements of mission and renewal in our Anglican tradition (e.g. the Oxford Movement and the East African Revival), and we can likewise see GAFCON in this way. We can also appreciate the role Global South Anglicans have played in strengthening the mission of Christ in their provinces. We commend the Primates’ view that only Churches aligned with Communion teaching should represent it in ‘doctrine and polity.’ But we are also willing to listen to our colleagues who hold in conscience dissenting views. More generally, we all need in our hearts to lay aside old recriminations.
… We hope for a Lambeth that is ordered to prayer and the Bible, that nourishes our humility, that opens us to God’s conversion in the Spirit, and that encourages us to renewed forms of teaching and witness which will inspire and attract younger generations in our nations and our churches. It is also crucial that we reject all forms of cultural and racial pride, while listening and deliberating with one another with full respect.
… United in faith, hope, and love, we can at Lambeth confront together the urgent problems in our Communion and in our world. We all share a worry about what may lie ahead in our common future, for as a divided Church we will struggle to witness to a divided, broken world. We hold in prayer those among us who face persecution and danger. We need to be stewards of creation. We hope for a conference which encourages us all to stand on the side of the poor and those who are maltreated, to call sinners to repentance and to offer forgiveness in the Lord’s name, to walk His way of love, and to seek reconciliation among ourselves and with our neighbors.
The Church Times, in its summary of the letter (it’s behind a paywall), notes that:
Dr Sumner is one of a small number of bishops in the Episcopal Church who, having initially prohibited the use of same-sex marriage rites in his diocese, has delegated pastoral oversight of parishes that have requested it to an episcopal colleague.
On Thursday, he suggested that the letter had secured support from “more traditional bishops throughout the Anglican Communion, in the centre”.
The Living Church’s article on the letter, while it highlights the charity the letter’s authors show to GAFCON, also quotes Bishop Sumner in noting that,
… [Bishop Sumner] and his fellow authors were concerned that publicity about the event has been dominated by “the TEC side of things and GAFCON.” He said, “It seemed like a good time to have this other voice added to the conversation,” and added that he hopes, “as many bishops as possible will attend so they can be part of the conversation and the fellowship.” The letter’s vision of a hopeful but honest time for engagement could prove persuasive to some who are still undecided.
Sumner said that there are no immediate plans to open up the letter as a statement of common goals for a wider group of bishops, though the group could be open to this development. “If it were to generate people who were to say, ‘yes, me too,’ that’s great. But it stands alone as a statement from this group of people.”