Bishop Andrew Forster is one of the hundreds of bishops from across the 165 countries of the Anglican Communion who’ve gathered in Canterbury to pray, study scripture, discuss global challenges and seek God’s direction for the decade ahead.
The Lambeth Conference 2022, which runs until August 7, is only the 15th such global gathering of Anglican bishops in 155 years. The event was postponed from 2020 because of the Covid 19 pandemic and takes place against a backdrop of global uncertainty, including the climate emergency, war and poverty.
Taking as their theme “God’s Church for God’s World”, the bishops will spend time praying and studying the Bible together (focussing on the book of 1 Peter) as well as discussing major challenges faced by their global communities – ranging from climate change and scientific progress to Christian unity and inter-faith relations.
In a letter to delegates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, described the conference as an “historic occasion” and spoke of Jesus’ call for his followers to be united. The Archbishop wrote: “Two years ago, we could hardly have believed the course of world events that was about to unfold with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This, along with the ongoing challenges like the climate emergency, war and conflict in many countries and the huge inequalities of our world, continue to have a deep impact on us all.
“As we gather for the 15th Lambeth Conference, the privilege and responsibility of meeting feels even more significant.
“The business of this conference is to discern the Holy Spirit’s directing in what it means to be ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, as we seek to ‘walk, listen and witness together.’
“We are living at a time where there is much to fragment and divide the world – but Christ calls his Church to be one in witness and in worship so that Jesus is presented to the world.”
Archbishop Welby went on to describe how 1 Peter sets out how the early Christian Church faced “suffering, despair, joy, exile and alienation”, adding: “As we embark upon our journey together in 2022, we pray for God’s Holy Spirit to guide us, as we seek God’s will for the global witness of the Anglican Communion in the decade ahead.”
In his foreword to the Conference guide, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, wrote: “The drumbeat to our conference is ‘walking, listening and witnessing together’.
“These words reflect perhaps Christ’s greatest challenge to the Church: to be one; to live as a united body, in service to Christ and to one another.
“As we gather in 2022, may we commit ourselves to this significant moment as an opportunity to listen to one another, learn from the diversity of our communities and church experiences and seek to serve one another.”
The postponement in 2020 enabled the Conference plans to be reimagined as a three-phase process, designed to create lasting outcomes pboth for the churches of the Communion and for the communities they serve.
The period since 2020 has been a time of “walking together” when bishops have been meeting together for online conversations about themes relevant to the Conference.
The phase of “listening together” is the full event in Canterbury which began yesterday. For the first time there will also be a further phase of “witnessing together” – when outcomes from the bishop’s conversations are shared, and further action taken around the Anglican Communion.