The document that came out of the Lambeth Conference, the final draft of which we saw at the last plenary session yesterday, is a distillation of the Indaba Group conversations that have gone on over the length of the conference. All of us were assigned to Bible study groups that met each morning. Five Bible study groups constituted an Indaba Group, which met after the individual study groups.
What has emerged from the extended time in the Bible study and Indaba Groups is relationship. Bishops spoke honestly and deeply. We found places of profound commonality, and we named honestly pain in division that was not erased.
One Sudanese bishop said this, “After 22 years of suffering (civil war) we have learned not to run away based on what we hear, but to come and see, and then decide rather we need to run away. We are not leaving these friendships.”
There was much talk about “What I need to take back to my diocese.” People asked me that quite a lot. Was it moratoria on blessings, on incursions? Was it commitment to the relief of global suffering through the Millennium Development Goals process? An Anglican Covenant?
For me it is the relationships. Unlike most of the other products, the usefulness of the relationships formed at the Lambeth Conference will lie in the extension of the relationships into our diocese, and beyond. As I wrote in an earlier posting, part of the way bishops must now fulfill their ministry of unity is by actively extending the relationships they have to others, and even understanding that these relationships need to develop apart from the bishops themselves. I am coming home to the beautiful Diocese of California knowing that there are great opportunities for becoming a global body that contributes to the healing of the world, and that people in the Bay Area are eager to be part of this. The same Sudanese bishop who spoke so movingly of his province’s brave journey to Lambeth (when significant neighbor provinces stayed away based on what they had “heard”) has asked me whether people in California could help his people with the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Sudan. Who better than we?
As to the other ”˜products’ I mentioned above: the document we produced has real significance as it reflects the searching, prayerful conversations over a two week period of over 600 Anglican bishops. The points of substantial agreement are thus worth our attention. In California we will be seeking ways to utilize the indaba process to consider the contents of the document, absorb and extend its learnings, and contribute back to the whole.
At the same time, the document is not legislation. We will pay close attention to it, but we must not reify the agreement points in it into laws, and we should resist interpretations that seek to employ those agreements as laws.
Read it all.