Lambeth Reflections

Lambeth Reflections

Convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury in 2022, the Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs. With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World - walking, listening and witnessing together,’ the conference will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world.

Convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury in 2022, the Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs. With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World - walking, listening and witnessing together,’ the conference will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world. 

Bishop Poulson is providing our Diocese with reflections throughout the conference. See below his updated reflections! 



Lambeth Reflections: Part One
By Bishop Poulson

I’m on my way to the once a decade Lambeth Conference, a time of prayer, Bible study, and conversation among bishops from all over the Anglican Communion, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby. Approximately 650 bishops are expected.

At its heart, Lambeth is meant to remind us of our connection, in Christ, with other Anglicans around the world. Already, though, there is controversy, because while neither Lambeth nor any other instrument of the Anglican Communion has binding authority over any province, we learned only a week ago that we would be voting on divisive issues, including the place of LGBTQIA+ persons in the Church and specifically in marriage. There has been forceful protest from the Episcopal Church and other provinces, and revision of this most contentious “call” is thankfully underway.
All of this exposes some fundamental cracks at the center of our global communion. In an 85 million member Anglican Communion, starkly divergent views, made more evident by internet-age communication, are inevitable. And the balance of the Communion, at least in terms of population, is shifting away from the US and Europe in a kind of tectonic realignment. The Anglican Church in Nigeria, for example, is roughly 9 times larger than our Episcopal Church, and growing. The Episcopal Church is a tiny 2 percent of Global Anglicanism. Additionally, the Communion is only beginning to wrestle with our colonial past.

The discipline I hope to exercise at Lambeth is to be open to the Holy Spirit, with humility, in conversations with bishops from different contexts, while being clear, when necessary, about our Episcopal Church’s stance on the dignity of every person.
I pray that we may seek to discern the mind of Christ not in voting or argument, but in the spirit of peace and communion, which are God’s gifts to God’s people.


Lambeth Reflections: Part Two
By Bishop Poulson

I won’t blog every day from Lambeth (you’ll be glad to know!) but I can’t pass up today, when our Church’s calendar remembers William Reed Huntington, who formulated what is called the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral. Accepted by the 1888 Lambeth conference, it stated the four essentials of the Anglican Communion and the starting place for ecumenical conversations. The essentials are: the Holy Scriptures, the Creeds, the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, and the ministry of bishops. For all of the things that divide us in the Anglican Communion, this Quadrilateral has proved rather resilient. And one key aspect of the ministry of bishops is companionship with one another in Christ as part of the wider Church, which is why we meet in this way. On this first full day, we met in both large and small groups. My small group today included bishops from England, Canada, Mauritius, Kenya, and South Sudan (there are over 160 countries represented). It was remarkable to me how many of our assumptions about one another break down when we share together about our life and ministry. We have much to learn from each other.


Lambeth Reflections: Part Three
By Bishop Poulson

The last two days the bishops were on retreat at Canterbury Cathedral, the mother Church of the Anglican Communion. Here Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 597 to preach the Gospel to the English (you can just see his cathedra, or chair, behind the high Altar, where each new Archbishop of Canterbury is installed). These days were extraordinary, with diverse worship multiple times each day (including Evensong with the renowned choir), five reflections on 1 Peter (the Biblical focus of the conference), and ample time to explore this massive holy space (I’ll have more to say about that another day, and more pictures to share).

We then returned to the University of Kent, where most of the conference is taking place, for the official picture, which is a herculean feat of organization taking over 3 hours. Of note, there are approximately 80 more female bishops since the last Lambeth in 2008. The day concluded with a stirring address by the Archbishop of Canterbury on how Christians might think about the many grave challenges facing God’s world.

Amidst the many blessings of the conference, old Anglican divisions are beginning to surface, most sadly evident in some bishops choosing not to receive communion at the Eucharists. These divisions will continue to play out, but I’m finding stubborn hope in the reconciling power of the Gospel, brought to this land so many centuries ago, and now found across the face of the world that God loves. Christ is our peace.

Lambeth Reflections: Part Four

By Bishop Poulson

This Sunday morning we worshipped in glorious style back at Canterbury Cathedral. The bishops processed and the liturgy was a true celebration of the global nature of our communion, with Scripture readings and music in at least 8 different languages, Archbishop Welby presiding and Bishop Kgabe of Lesotho preaching (she did so brilliantly). Again some (not many) bishops chose not to receive communion.

Yesterday and today have included the “call” process to consider various topics of importance about which this conference may make statements (none of which are binding ever on any province). The first two call topics were relatively non controversial: Mission and Evangelism, and Safe Church. But the process is already breaking down. Yesterday we had Bible study, then plenaries, and then small group discussion and some feedback, culminating in expressing our support for a written statement using electronic devices. Some one-third of bishops chose not to “vote” yesterday, and by today, the little remotes were gone and we were asked simply to express verbally if we thought the call was headed in basically the right direction. Feelings remain very mixed on the process, and the more controversial calls are still ahead of us.

Here’s a metaphor: one of the blessings of the conference has been our singing together in harmony (I was actually in the choir stalls today for the service, as you can see). The Anglican Communion is harmony (joyful but sometimes a little out of tune) and not unison. At this conference, we pray the Lord’s Prayer each in our native language in a beautiful and raucous Pentecost-like rush of sound. We interpret 1 Peter somewhat differently depending on our ministry context. We find shared inspiration in the gracious hospitality of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has invited us here. We build relationships across sometimes profound differences, occasionally with great pain. When we try to narrow the Anglican Communion too much, to create perfect unison instead of harmony, it doesn’t really work. When we harmonize with the melody of Jesus Christ, by the Spirit’s grace, our imperfect song gives hope to a weary world.

Lambeth Reflections: Part Five

By Bishop Poulson

“Solvitur Ambulando”

Yesterday and today we entered into the hardest period of the “call” process, attempting to come to some consensus on the three topics of Anglican Identity, Reconciliation, and, most controversially of all, Human Dignity.

The process itself has been a confusing mess at times, but what saved it today were our table groups and, most remarkably, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
The table groups are really bonding now, because we spend hours almost every day in Bible study on 1 Peter, and then later discussing the calls. My group is made up of faithful bishops from Kenya, Ghana, South Sudan, Canada, England, and the U.S.

Just before the table discussion on the call on Human Dignity (including sexuality), Archbishop Welby spoke with candor and vulnerability to us, acknowledging that our communion has been and is deeply divided on human sexuality, with the clear majority holding the traditional view, and a significant number of other provinces having done theological discernment leading to sharing the sacrament of marriage with all.He stated his intention not to punish or ostracize those provinces like the Episcopal Church that have largely taken this new path with regard to the dignity of LGBTQ+ people.

And he said:

“So let us not treat each other lightly or carelessly. We are deeply divided. That will not end soon. We are called by Christ himself both to truth and unity.”
Then, we entered into what I can only describe as holy conversation in our table groups. Great pain and strong convictions were shared, but with respect, and a desire to walk together, despite our differences.

“Solvitur Ambulando”: it is solved by walking. Words attributed to Saint Augustine. The steps of Canterbury Cathedral are worn smooth by the feet of pilgrims, walking with other pilgrims, seeking Christ.

Lambeth Reflections: Part Six

By Bishop Poulson

Yesterday was our London day. We spent much of the day in the large and ancient (over 1000 years’ old) gardens at Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his family. The focus was on creation care, with excellent speakers, prayer stations, symbolic actions, and ample time to explore the various spaces. They even keep bees there! Then we had a lovely boat ride on the Thames, an efficient way to see many of London’s greatest hits.

Today we focused on ecumenical and interfaith relationships, using our now familiar pattern of Bible study, plenaries, and table discussion. There are a considerable number of distinguished ecumenical guests attending the conference. It was poignant to consider these ecumenical and interfaith encounters in the light of our own Anglican tensions - or, to put it more hopefully, perhaps this conference’s fervent and grace-filled efforts to hold together unity in diversity as Anglicans can bear fruit in our wider relationships.
Speaking of our diversity, the entire conference is being translated in real time in 9 languages, and delivered to us via headsets. The translators are doing a fantastic job, each in their own soundproof booth.


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