When we read the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter we were reminded of this. Will the Holy Spirit fall on the gathering at Canterbury? Or will it be
They have healed the brokenness
of My people superficially,
Saying, 'Peace, peace,'
But there is no peace.
Perhaps we should beat our swords into ploughshares.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.-Isaiah 2:4
The Feast of Pentecost is a time when we give thanks that God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes us able to speak to each other and to the whole world of the wonderful things done in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a good moment to look forward prayerfully to the Lambeth Conference, asking God to pour out the Spirit on all of us as we make ready for this time together, so that we shall indeed be given grace to speak boldly in his Name.
I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.
At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God's way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God.
Each day's work in this context will go forward with careful facilitation and preparation, to ensure that all voices are heard (and many languages also!). The hope is that over the two weeks we spend together, these groups will build a level of trust that will help us break down the walls we have so often built against each other in the Communion. And in combination with the intensive prayer and fellowship of the smaller Bible study groups, all this will result, by God's grace, in clearer vision and discernment of what needs to be done.
As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.
Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ's flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely. We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ's Body as a sign of God's Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice.
The potential of our Conference is great. The focus of all we do is meant to be strengthening our Communion and equipping all bishops to engage more effectively in mission; only God the Holy Spirit can bind us together in lasting and Christ-centred way, and only God the Holy Spirit can give us the words we need to make Christ truly known in our world. So we must go on praying hard with our people that the Spirit will bring these possibilities to fruition as only he can. Those who have planned the Conference have felt truly touched by that Spirit as they have worked together, and I know that their only wish is that what they have outlined for us will enable others to experience the same renewal and delight in our fellowship.
This is an ambitious event – ambitious for God and God's Kingdom, which is wholly appropriate for a Lambeth Conference. And our ambition is nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of his Spirit.
May that Spirit be with you daily in your preparation for our meeting. As Our Lord says, 'You know him, for he lives with and will be in you' (Jn 14.17).
+ Rowan Cantuar
BB NOTE: We like this letter a lot. He does not ban Bishop Schofield or Bishop Iker or Bishop Duncan from attending. This is an inspiring letter - but what's missing is reality. Why is it a judge in Virginia can see that catastrophic division is breaking out all over the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury is writing of a near Utopian vision? We share his prayer for "nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of the Spirit." Very much. But even Paul when he wrote his letters to the churches was very frank and very honest about what was very wrong in their communities. In fact, if you'd be living in a cave - say in, the mountains of Pakistan - for the past five years you'd never know that bishops are deposing bishops, bishops are defrocking clergy, clergy are moving to other provinces, bishop are suing the laity, laity are abandoning their home church of generations of the families, and at least three of the largest provinces in the Anglican Communion aren't even coming. The inability to recognize the reality of the situation, to start out the letter and tell the truth?
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:1-2)Just say it. The inability to say it, to dance around it, to pretend as though all is well and we'll just gather at the river seems, well, more blinking at reality. Just tell the truth. What concerns us at our table as we order another chai is that the inability to say it plainly, as James did, means that the office is weak. Strength comes in speaking plainly of where one finds oneself out on the battlefield and the supplies are few.
Remember how Shakespeare's Henry V roused his troops, knowing that they faced almost certain death? They knew what they were facing, they had no illusions, not with the massive French army congregating over the hill. He told them there would be a cost, a great cost indeed, but that cost would have meaning:
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and live old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
On the other hand, what if the Holy Spirit fell over that gathering and the bishops were laid prostrate on the ground for a few days, just lying there, overcome with repentance? These sentences are inspiring, penned as they are by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ's Body as a sign of God's Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice.Battle weary, we lay down our arms and beat them into ploughshares, while the lawsuits and depositions march on. Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit.
If we call for repentance, let it begin with us.