Some 650 Anglican bishops from all over the world are making their way to Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference 2008 focussing on the theme: Equipping Bishops for Mission.
The Conference will begin with a three-day retreat and, as in previous Conferences, every day will begin with Eucharist and Bible study in small groups.
More than 75% of Anglican bishops worldwide have now registered for the Conference, representing 36 of the 38 provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion. There will be 10 husbands among the 550 spouses taking part in the parallel conference, God’s People for God’s Mission.
The Lambeth Conference this year has two key points of focus: strengthening the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops from around the world, and helping to equip bishops for the role they increasingly have as leaders in mission, involved in a whole variety of ways in helping the Church grow.
The Conference aims for all delegates to:
Delegates will spend time together in spiritual reflection, learning, sharing experiences and discerning their particular role in God’s mission for the world. The bishops can expect what the Archbishop of Canterbury has described as “. . . an unusually varied and original programme and a fresh style of working which will allow us both to confront differences honestly and to be focused anew on our primary tasks of service and mission.”
By the close of Lambeth 2008 18 days later on Sunday 3 August, individual bishops will have taken part in 25 hours of corporate morning and evening worship (in addition to the Cathedral celebration on 20 July), 18 hours of bible study, and as much again of ‘indaba’ groups. The reflections of the bishops will be gathered together as the conference comes to a close. A final Eucharist will be celebrated in the Cathedral on Sunday evening.
Over the days from arrival to departure, the University Conference team can expect to serve delegates with 70,000 meals, 3.5 tonnes of bread rolls and 125,000 cups of tea and coffee. They will distribute nearly 2,000 complimentary packs of shampoo/shower gel to delegates’ rooms, and remove 2,500 pairs of sheets for laundering.
One element of the Lambeth Conference that always generates a lot of interest is the Marketplace. It provides a showcase for things going on around the Anglican Communion, a space for delegates to relax, meet friends and shop, and in 2008 for the first time it will also be open to members of the public, as well as to conference delegates. The vestment makers are present in full force as are interest groups and bookshops. There is an official Lambeth Conference Gift Shop as well.
The four dozen stalls will include the Lambeth Conference Shop, stocking branded Conference gifts. Other exhibitors include organisations, church agencies, charities, lobby groups and commercial firms that provide goods, services and other resources to the Church.
The spouses have a full programme as well. Mrs Jane Williams said about the spouses’ conference: “Bishops’ spouses are as varied as the spouses of people in any other profession would be, but we do have some things in common: like our faith, and the pains and pleasures of living with and supporting a bishop! In lots of Anglican provinces, spouses can hardly meet at all, because of distances and lack of resources, and while all bishops get some kind of training and resourcing for their role, their spouses may not.
“So our two main aims in the Spouses Conference are to learn from each other and to resource ourselves to be God’s People for God’s Mission.”
There will be more than 50 ‘fringe’ events, hosted by organisations as varied as Christian Aid and The Quiet Garden Movement, The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals and Operation Noah.
The “big” photo of the bishops is set for 26 July and the traditional London Day is 24 July with a Walk of Witness from Parliament to Lambeth Palace. Tea at Buckingham Palace rounds out the day.
Many bishops are arriving from various dioceses in the UK after several days of visits and hospitality. The first session of the Conference is set for 6 p.m. 16th July.
From Lou Henderson, Church House and Jim Rosenthal, ACNS
Note for editors
Indaba is a Zulu word. It refers to a small group that gathers, without time pressures and constraints, to work through significant questions in a community. After bible study, bishops will gather in medium-sized groups of about 40 - instead of larger issue-focused groups, so that more people can have a say in the discussion. These have been called ‘indaba’ groups, picking up the African word.
Press Media Room in Darwin College opens on Wednesday at 1 p.m.; Registration is at Grimond Hall (make sure you have your press/card as identification). The numbers have reached maximum capacity. Further registration is now closed.
Photos from Salisbury, London Diocese Hospitality Events and Photos from today in Canterbury