Back to results

Conference 2008 - Section A: Introduction

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. In him, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were marked with the Holy Spirit, to the praise of his glory[1].
To Christians everywhere and all people of good will, both in the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and in those of our ecumenical partners, greeting! May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace![2]

1. As we, the bishops of the Anglican Communion who have been gathered here in Canterbury, get ready to return to our dioceses and churches, we wish to express our gratitude to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to his staff at Lambeth Palace, to the Lambeth Design Group, and to the Secretary General and the staff of the Anglican Communion Office for all that they have done together in order to enable this fourteenth Lambeth Conference to take place.

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury invited us to gather between 16th July and 3rd August 2008 in Canterbury for purposeful discussion to consider the two themes of “Equipping Bishops for Mission”, and “Strengthening Anglican Identity”.  We gather at a sensitive time in the life of the Communion.  Acknowledging this, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote in his invitation that acceptance carried with it a willingness to work with the Windsor Report and the Covenant as tools by which the future of the Communion could be shaped[3].  From the very beginning, however, the Archbishop of Canterbury has indicated to us that, although we would have to give attention to the tensions which assail us, the wider life of the Communion is broader and richer than these matters alone.  He invited us to reflect with him on how we as bishops might be better equipped for mission and the ways in which we could strengthen our Anglican identity as a faithful response to the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  

3. Our time together has indeed demonstrated to us the breadth and richness of the Communion. It has been a privilege to be here together, to represent our dioceses and to grow in respect and affection for one another. With the many differences among us we have found ourselves profoundly connected with one another and committed to God’s mission.  Many of us have experienced a real depth of fellowship in our Bible Study Groups and have been moved, sometimes to tears, by the stories our brothers and sisters have told us about the life of their churches, their communities and their own witness. For many bishops, especially those for whom this has been their first Lambeth Conference, they have understood for the first time what a precious thing it is we have in the Anglican Communion and indeed what it is to be an Anglican. There has been a wonderful spirit of dialogue and we want that to continue beyond the Conference by every means possible  -  “the indaba must go on,” as one group expressed it. For many of us have discovered more fully why we need one another and the joy of being committed to one another. At a time when many in our global society are seeking just the sort of international community that we already have, we would be foolish to let such a gift fall apart.

4. We miss the presence of our fellow bishops who are not here, whether through illness or the difficulties of travel or other reasons or pressures. We also deeply regret the absence of those who, out of conviction, did not feel able to accept the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to our gathering. We miss their presence, their fellowship and their wisdom and assure them of our continuing love and prayers. We are very aware that some of our fellow bishops who met in Jerusalem last month have not been present at the Lambeth Conference. We have been diminished by their absence. We shall seek ways in which they may be drawn into our deliberations and held in communion. Our concern now is to rebuild bridges, to look for opportunities to share with them the experience we have had in Canterbury and to find ways of moving forward together in our witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time we have been very conscious of the prayers of people across the Communion and among our ecumenical partners, which has supported our life here.

5.  We give thanks for the presence of over seventy bishops in communion and ecumenical participants, who gathered with us.  Representatives were welcomed from all parts of God’s household, from Churches East and West.  As Anglicans, we rejoice in our fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we welcomed the opportunity to hear their perspectives and wisdom in our deliberations.

6.  We wish to express our gratitude for the generous hospitality of the bishops of the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland to bishops from throughout the Communion in the period immediately before the Conference.  We were made to feel at home and able to enrich the communion in which we participate even before we arrived in Canterbury.  We are also grateful for the opportunity to experience the life of the Church in the British Isles and Ireland and for the privilege of preaching and presiding among our sisters and brothers.

7.  We give thanks for the Conference in which our spouses have participated over the last three weeks, as they have lived and prayed alongside our own conference, studies and deliberations.

8.  In addition to the staff of the Conference, we are particularly mindful of the hundreds of volunteers, stewards and other participants who made us feel welcome and for the time and energy they expended in ensuring our safety and comfort while we stayed in the University of Kent, Canterbury, and of the work of the chaplaincy team, whose quiet ministrations enabled and sustained our worship throughout the Conference[4].

9.  We wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral and to all the cathedral community for the way in which they welcomed us into this mother church for the Anglican Communion. 

10.  As is fitting, we began our time together in prayer and reflection as the Archbishop of Canterbury led us in three days retreat – a retreat which was centred upon the ancient precincts and spaces of the cathedral. We deeply appreciated this new way of beginning our time together: by enabling us to begin with quiet time in the presence of God, we were enabled to draw closely to him in a way which enabled our own communion through him with each other.  In the addresses, based mostly on passages from the letters of Paul, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited the bishops to think about what it meant for the bishop to be a person in whom God revealed Jesus.[5] More specifically, he encouraged us to reflect on how the bishop revealed the Christ who gathers: this means that for the bishop to be a sign of unity is for the bishop constantly to model and to encourage mutual self-giving, so that the community itself assembles to reveal Jesus, in its worship and its witness. During the period of retreat there was opportunity for silence, for building friendships and for people to pray together in small groups, in the hope that this would lay some deep foundation for further encounters during the Conference.

11.  We met in the atmosphere of a regular pattern of worship and prayer[6].  As we moved from the retreat to a consideration of the work before us, we joined together in the opening Eucharist of the conference in Canterbury Cathedral. It was a beautiful expression of our Anglican cultural diversity, not least in the song and dance by the Melanesian brothers and sisters as the Book of the Gospels was carried through the Cathedral, and in the use of many languages. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided from the Chair of St Augustine and the sermon was preached by the Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka.

12.  Worship has, of course, been at the heart of our time together. We have shared in the Eucharist each morning and Evening Prayer each evening, incorporating each day liturgical and musical material from different Provinces, with the worship led in a variety of languages by representatives of the Provinces. In addition, at the centre of the campus has been the “Prayer Place”, staffed by the chaplaincy team. Morning Prayer and Night Prayer have been celebrated there each day and many of us have found it a place to which to go to be still in the presence of God. The chaplaincy team and the musicians’ team have helped us to make worship both a key part of each day and a joy in which to share.

13.  In his Presidential Address, Archbishop Rowan set this fourteenth Lambeth Conference in the context of previous gatherings and urged the bishops present toward the fullest possible participation in every aspect of the agenda. He called for transformed relationships, which are about more than having warm feelings toward one another, but about “new habits of respect, patience and understanding that are fleshed out in specific ways and changed habits.” He noted the weaknesses of understanding our life together as simply a loosely federated group of provincial Churches while at the same time recognizing the discernible dangers of a centralized and homogeneous Communion that would inevitably lead us to becoming a confessional church contrary to our historic identity. It is the Archbishop’s urging that a middle way between these extremes be captured in a generous Anglican Covenant. “Whatever the popular perception, the options before us are not irreparable schism or forced assimilation.” 
14.  This conference has taken on a new form – the form of indaba – based upon an African ideal of purposeful discussion on the common concerns of our shared life.  It is a process and a method of engagement as we listen to one another.  An indaba acknowledges first and foremost that there are issues that need to be addressed effectively to foster ongoing communal living.  It enables every bishop to engage and speak his or her mind and not to privilege the articulate or the powerful.  Every aspect of the conference has been an expression of indaba, expressed through our worship and bible studies, self-select sessions, hearings, plenary sessions and speakers, listening and reflecting, and even conversation in the meal queues.  Above all else, we have worked together on the themes of the Conference in our focussed indaba sessions, when we have spent two hours each day in purposeful conversation that invites us to encounter the reality of each other’s ministry and concerns.  This person to person encounter has been one of the most encouraging, engaging – if at times frustrating - aspects of the Conference.

15. Bible Study has been the most enriching part of the Conference. In these times, we gathered in small groups of about eight bishops around the sacred scriptures to study the Gospel of John. We prayed; we read the text; we considered how the Lord God is speaking to us through the words of St John in our current contexts. Here we have learned of the gifts and struggles each bishop experiences in trying to live out the vows taken in ordination to the episcopate. These times together around scripture have been the life giving force of the Conference and will be the basis of ongoing commitment to one another. Of course there are different interpretations of the scriptures, and we can consider these within the solidarity that is built within the study group. It is here that we have experienced a death to self interest and the possibility of God’s Spirit bringing new life.  It is here that “the stone is being rolled away.”  The Bible studies offered to the Lambeth Conference sought to place every participant under the authority of scripture and to enable them to journey with John's Gospel, by following a particular feature of the Gospel itself, the "I am" sayings, by drawing attention to the detail of the text, whether historical, literary, or thematic detail, by offering opportunities for participants to place their contexts and personal concerns alongside scripture, by locating John's Gospel within the wider context of the biblical canon, and by placing the process of the Bible study in hands of a bishop who would serve the group by facilitating the formation of a sacred and safe site for a reverent and respectful engagement among the participants.

16.  Equipping bishops for mission has been present in every aspect of the Conference, in all we have done, and the experience of being together with our peers for an extended period has been a profoundly enriching and renewing experience, and a great privilege. In presentations from outstanding speakers we have been enriched and challenged as we have looked at evangelism, social justice, ecology, and covenant in the Hebrew scriptures; and in a wealth of self select sessions bishops have been able to consider matters as diverse as micro finance and missionary dioceses, children, and young people, climate change, caste and apartheid, church schools and the healing of the memories, distance learning and keeping fit.  The indaba groups have given us the opportunity of working and talking together, and of sharing our stories, thoughts and ideas. In so many ways, context shapes our perception of ministry and we have learned from one another’s experience as we have discussed and listened together - bishops from the Arctic to the Equator, from mountainous regions to Pacific islands, from shanty towns to wealthy cities, from centuries-old dioceses to the newly planted. If we brought our dioceses with us, we carry back a rich experience of the universal Church.

17.  We have been changed by this process, and as we come to the end of this indaba in Canterbury, we have to consider what record of our conversations we can carry back with us.  From the beginning, each indaba group had been invited to nominate three persons from whom one would be chosen by the Lambeth Design Group to be a listener and representative to the Reflections Group[7].  The listeners chosen represented as far as possible the diverse nature of the Anglican Communion.  The conversations in each indaba group were recorded by rapporteurs.  This report was agreed with the animateur and the group and it is this material which has formed the primary documents for the Reflection Group’s work.  The group has sought to capture the spirit of our conversations in this document.  It is not a set of traditional reports adopted by the conference, but rather a faithful attempt to summarize the bishops’ conversations.  It represents a snapshot of an encounter which has changed us and enriched our understanding of our communion.  It is the beginning of a conversation, and indaba, into which all the Anglican Communion is now invited.

18.  In composing this “Conversations and Reflections Document” the Reflections Group has sought to develop a document which is

  1. faithful to the Gospel.  Our conversations mean nothing unless they further the business of the Kingdom of God, and reflect the Good News of Jesus Christ, offering a message of hope and faithfulness for the world.  The Lord Jesus himself is the centre of our common life, and we gather in order to discern together his will for the Church.  There has been a deep sense of the Holy Spirit moving among us.
  2. faithful to the process.  In indaba we have had to make ourselves aware of challenges to life in communion without immediately trying to resolve them.  We have met and conversed, ensuring that everyone has a voice in order to find the deeper convergences that might hold us together.
  3. faithful to the bishops and their context.  It is important therefore that this document is one which reflects the conversations of all the bishops gathered for the Lambeth Conference.  It must seek to honour the participation and contribution of every bishop, and be written in a process which is faithful to the contexts in which we minister.
  4. faithful to the Communion.  We are all acutely aware that the Anglican Communion stands at an important point in its life.  This document must be robust enough to describe realistically and honestly where the bishops of the Communion understand our life together to have come, and our resolve for the future.


The Archbishop of Canterbury’s first Presidential Address at:

His second Presidential Address is at:

His third Presidential Address is at:

The retreat addresses are published in “God’s Mission and a Bishop’s Discipleship”, published by the Lambeth Conference, 2008.

Equipping Bishops for God’s Mission

19.  In considering the nature of our calling in Christ, we gave attention through the conference to the question of Christian evangelism and mission.  Mission is the total action of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit - creating, redeeming, sanctifying - for the sake of the whole world. Evangelism is giving voice to the truth of Christ as Lord to all people.  These two concepts are sometimes united under the term “evangelisation”, the orienting of the whole of society towards the imperatives of the Gospel, theevangelium, but in Anglican thought, the distinction tends to be maintained, in order to give emphasis to the personal response of faith evoked by the proclamation of the personal salvation found in Christ.

20.  Nevertheless, we wish to acknowledge the important dimensions of mission as God’s reaching out to all of creation, challenging our structures as well as our souls, our communities as well as our Churches[8].  After a consideration of the nature of mission and evangelism therefore, we turn towards a consideration of the wider claims of the Gospel – oriented towards human and social justice and care for God’s creation.  Finally, in this section we acknowledge the context of Anglican Mission – in the purposes of God in the wider oikumene, and in relations to the other major faiths of the world.


1. Ephesians 1:3, 12-13
2 Romans 1.7
3 Letter of Invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, May 22nd 2007.


3. 1 Timothy 3.1

4. A fuller paragraph of thanks appears at the end of this document.

5. Galatians 1.

6. Philippians 4.6

7. A list of members of the Reflections Group appears at the end of this document.

8. Luke 1: 51-53 (The Magnificat)