The Lambeth Conference, the most important event of the Anglican Communion, began on Tuesday, 26 July, and is scheduled to conclude on Monday, 8 August. With the theme “God’s Church for God’s World”, the Conference gathers bishops from across the world “for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs”.
Some 600 Anglican bishops from the 165 countries, representing over 85 million faithful across the world, are gathered in England for the fifteenth Lambeth Conference, the most important event of the Anglican Communion, which is held every ten years.
The Conference, which was postponed for two years in 2018, due to disagreements over some controversial issues, and 2020 because of the Covid 19 pandemic, kicked off on Tuesday, 26 July. It will run until 8 August, with meetings taking place in Lambeth Palace, London, and at the University of Kent in Canterbury.
With the theme “God’s Church for God’s World”, the gathering will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world. The bishops will spend time praying and studying the Bible together (focusing on the Book of 1 Peter), as well as discussing major challenges faced by their global communities — ranging from climate change and environmental sustainability, to child abuse in the Church; human dignity; Anglican identity; to Christian Unity and inter-faith relations.
The postponement in 2020 enabled the Conference plans to be redesigned as a three-phase process, aimed at creating lasting outcomes, both for the churches of the Communion and for the communities they serve. The period since 2020 has been a time of “walking together” when bishops have been meeting together for online conversations about themes relevant to the Conference.
The phase of “listening together” is the full event in Canterbury beginning this week. For the first time there will also be a further phase of “witnessing together” — when outcomes from the bishops’ conversations are shared, and further action taken around the Anglican Communion.
In a letter to delegates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, described this fifteenth Conference as a “historic occasion” and spoke of Jesus’ call for his followers to be united.
“As we gather for the fifteenth Lambeth Conference, the privilege and responsibility of meeting feels even more significant”, he writes. “The business of this conference is to discern the Holy Spirit’s directing in what it means to be ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, as we seek to ‘walk, listen and witness together’”, says the head of the Anglican Communion, remarking that “at a time where there is much to fragment and divide the world” Christ “calls his Church to be one in witness and in worship so that Jesus is presented to the world”.
His words are echoed by Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, in his foreword to the Conference guide: “The drumbeat to our conference is ‘walking, listening and witnessing together’. These words reflect perhaps Christ’s greatest challenge to the Church: To be one. To live as a united body, in service to Christ and to one another”.