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Bishops of Chelmsford Diocese write to clergy and lay ministers about the Lambeth Conference

7th Aug 2022

The Bishop of Chelmsford and the Area Bishops of Barking, Bradwell and Colchester have written to Clergy and Licensed Lay Ministers in Chelmsford Diocese following the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference.

Their letter reads as follows:

 

Monday 8 August 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We have just returned from an extraordinary, intense and moving Lambeth Conference, in which we gathered with bishops from across the Anglican Communion to discuss and pray for many of the most profound issues affecting the world and the church. The theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World’ directed our thoughts and attention away from the internal divisions and disagreements of the church and towards a world that is in desperate need of the healing balm of the Gospel.

Within the context of prayer, worship and bible study, we discussed a wide range of issues. Perhaps the theme to which we gave the greatest attention was the urgent and catastrophic issue of climate change. We heard from Bishops whose islands in the Pacific are sinking under rising sea levels and others experiencing severe weather events, including drought, floods and fires. Member churches of the Anglican Communion have a unique perspective on this issue as our ‘call’ pointed out:

We are the people facing devastation in disaster-stricken communities. 

We are all the polluters, especially in wealthy countries. 

We are people living in poverty and on the margins. 

We wield power and political influence. 

We are experiencing loss and damage of our land, homes and livelihoods. 

We are investors with financial capital. 

We are first-responders to disasters and those who accompany communities on the journey of recovery and resilience.

Of course, the press coverage of the Conference has often focussed on other matters – and particularly the ‘call’ on Human Dignity and the various statements issued by various groups. Please don’t believe all the headlines you may have seen or heard. Many of them do not reflect the reality of what we have experienced during our time at the Conference. We encourage you to read both Archbishop Justin’s letter and his address during the session on Human Dignity. Links to both of these can be found at the end of this letter. 

We deeply regret that Bishops and their spouses from Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda were not with us, having followed the call by their Archbishops to boycott the Conference. 

It is also painfully disappointing that the impression given by the media was that we were spending large amounts of our time discussing same sex relations and passing judgement on our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This simply was not the case. For one session (part of an afternoon), we discussed the call on ‘human dignity’ within our small groups with whom we had already spent much time studying the Scriptures. Nonetheless, we are deeply conscious of the hurt and upset that some have felt, and we very much want to affirm and celebrate the gift of LGBTQI+ people in and for the church. God’s love embraces all. 

In a wide-ranging ‘call’ that summoned action on global poverty, sustainable development and prejudice (including homophobia), it was acknowledged that, while many Provinces continue to affirm that same-sex marriage is not permissible, other Provinces have blessed and welcomed same-sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception. The ‘call’ made clear that, as Bishops in the Anglican Communion, we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreements on these issues. A great deal of pressure was put upon the Archbishop of Canterbury (largely from voices outside the Conference) to take punitive action against Provinces which have authorised same-sex unions. But Archbishop Justin stated very forcibly, ‘I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so.’ 

The end result is that, in the words of the Bishop of Monmouth, ‘we can all go home feeling that we are bound together with something stronger than our context, our experience, our views and opinions, our reading of scripture. We are held together in the love of Christ, and we have to honour the fact that we are working in massively different contexts’. We are possibly more united as an Anglican Communion, despite our deep disagreements, than we have been for some time. 

We appreciate that there will be many for whom this does not go far enough. Many will have wanted to see something more decisive. However, it is worth remembering that the Lambeth Conference is not a decision making body, and that the only Statements made by the Conference were in solidarity with troubled Provinces across the Anglican Communion whose situations we continue to hold in our prayers.  

As the Church of England, we have been committed to a long process of open listening and reflection under the heading, ‘Living in Love and Faith’. We, as your Bishops in the Diocese of Chelmsford, remain fully committed to LLF. We ask for your prayers as the College of Bishops meets a number of times over the next few months, as the process reaches its conclusion, and as we seek to come to a common mind about possible next steps. 

Our Link Bishops (including +Qampicha from Marsabit who was unable to attend due to the worsening conditions in his diocese) send their blessings and best wishes. We enjoyed an evening meal with our Kenyan Link Bishops and their spouses, and we also met with Bishop Claude of our Trinidad and Tobago Link. We keep his wife, Dawn, in our prayers as she was unable to attend the Conference and is currently in hospital. 

The Archbishop’s letter on the Human Dignity ‘call’, can be found at: https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/news-and-statements/letter-archbishop-canterbury-bishops-anglican-communion    

The text of his address to the Conference can be found at: 

https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/speeches/lambeth-call-human-dignity-read-archbishop-justins-remarks

This comes with our continued prayers.

Yours,

+Guli Chelmsford

+Roger Colchester

+John Bradwell

+Lynne Barking