8 December 2023

‘Only good’ can come from relationship building at Lambeth: Bishop

Archbishop Justin Welby. Picture: Jacqui J. Sze

Stephen Cauchi 

22 June 2022

Lambeth Conference is unlikely to engage significantly with controversial topics but instead focus on relationship building, according to one Melbourne bishop. 

Organisers are billing the upcoming worldwide bishops’ meeting as one of the most crucial since the event was formed in 1857. 

The conference is once-a-decade meeting of Anglican bishops from across the worldwide Anglican Communion, including bishops and archbishops from Australia. It will be held in the United Kingdom in July and August. 

Diocese of Melbourne’s Bishop Brad Billings said he was not sure exactly what to expect, but it looked like the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted to make the conference as relational and relationship-building as possible, rather than issues driven. 

Read more: The neglected power of dialogue

He said the conference’s key theme would be harmony. 

Bishop Billings said there were no agenda items dedicated to many controversial issues, but he was sure topics such as same-sex blessings within the church would arise. 

But Bishop Billings said the fact that the conference would not have resolutions would keep a lid on controversial discussion. He said the conference was unlikely to have any significant engagement with such topics, because whatever emerged would not have the status of a resolution. 

“They’re looking to not pass resolutions, as I understand it, but to issue calls – like calling on the church to observe or do things,” Bishop Billings said. 

Another controversial topic likely to arise will be the proposal to change the mix of senior clergy who elect the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow for more overseas involvement.  

Bishop Billings said he hadn’t seen any specific Australian-focused issues at Lambeth. 

He said most of the conference agenda would be social issues, matters around Indigenous and First Nations peoples and climate change. 

Bishop Billings said he thought that Archbishop Welby had got it right in terms of Lambeth’s general approach. 

Read more: Future of same-sex marriages may be left to individual dioceses: Melbourne leaders 

“I think it’s a time for the communion to build relationships, repair relationships, seek unity across the difference, all those things. I think the way that it’s sort of been crafted and pitched is what we need at the present time,” he said. 

“I just hope bishops from around the world, who are perhaps not thinking of coming, do come and engage. Because only good can come from fostering relationships with one another. 

“It’s quite easy to take a different view from a distance, but when you’re face-to-face with someone and realise they’re a brother or sister in Christ as well, that can only help.”   

Press material for the event states that it will join the ranks of previous Lambeth Conferences that have met after times of global crises.  

The conference will be held at the University of Kent in Canterbury from 26 July to 8 August.  

There will also be events at Canterbury Cathedral and at Lambeth Palace. It will have the theme of “God’s church for God’s World” and will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to respond to the needs of a 21st century world. 

The conference will feature three addresses from Archbishop Welby, daily keynote addresses from guest speakers, a day of “symbolic action on environmental and economic justice” at Lambeth Palace, opening and closing services at Canterbury Cathedral, and a program for spouses of the attending bishops. 

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