By Genieve Blackwell
8 August 2022
As Anglican bishops from around the world gather at Lambeth Conference, each of Melbourne’s Assistant Bishops will be providing reflections on the event. Here Bishop Genieve Blackwell reflects on her experience a few days into the conference.
“Let us not forget about our differences. Let us learn to understand our differences. It is when we understand our differences we can truly work together.”
Wisdom which the outgoing General Secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon shared as he was awarded an honorary doctorate. He learnt this early in his ministry as a bishop in Nigeria and it has shaped his ministry since. For me it sums up what has been so special and invaluable over this last week.
This is gift of being able to work together in the midst of difference. It is that disagreement does not equal division. We can disagree without hatred. It is the difference being able to listen deeply makes. I experienced this most powerfully in my small group. We met together in the same small groups both to do Bible study on 1 Peter and to discuss each call. It was not about changing each other’s minds. It was about understanding more deeply the different contexts in which we are ministering, the differing “roaring lions” we face. It was about understanding more deeply how we were each seeking to be God’s church for God’s world and seeking to feed that back into the call process.
I won’t be able to pass over the image of the devil as a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8 ever again, having listened to Archbishop Jackson from Kenya. He described the roar of a lion shaking everything in the house from personal experience. Brought up as a shepherd, he learned to hunt a lion and as he reflected on it later those taking on the lion were united in their confusion. The lions looked very different in our Bible study group. But there was a commonality in terms of authorities and organisations which did not seek the common good, inequality and environmental issues, and within the church resisting the undermining of our confidence in Christ – the risen and abundant life of Christ.
As part of the Gender Justice Seminar, I had the privilege to share the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne’s short film Call to Commitment shown at our last synod. It was an opportunity to highlight our Prevention of Violence Against Women Program addressing inequality between women and men as a key social enabler of violence against women, and what can be achieved embedding a program in a diocese. Another powerful short film from the Diocese of Bondo in Kenya highlighted their work with men to end gender based violence, led by the Reverend Domnic Misolo. We can learn from each other.
Archbishop Justin Welby’s second keynote ended with these powerful and challenging words:
“Revolution should be part of the institutional life of those who proclaim Christ … A church that leaves the world unchanged around it has been changed by the world. A church that leaves people unconverted has been converted to the world. A church that neglects its internal justice, righteousness and mercy will live unjustly, ruthlessly, and sinfully. A church that is not a place of peaceful revolution will be a church only of history. But a church that acts righteously, loves mercy, seeks justice will find the peace of God, the presence of the Spirit, and the call of Christ. A church that gives light to the lost will find light in all its relationships and will live in love. A church of God’s revolution will be a church that from generation to generation to generation will see a world transformed. It has happened before. It is God’s grace that will make it happen again. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.”