Monday, 4 August 2008

Lambeth, Back Home!

Dear Ones,

Well, I am actually back on US soil and looking forward to a few weeks of vacation with my family, who is with me now. I missed them so. My last Lambeth post will be my pastoral letter to the diocese, just sent out tonight and posted now here. Blessings to you all! For those who commented, thanks for taking the time to peer in. I hope it was helpful!

A Pastoral Letter in response to Lambeth Conference from the Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Bishop of Olympia to the People of the Diocese.

Dear Ones,

A message from our Presiding Bishop

Lambeth 2008

Many bishops came to this gathering in fear and trembling, expecting either a distasteful encounter between those of vastly different opinions, or the cold shoulder from those who disagree. The overwhelming reality has been just the opposite. We have prayed, cried, learned, and laughed together, and discovered something deeper about the body of Christ. We know more of the deeply faithful ministry of those in vastly differing contexts, and we have heard repeatedly of the life and death matters confronting vast swaths of the Communion: hunger, disease, lack of education and employment, climate change, war and violence. We have remembered that together we may be the largest network on the planet – able to respond to those life and death issues if we tend to the links, connections, and bonds between us. We have not resolved the differences among us, but have seen the deep need to maintain relationships, even in the face of significant disagreement and discomfort. The Anglican Communion is suffering the birth pangs of something new, which none of us can yet fully appreciate or understand, yet we know that the Spirit continues to work in our midst. At the same time patience is being urged from many quarters, that all may more fully know the leading of the Spirit. God is faithful. May we be faithful as well.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

The statement is available on EpiScope

For complete coverage, be sure to check Episcopal Life Online

Dear Ones,

In the last day of our Lambeth Bible study, we studied John 20:1-19, “that through believing you may have life in his name.” In it we found that we, as Christians, most fully lead our lives as wounded and risen at the same time. The same might be said of this Lambeth Conference. Certainly, we entered this Lambeth with emotions, hopes and wishes that were all over the map. Regardless of just where you might be on that spectrum, I think it would be fair to say we entered Lambeth both wounded and risen. As we now see its end, I don’t see it much differently, but I would say that those who attended are different; we could not help but be so.

At the beginning of the conference a bishop gave us this quote from Mussolini: “It is not that governing Italy is impossible, just pointless.” I am not sure why that has stuck with me but I must say that this wonderful sacred mystery we call the Anglican Communion is a difficult thing to manage or govern. Perhaps God does not exactly want that. The great gift of the Anglican Communion has always been its very uniqueness in the face of many different styles of church throughout the world. All our ecumenical partners who were invited in as full participants said over and over that Anglicanism offers a unique witness in Christianity, and in the religious world, and they hoped we would stay together to be a witness to it.

The struggles we have had and continued to have in these almost three weeks can be summed up in the following manner: We are trying to solve our differences with a modern process imposed upon a postmodern problem. Another way to put it would be from Ron Heifetz’s work, Leadership without Easy Answers: we are trying a technical fix when we have an adaptive challenge on our hands. Our leading edge these past weeks was not to succumb to that temptation. More importantly, I think Jesus operated this way as well. He often led those around him to the most unlikely places, through the most unlikely people.

As the world has become more global so has the Church. It often does not do us well to try to have relationship in this instantaneous communicative world we live in. One can nary have a fleeting thought before it is posted on the World Wide Web, and this does not help our conversations. I am sure the web is humming already. What we had this last three weeks is real conversation, the face-to-face kind, where memos and e-mails cannot hide the incarnated being right before your eyes. There is no delete button or hiding behind the computer screen here. And there is nothing that can substitute for the experience of the primitive ancient church practice and reality of gathering around the Scripture in a small group, under a tree or around a table.

That is not to say that all the conversations during this time have been chummy, as they might say here in England. No; they were direct, even strident at times, but at least we were in the room together. We had to deal with each other. And on this last day, as we shared our hopes and dreams before we left, especially with those in our Indaba and Bible study groups, we realized we had put ourselves in the hand of God, and with Jesus as our guide, the vast majority had been solidified in one thing even if not changed as far as position or theological stripe: we value each other and we value this communion, even more deeply than when we arrived. Tears were shed, smiles were shared, vows were made to pray for one another and to share and talk, even when the rough times come, and we know they will.

I give great credit to the Archbishop of Canterbury in proposing and following through with an agenda and way of being at this conference that was centered on relationships, not legislation. As he said in one of his speeches, “For those of you who are unhappy or wish to criticize this approach, let me ask you: Have the old ways really been all that effective?” He has a very good point. I know many of you are divided as to trusting him or not. I can only tell you he is human, too; he has his strong desires and he is in a most difficult place. In all Christian charity, for now, I intend to trust the current process and work with our Presiding Bishop and our House of Bishops in working with the communion.

The senior bishop in my Indaba, from another province, offered this analysis before he left: a narrative is being proposed by some in the communion and by many in the press that the Anglican Communion is at war and is totally divided. The narrative says that everyone in the communion is in one or the other of these camps. Instead, there is a narrative, what he called the truer narrative, which suggests just what we have lived at Lambeth 2008—those two ends of the spectrum do in fact exist, but there is a huge center that simply wants to get along with mission and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. I would add to this the even more important narrative that we cannot lose: that everyone on that spectrum—everyone, the left, the right, the center—is living out of a deep commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they have received it, in their context, and are trying to live that with the greatest integrity they can.

We did not resolve anything at Lambeth 2008; however, we did get closer to one another. We did have time to listen to one another. And, as we gather and discuss this in the months and years ahead, I would be glad to share some of the great misconceptions about us and some we had about others that were made clear by our sharing. These alone were worth the price of attending.

One bishop “listener,” the 16 tasked with collecting all of the inputs and putting them into some coherent statement, claimed her frustration by saying there was no way to be scribe and poet at the same time. And I would add even the poet could not completely articulate what has happened to those of us who have walked together during these last days.

I have begun new relationships that I hope will lead to work and relationship for all of us. One very promising connection is with the Rt. Rev. Michael Sande of the Diocese of Butere in Kenya. He and I met several times this week, along with Nedi, and I see the possibility of a growing connection. My Indaba group formed a statement on climate change and the environment which I will publish some time later. Nedi wrote a Rule of Life for us and it is being widely sought after now as a way for us to hold each other in prayer.

So I say to you we still have work to do, in our diocese, in the Episcopal Church and in our Anglican Communion. I am not sure where it will all lead. But the truth is we will always have work to do. It is who we choose to walk with while we do the work that deserves our attention. I do know friends from all over this communion now, who believe in Jesus Christ and his power, and who want to be in relationship with us, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything. They know the truth of, and are willing to stay in, the wounded and risen nature of our life together.

At our last General Convention I heard a story; I believe it was a visiting Korean Anglican who said to one of our deputies, “We have a story in our country, that porcupines must hug one another to get through the winter. It is painful, but in order to survive they must hold each other tight. It seems your church is in the winter now.” Wounded and risen. Our Indaba, to my great joy, ended its last time together with my favorite prayer in the prayer book and I leave you with it now, too.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever." AMEN




  1. Really beautiful post Greg. About 4 hours ago 8 youth from St. Margaret's, Bellevue got back from San Francisco and a mission trip serving with liberal Presbyterian, conservative Baptist and Lutheran and other Episcopalian youth. Not one of them cared about what happened at Lambeth. Every one of them cared about the folks in San Fran's Tenderloin district who are addicted to drugs and can't afford housing or food.

    I'd be willing to wager that the same youth, and youth around the world, will be more interested in teaming with Kenyan parishioners than arguing with bishops of any nationality about sexuality. Therein lies the hope. Thanks for realizing that.

    Grace and Peace, and welcome back to Seattle,


  2. Tim, So very well said, I would suspect you are right on, and I look forward to working with you on just that!