Episcopal and Anglican bishops discuss evangelism, mission and modern parallels to biblical exile – Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service – Canterbury, England] The business part of the Lambeth Conference began on July 30 as more than 650 bishops from across the Anglican Communion gathered at the University of Kent for Bible studies, presentations on mission and evangelism and an endorsement collective statement on these topics of the day. .
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who convened the conference, chose the New Testament letter of 1 Peter to provide its biblical foundation. In the morning session, Welby presented the conference’s first Bible exposition, highlighting how reading the scriptures finds early Christians seeking hope through their belief in Jesus during a time of exile and persecution.
Among the key themes found in 1 Peter, Welby said, are power and authority, hope and suffering, holiness, displacement and hospitality. “Although the world we live in is completely different from Peter’s in the first century and although the world has shifted on its axis over the past 10 years with COVID and other things, the message of 1 Peter is absolutely still relevant,” says Welby. “For many of us, Peter brings up difficult topics, and we’re not going to ignore them. We’re going to talk about them.
The Lambeth Conference, although usually held once a decade, last met 14 years ago in 2008. Welby’s chosen theme for this gathering is “God’s Church for God’s World “, and the first day’s plenary session, on mission and evangelism, turned the attention outward, with a call to offer the good news of Jesus to the world, as a gift for those who are open to hear it.
But conference planners have also been mindful of the need to look inward to address the often seismic divisions within the Anglican Communion. Welby recognized the fault lines of the church in his reflections on 1 Peter.
“We are united in our hope, in our love for Jesus absolutely,” he said. “But as a church – in common, by the way, with all the world churches – we are equally divided, on the assumption that the key themes of 1 Peter mean the same thing to everyone, that my suffering is exactly the same as your suffering. But it is not.”
The threat of persecution is a particularly big difference in how Anglicans around the world live out their faith, Welby noted. Believing in Jesus can be a matter of life and death in some provinces. “In this room, many live in places of persecution, some violent and open, others slightly better hidden,” he said. “And it is difficult for those who are not experiencing the persecution to understand the reality of the recipients of this letter.”
Read the full text of Welby’s Bible Exhibit here.
Theological divisions over human sexuality also erupted at this Lambeth conference, as they have at the previous two, with conservative bishops now pushing for approval of their own resolution affirming majority opposition to same-sex marriage .
Welby stressed that the Lambeth Conference is not a legislative or governing body. And, though he avoided mentioning the controversy directly during his Bible reflections, Welby urged bishops to join in listening, learning and “walking together” out of shared love for God, despite their disagreements.
“The call to us throughout the Catholic Church – the global Church; I’m not just talking about Anglicans – it’s about stopping our civil wars. There are enough of them in the world without having them in our church,” he said. “When we are one in Christ…divisions are erased from power. The power of Christ overcomes all that seeks to alienate, fragment, frighten.
“We may be different. We are divided. But we have a common identity that is above all, that we belong to Jesus Christ.
He concluded by asking the bishops, “What good news do you bring to this gathering?
The planners of this Lambeth Conference, July 26-August 26. 8, instituted a “Lambeth Appeals” process instead of resolutions, partly in recognition that neither Welby nor the Lambeth Conference have authority over its 42 member provinces, including the Episcopal Church. After daily discussions, Lambeth Calls reports are to be finalized with a consensus-building process similar to voting, although planners preferred not to describe it as voting.
After discussing the draft of each of the Lambeth Calls, Bishops will be given electronic devices to state their views in one of three ways: “This call speaks for me”, “This call requires additional discernment or “This call does not speak”. for me.”
The Lambeth Call on Mission and Evangelism was launched July 30 as the first of 10 conference calls, opening the conference on a unifying note. The draft text of the appeal includes the statement: “Every church in the Anglican Communion joyfully shares in this calling to proclaim the good news of the salvation of the world by God in Jesus Christ.”
The afternoon sessions in which the bishops discuss the appeals are closed to the public and journalists, although the Lambeth Conference released the results of the first discussion later in the day. The call was approved by two-thirds of the approximately 450 participating bishops, with another third favoring further discernment.
The topic was also developed in an open plenary earlier today, with Archbishop of York from the Church of England Stephen Cottrell and Archbishop Tito Zavala from the Anglican Church of Chile.
If McDonald’s makes hamburgers and Cadbury makes chocolate, says Cottrell, “the church of Jesus Christ is making disciples. This is our core business. »
But disciples are not just converts, and becoming a disciple is not just about going to church, he continued. “We make disciples and disciples make peace,” he said. “We call it evangelism.”
“What the world needs is what God has lavished on us in Christ,” Cottrell said. He needs hope and he needs reconciliation. It takes humility in the face of environmental damage, he said, referring to what will be a major theme later in the conference. “What the world needs is to know that peace can be found even when there is disagreement.
“And dear brothers and sisters, isn’t this a special opportunity for us this week? We can show the world that despite deep disagreements, what we have in Christ is love.
Zavala spoke of his experience with a focus on planting churches in Chile, as a priest and now as an archbishop. “Our God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – is a missionary god,” he said, and church planting is not a calling God has in store for us in heaven. This is the necessary work of Christians here on Earth, he said.
Zavala also argued that Anglicans around the world must stop being primarily nurturing and work towards becoming a mission-driven church, always looking for new opportunities for growth. Much mission-oriented work is led by lay people, he added, echoing a common refrain from the Episcopal Church about the importance of holding lay leaders accountable.
“We were not called by God to close churches. We were born to plant churches,” he said while describing his work expanding a congregation in Santiago that eventually grew to create new congregations established by some of the original congregation members. From this experience, her province developed a “mother church” model for starting new congregations.
From the start of any newly formed congregation, Zavala encourages local leaders to ask themselves, “What will your next church planting project be? »
The plenary session ended with an encouragement among the bishops to briefly discuss with those seated next to them how such a call is lived out in their local contexts, linking to Welby’s earlier emphasis. on the importance of learning from the stories of others.
Bishop Jacque Boston, Bishop of the Diocese of Guinea in the West Africa Province, speaking to Episcopal News Service, described how the local context can differ significantly within his own diocese, even though his diocese and its province differ in some respects from what many other Anglicans and Episcopalians experience.
Boston Country is predominantly Muslim, so the Anglican Church faces strong resistance from most of its citizens to Christian appeals, he told Episcopal News Service. Christians in some parts of the country also suffer discrimination because of their beliefs, he said. He does not fear persecution personally, in part because he is based in the southern part of the country, which is more tolerant of the Christian minority.
“It’s very difficult,” he said, adding that the Anglican diocese is also struggling with a lack of resources to support evangelistic efforts.
The Lambeth Draft Call on Mission and Evangelism includes 10 specific calls that bishops will be encouraged to take back to their dioceses. Many of them require no financial commitment, which allows them to transcend resource disparities between Anglican provinces. “Every diocese and every church should earnestly seek to be renewed by the wonder and power of the good news of Christ,” says the first request. Another calls on Episcopalians and Anglicans to discern “how to faithfully witness to Christ and authentically proclaim the Gospels.”
Prayer plays a big role. “We pray for each other in this ministry and commit to listening, learning and finding encouragement together in this calling,” one of the posts read.
Other parts of the call to mission and evangelism identify more tangible actions, such as the training and deployment of evangelists, and the final point asks the general secretary of the Anglian Communion “to support and to monitor progress in these areas with the assistance of the Commission on Evangelism and Discipleship”. .”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].