Questions and Answers from the Launch of Lambeth Conference
Monday 21st January 2008The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and his wife Mrs Jane Williams, answer questions about the Lambeth Conference.
Question: Will there be voting or resolutions or any papers as there have been in previous conferences? And secondly, please can I have a comment on GAFCON.
Archbishop of Canterbury: There will be resolutions. We're hoping that we won't have quite such a formidable line up of plenary sessions dealing with resolutions in the last few days to leave ourselves some space. On GAFCON and the proposed conference in Jerusalem, I think it is important to remember that before the last Lambeth conference and indeed on other occasions there have been major international gatherings regionally, or in other ways constructed preparing for Lambeth and I am very happy to see such regional events going forward. But I do have real concerns that in this case there are unresolved concerns for the local Church, the Church in Jerusalem, which has pinpointed some real anxieties about having such a conference at this time in the Holy Land. I really hope that those can be addressed.
Question: What are those anxieties?
ABC: They have been expressed by the Bishop in Jerusalem. They are on record.
Question: To Archbishop Ian; in October 2007 you hosted a Primates meeting. You also signed a communiqué calling for the Lambeth Conference to be postponed yet you are here now. Please can you explain what has changed between October and now?
Archbishop Ian: Nothing has changed. It is only that because the potential postponement we thought that we should bring this to his attention. Being part of the design group and after talking to the Archbishop we thought that in order to bring it to his attention we should meet. We should be engaging with each other and be able to see how best we are able to serve the Anglican Communion and want it to be in unity .
Question: So presumably do you disagree with everything that you said in October?
Abp Ian: No I don't disagree with it. Its that we wanted to see how best we could serve the Communion in the sense that if we asked for a postponement just to ... we thought it would be best to call the Lambeth Conference and I do agree with that.
Question: What is the Lambeth Conference going to do about homosexuality?
ABC: There are two ways in which we are going to be looking at this question. There is a whole day in the timetable which is around sexuality questions as they affect the ministry of Bishops and part of that, a very important part, will be the reporting back of the listening process which has been set in motion which Canon Phil Groves of the Anglican Communion Office has been overseeing in the last year or so. And because the last Lambeth Conference asked for listening to go on and the Communion has taken that seriously, that needs to be reported. So that particular day is one way we will be addressing this. The other of course if that it is inevitably going to be part of the conversations informally, day by day as people will bring to the conference what their anxieties are and what their hopes are. So I would expect it to be both informal and formal in a sense. There will not be a resolution on this subject.
Question: Will you have any statement or report?
ABC: Well we haven't met yet. And it's just possibly there may be other things that people would like to talk about.
Question: Could I ask Mrs Williams, how many spouses are expected and how many will be male spouses?
Jane Williams: We are expecting pretty well all the married Bishops to bring their spouses with them. So....I can never count but that's quite a lot. There will be slightly fewer men then there were last time but there will still be three or four I think.
Question: There has been a lot of talk about the telling of stories and you are giving a lot of time to the telling of stories. Could you explain why you think it's so important to be telling stories?
JW: It is partly that it is just a way of getting to know one another best. So that we've found and I imagine your Planning group found the same, we certainly found in our planning group that the time we spent asking how's it been in the last year, what are the things that have been on your heart, were things that made our faith, our fellowship and the point of our being together most clear. So it's no good talking about things in the abstract if we don't know how it fits into peoples' lives.
ABC: Perhaps I could just underline that and say that what I would really like to see happening at the Lambeth Conference is people starting to talk in the first person and second person rather than the third all the time. And that can't happen unless there is a degree of space given for people to get to know each other. I understand that storytelling sounds somewhat a soft option when there are big issues to discuss. In fact I don't think that's true. I think that we effectively we discuss crises, challenges when we have built up a measure of trust and understanding and I think therefore is absolutely essential for a reasoned discussion to have that element built in.
Question: Have you decided yet whether Bishop Gene Robinson will attend in any capacity, and what is your message to those bishops who are threatening to boycott the Lambeth Conference?
ABC: Gene Robinson has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference, and it's proving extremely difficult to see under what heading he might be invited to be around, and that's where we are. To those bishops who don't wish to attend, I recognise their absolute right to choose in good faith and in conscience whether or not they can be there. The invitation's on the table; naturally I shall be delighted to see more rather than fewer bishops there, that's their choice – but the door is open.
Question: One of the reasons the Anglican Communion is in a spot of bother at the moment is that there are different understandings of Anglicanism. Are you expecting the conference to address those, and can you say something about the covenant?
ABC: Willingly. You're right; there are different understandings around and when I say that part of the focus of the whole Conference will be reinforcing Anglican Identity,. I would like it to be an event from which we can go feeling we're clearer about where the centre is and what the essential Mission of Anglicanism is. That means we've built into the daily programme, which I've got somewhere ... a couple of sessions on Anglican Identity, on Hermeneutics, on the science of interpretation and on Evangelism and Mission. So we would hope that that will be essential to the conference's working. The Covenant will be discussed briefly early on and in more detail towards the end. We want to see in the interim how people have reacted, what people want to put into that process.
Question: You mentioned, Archbishop, 70 percent of Bishops are formally registered for the conference – would you say that was par for the course for the moment or are you in fact quite pleased that some of the predictions of doom that the conference will not take place?
ABC: Well, naturally I am always pleased to see prophecies of doom overturned! I think it does indicate that there is a very wide-spread desire to work at this and I really welcome this and thank God for it. It's worth mentioning that last Lambeth conferences have had their ups and downs in their respect as well. And I hate to say it in this company but the Archbishop of York refused to attend the first Lambeth Conference!
ABC: He was very young at the time ...
Question: Archbishop, have you considered going really radical and inviting everybody, so Martyn Minns and Gene Robinson; secondly, the Lambeth Conference is one of the Instruments of Communion and if, say, 75 percent came, and 25 percent stayed away, would that in your view constitute the beginnings of formal schism?
ABC: I was wondering when the 's' word was going to be mentioned!. The answer to your first question is yes of course I'd consider it, but, among other considerations I thought it best to stick fairly closely with what the Windsor Report recommends - that we should see this as an event for those who have accepted the general direction of the Windsor Report and haven't flown in the face of its recommendations. So, considered, but not gone with.
As for percentages – because the Lambeth Conference isn't a legislative body, and there's not a question of 'is it quorate?' to be settled, I think if a substantial number of people are still absent from it, which is not unlikely, that simply gives us work to do. It's not the end of the world. As I've said, there are a number of other ways to meet and relate to one another and I would hope that we would put a lot of energy into those other ways. I don't know if the colleagues on my left would like to comment on that, as coming from other parts of the Communion? (pause) Or not... (laughter)
Question: So no schism yet?
Question: Are you going to disinvite Bishop Schofield now that he's been inhibited?
ABC: I'm waiting really on what comes out of the American House of Bishops discussion of that. It's not something I've got a position on yet. At the moment he still has an invitation.
Question: Archbishop Ian; is it still your hope to go to Dallas later this week?
Abp Ian: No.
Question: Dr Williams, what would you say to Bishops in Rwanda in America who haven't been invited to Lambeth?
ABC: I'd say what I've just said; that the Windsor Report and the whole succession of agreements by primates and Lambeth Conference resolutions have discouraged this sort of intervention between provinces; I can't really sit light to that.
Question: I was very pleased to hear about the practical things, like the Mothers' Union and the spouses talking about practical outreach and caring for internally displaced people and how the church can be seen as a help in the community; will those opportunities be discussed with chances for bishops; if so to engage and share stories and share activities like that, and in what way?
Abp Ian: We are having groups where we will be story telling where we shall be able to engage in conversation n in sharing of experiences and talking of our own realities and how best we can address them.
ABC: Perhaps I can just address that; we have a day on 'Transforming Society' for the bishops; we also have a day on safeguarding creation, and because obviously a big international conference like this poses a big environmental question, perhaps since no-one's asked the question I'll answer it anyway, we are looking at offsetting and we have a particular scheme in mind which will go towards offsetting the carbon footprint, so that is something practical that the conference itself will be able to do
Question: Can you illustrate that ... how will it offset?
ABC: Well we haven't got all the details sorted yet, we have about I think about 90% certainly that we'll be able to look at effectively a reforestation programme to which the conference will be able to contribute in substantial part.
Question: Some bishops have raised concerns not just about he attendance of Gene Robinson but also about those who participated in his election and what are your reflections on that and are you concerned that by inviting those Episcopal church bishops who did participate that that too has a knock-on effect on the numbers who will come from elsewhere?
ABC: It's obviously been an issue in my thinking about it, but I'd say two things; one is that exactly where to draw the line on electors, consecrators, those who weren't in office at the time, those who have come into office since, those who have participated in those events but then said they wished they hadn't, that all complicates it quite a lot and the second thing is that the House of Bishops has corporately expressed regret for that in the United States, and while many people don't regard that as wholly adequate, it's something which makes it difficult to regard it as something which is just an open question. I want to go with peoples' good faith on this.