Lambeth conference, 2008

Lambeth conference, 2008

Some of us who attended the 1998 Lambeth Conference were not looking forward very much, if I am honest, to the one in 2008. The 1998 Conference, although it produced a lot of useful documents on mission, unity and human rights and a whole range of other subjects, fell apart on the issue of human sexuality towards the end of the Conference. The plenary dealing with Human Sexuality was the only one that refused to accept a report from a group that had been discussing the issue for three weeks and insisted on altering it, thus losing the balance of that carefully crafted document. The result was a bad tempered debate that soured everything. In reality, the issue of human sexuality had simmered under the surface of the 1998 Conference from the outset and that shows that it isn’t just the consecration of Gene Robinson or public rites of same sex blessings in Canada that are wholly responsible for the present crisis in the Communion. Throughout the ’98 Conference groups met in secret on and off campus, pursuing their own particular views on human sexuality and briefing against each other, so that when it actually came to the Resolutions, there was bound to be a conflagration and indeed, there was.

From the outset, the 2008 Conference – the 14th Lambeth Conference to be held, did not appear to have a dangerous under-current simmering beneath the surface. Everyone knew of GAFCON’s meeting, i.e. the meeting of around 200 bishops who had refused the Archbishop’s invitation to Lambeth and who met in Jerusalem beforehand. Everyone knew that Gene Robinson had not been invited; everyone knew that there were different views on sexuality, and everyone knew about the events that had taken place since ’98, yet there seemed to be a genuine desire on the part of everyone to engage constructively with those holding different views. Admittedly 200 Bishops were absent mainly from Africa, one or two from England and Australia but that too needs to be seen in perspective. Uganda was the only Province not to be represented by a bishop and some of the African Bishops had come under intense pressure from their Primates not to come, even though some of them wanted to. (This tells you something about the power of Primates in some Provinces of the Communion and why some of them fail to understand why the whole Communion does not fall into line when they speak).

It helped to know, of course, that nothing would be decided at this Conference – no Resolutions would be passed as has happened at most Lambeth Conferences. It was a return to the intention of the first Lambeth Conference called in 1867 by Archbishop Longley for brotherly counselling and conferring in response to a crisis caused by the Bishop of Natal who believed in a non literal interpretation of the Scriptures. It is also worth remembering that bishops stayed away in considerable numbers in 1867, including the Archbishop of York and most of the Northern Province. 151 Bishops had been invited, only 76 attended. Connop Thirlwall, the Bishop of St David’s stayed away because he was afraid that colonial Bishops would out-vote the Bishops of the Church of England to which this Province then belonged. One also needs to note that although some bemoaned the lack of Resolutions in the 2008 Conference, many Resolutions passed over the last 100 years were never acted upon. In 1998, only one part of one Resolution, out of 64 pages of Resolutions, has come to be regarded by some as almost the definition of who is and who is not an Anglican. Forgotten are the parts of 110 asking for a listening process on homosexuality, the condemnation of homophobia, and the restriction of sexual relationships between heterosexuals to marriage – at a time if we are honest, when most people who come to be married in Anglican churches in Britain live together beforehand. The only thing that has seemed to count from Lambeth ’98 is the acceptance of the sinfulness of same sex relationships as being binding on all Provinces as if it had legal and not just moral authority.

In 1867 Archbishop Longley said of Lambeth, “it is not competent to make declarations or lay down definitions on points of Doctrines”. In other words, it was not a Synod or a Council, merely an invitation to confer and that is what happened this year. Knowing that no Resolutions or decisions had to be made, gave people both the opportunity and the space to talk openly and honestly.

The 2008 Conference was frustrating for those who wanted definite and binding resolutions. 2008 was more about process than results and being made aware of challenges without immediately trying to solve them. Adversarial debates, procedural rules, and definite resolutions are, in any case, a very Western approach which disadvantages many participants.

The first thing that happened was a retreat – well retreat is a bit of a misnomer when 650 Bishops are involved. Over two and a half days in Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop gave five meditative addresses on the discipleship of Bishops, our roles and the kind of people we are meant to be. Archbishop Rowan is at his best in that context and the ambience of Canterbury was a reminder of how much we have in common as Anglicans. As we filled that nave from every country under the sun, we were taken back to Scripture. Without a seating plan, we sat next to people we didn’t know and that helped bishops to get to know one another. During breaks you saw bishops from different Provinces in twos, threes or more holding conversations and it all contributed to fostering a common purpose, especially since the Close was restricted to bishops. It had also helped as well that before the Conference each of the British provinces hosted bishops from different parts of the world.

We walked in procession for the opening service on Sunday, not by Province, but with whoever we happened to be with. In a Cathedral built primarily in the C14, on a site where Christian worship had been offered for 1400 years, worship was diverse and colourful. The Cathedral Choir sang the wonderful Missa Luba setting of the Eucharist in Latin to an African beat with drums and brass fanfares; there were readings in Korean and French; intercessions in Hindi, Portuguese and Japanese with Melanesian brothers and sisters from the Southern Pacific Solomon Islands, barefoot and bare-chested in grass skirts dancing down the aisle, and Bishop Duleep De Chickera from Colombo, Sri Lanka preached.

Each day morning worship and evening prayer were taken by Provinces in turn and reflected the diverse liturgies, music and languages of the Communion. After breakfast bishops met in groups of eight for bible studies on the “I Am” sayings of St John’s Gospel helped by a specially prepared commentary by a group of biblical scholars drawn from around the world. Again the groups were mixed. In mine there happened to be an English Suffragan, two Americans, the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Bishop of Trinidad and an Australian Suffragan. The aim of reading Scripture together was to open up to one another and tell our different stories, as indeed we did. Clusters of 5 bible study groups – (40 people in all), then met for two hours a day in Indaba groups – a Zulu concept, where people meet to confer and discuss, not make decisions. The idea was to have purposeful discussions where people listen to the concerns of others. When you take a concept such as Indaba, however, you have to make sure you understand it thoroughly and I am not sure that good as the Indaba groups were, we did. We looked at the role of Bishops in terms of their Anglican identity as evangelists, contributors to social justice, ecumenists, contributors to environmental issues and in relating to other faiths. Each group was required to produce some thoughts on the role of Bishops in those areas, which were then fed into a Reflections Group which collated them and then presented them back to Bishops in plenary sessions so that they could further reflect on their collective thoughts. These reflections on the equipping of Bishops for mission and strengthening Anglican identity were then produced as a final report of our time together at the end of the Conference. Zulu Indaba groups do not produce reports, are not time limited and are not forced to produce answers to questions against the clock. Having said that, talking in small and large groups was a useful way of brain storming and meeting different Bishops from across the world and hearing how they viewed their roles. Again, it gave everyone a chance to speak and listen.

The final document “Capturing Conversations and Reflections from the Lambeth Conference 2008” was bound to be a bit superficial, since in previous Lambeth Conferences theological advisers prepared documents beforehand. Yet the Report has useful insights into the work and role of Bishops and it sometimes helps to have these set out in a brief and precise form, and they do reflect face-to-face conversations that the Bishops actually had. It is not the usual conference report but one that has tried to capture the essence of conversations amongst the Bishops. All of this helped us to see how much we have in common, the things that hold us together, and the breadth and the richness of the Communion. It is difficult to convey an experience to people who weren’t there because it’s all so personal but as the report says, “Here are Bishops from the Arctic to the Equator, from mountainous regions to Pacific islands, from shanty towns to wealthy cities, from centuries old dioceses to the newly planted – that is the nature of the universal church”. And “at a time when many in our global society are seeking just the sort of international community we already have, we would be foolish to let such a gift fall apart”. This Conference enabled Bishops, many for the first time, to experience the reality of what it is to belong to the Communion and to appreciate what it is in the words of Archbishop Rowan to have “new habits of respect, patience and understanding”. We learnt that being a Bishop is as different in Australia and America as it is in Africa, Asia or Great Britain. Alongside all of this, there were plenary sessions and talks on evangelism, ecumenism and the environment. There were also a series of what were called “self select sessions” which as the name suggests, Bishops could choose to attend topics such as working with children, youth, climate change, distance learning interpreting Scripture and so on.

If I tried to sum up the insights that came out of the discussions about equipping Bishops for mission, there would be no great surprises in it, but that in itself, shows the many things that we do agree about. It is also an indication about how Anglicans do theology – (talk about God) and perhaps it takes a Conference like this to realise what we so often take for granted, that there is an Anglican way of doing theology. Let me try and sum up what I think we said. God is a God of mission and we are called to engage in His mission. It is not therefore our activity but God’s activity in us and we participate in the movement of God’s love towards people. The local church is concerned both with making new disciples and in fostering the spiritual growth of existing ones. We seek to minister to whole communities, young and old, because part of our Anglican heritage is to have pastoral care for all people. Young people are in a majority in some Provinces and old people in others – but we need to value the constituencies we have. The Gospel, however, is also addressed to the poor, to outcasts, to those on the fringes and to the dispossessed. Mission has to be carried out in the context of the culture of the country in which it operates and so what may be positive, acceptable and fitting in one culture, can be negative, harmful and adversely affect the witness and proclamation of the Gospel in another.

As one reflects on this, one can also begin to appreciate anew the value of belonging to a Province. Provinces help the missionary work of dioceses by sharing information, resources, policies, stories, education and training. It also reminded me that we sometimes forget, as a Province, the importance of the Anglican Communion for others because we live in a safe country. There are Provinces which face persecution and injustice and they believe that things would be much worse for them if they did not belong to a world-wide Communion. Belonging to the Anglican Communion protects them from worse excesses at the hands of their governments.

Mission as well, of course, is about the redemption of the whole of creation, the renewal of society under the reign of God and about ending injustice. Lambeth therefore re-affirmed the Millennium Development Goals that had been endorsed by Resolution in 1998. It is ironic that no-one has been castigated or chastised for not pursuing those as ardently as they might over the last ten years. These Millennium Goals are not just secular goals, but are based on firm theological foundations on Jesus’ manifesto in the synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry in Luke’s Gospel, with his commitment to the poor marginalised and exploited. The Bishops joined in a march of witness in support of these goals in London and were addressed by the Prime Minister who said that it was one of the greatest public demonstrations of faith that London had ever seen. I have never heard the Prime Minister make such an impassioned speech. He acknowledged that the eradication of world poverty is not down to lack of resources but of global political will, a matter to be addressed in September by the United Nations in New York. The Millennium Development Goals seek to eliminate poverty; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality; improve maternal health; reduce child mortality; combat HIV/Aids and ensure environmental sustainability. I am left wondering that had we spent our energy on promoting these goals, rather than on debating sexuality over the last ten years, how different things might be now. As the Prime Minister reminded us, ten million children each year die avoidable deaths from TB, polio, diphtheria and malaria. 77 million children have no schools to attend and 100 million people face starvation in our world today.

I turn now to the question of Anglican identity, which was the second main topic addressed by the Conference. Although it was an underlying issue throughout the Conference, it was specifically dealt with during the last week when the Bishops discussed the authority of Scripture, the issue of human sexuality, the Anglican Covenant and the Windsor process.

The Reflections Group summarised superbly what the Indaba groups had said about the place of Scripture in the Anglican Communion and expressed a classically Anglican view. “Scripture” it said “shapes our Doctrine, worship and community life”. The Scriptures are primary but we read them informed by reason, tradition and from our cultural context as others read them from the perspective of their culture. God’s eternal word to us is Jesus and therefore we read and interpret the Scriptures in His light. It went on to say that whilst Anglicans honour Scripture as inspired and revealed by God, we are also invited to use the resources of the human intellect to interpret texts since in the history of Anglicanism, biblical scholarship and exegetical theology have been honoured and the Scriptures are expounded within varied contexts which shape how they are heard. Moreover, and this is a direct quote, “for Anglicans, the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are understood to be faithful and sufficient statements of the essentials of biblical witness as revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit to us and to the whole church in every generation”. One is then left wondering, in the light of a statement such as this on the Bible, how the Communion has got itself into the mess it has on the issue of sexuality. It’s almost as if it is guilty of a double think and of course as the Canadian Church has pointed out, sexuality may be a doctrinal issue but it is not a credal issue and this statement from Lambeth 2008 also makes that clear. Why is it that as far as Anglicanism is concerned, we do not interpret the Scriptures literally when it comes to issues such as usury or marriage and divorce to name but two, but insist on a literal interpretation of texts that allegedly deal with homosexuality. It is difficult to believe that we have boxed ourselves into this particular corner. Allegorical, symbolical and mythical interpretations are allowed and have been allowed from the time of the Fathers to the present day for every part of the Bible, except for those that deal with sexuality and one is also left wondering why there cannot be diversity on this issue as on so many other moral issues.

It was Archbishop Rowan himself in Lambeth 1998 in a lecture entitled “Making Moral Decisions” who said, “in the Body of Christ, I am in communion with past Christians whom I regard as profoundly and damagingly in error – with those who justified slavery, torture or the execution of heretics on the basis of the same Bible as the one I read, who prayed probably more intensely than I ever shall. How do I relate to that? How much easier if I did not have to acknowledge that this is my community, the life I share, that these are consequences that may be drawn from the faith that I hold along with them. I don’t think simply to condemn them but to stand alongside them in my own prayer; not knowing how in the strange economy of the body, their life and mind work together for our common salvation. I don’t think for a moment that they might be right on matters such as those I have mentioned. But I acknowledge that they knew what their own concrete Christian communities taught them to know, just as I know what I have learnt in the same concrete and particular way. And when I stand in God’s presence or at the Lord’s table, they are part of the company I belong to. Living in the Body of Christ is, in fact, profoundly hard work. The modern liberal is embarrassed by belonging to a community whose history is infected by prejudice and cruelty (and so often tries to sanitise this history or silence it or distance themselves from it). The modern traditionalist is embarrassed by belonging to a community whose present is so muddled, secularised and fragmented (and longs for a renewed and purified church where there are apparently clear rules for the making of moral decisions)”.

In the same essay, the Archbishop says “we need to stay and engage with those who decide differently. We turn from our confrontation in silence to the Christ we all try to look at; to say to one another, from time to time, hopefully and gently, do you see that? That is how I see Him. Can you see too? That’s what an ecumenical encounter is like. Are we capable of a similar methodology when we divide over moral questions? It risks, of course, an unresolvedness”.

And as the Chief Rabbi pointed out to us at Lambeth 2008, Anglicanism has been noted for its diversity, comprehensiveness and graciousness. It has, he said, “held together more graciously than any other religion I know”. And he went on to pay particular tribute to the Church of England school he had attended as a boy in its refusal to proselytise. The present disagreement is also ironic in the light of a statement Lambeth 2008 made about our dealings with other faiths, “Christianity needs to be lived and presented as a way of life rather than a static set of beliefs and there is need for gentleness in our dealings with one another”. If that is true of our dealings with people of other faiths, it is certainly true of the need to deal like that with one another within the Communion. We also need to remember that one of the glories of Anglicanism has been about being held together by our beliefs as contained in historic creeds and formulas but not by agreement to particular statements about that faith in each generation. That is the difference between belonging to a Communion rather than a confession.

What then was said about human sexuality? Lots of self select sessions were given over to this topic. The Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that there was no turning back the clock on the 1998 Resolution. My feeling is that had we had a Resolution on sexuality, I am certain that the majority view would have been not just to reiterate 110 but to strengthen it. The kind of discussions we held enabled lots of different viewpoints to be aired and these were expressed in the final Reflections paper which would not have been possible in a Resolution. Quoting the Anglican Consultative Council of 1976 on the ordination of women, it said “as in the first century, we can expect the Holy Spirit to press us to listen to one another, to state new insights frankly and to accept the implications of the Gospel anew to us whether painful or exhilarating”. It called for the avoidance of judgementalism; it pointed out that we come from different backgrounds and contexts and that all have at times been guilty of treating others with ridicule and contempt. Most Bishops want to remain in Communion and maintain a general space for ongoing discussion. One ought not to, of course, underestimate the frustration felt by those who wanted a much clearer Resolution since homosexual activity is regarded as sinful by the Bible and many come from cultures where there is denial that there are homosexuals in their midst and criminal action is taken against homosexuals in many parts of the world. There is no doubt as well that the consecration of a Bishop living in a same gender union has caused deep upset and outrage and questions both the view of Scripture and tradition, has hampered mission in some parts of the Communion and led to the persecution of Christians in others, and has impaired ecumenical relationships as our Roman Catholic observers told us. On the other hand, in other places, it has sent positive messages about the place of homosexuals in God’s church.

What will happen now? The honest answer is that no-one knows. The Windsor Continuation Group (a bit of a misnomer since no-one on the original Windsor Group is on it) has been charged with picking up the main threads of the Windsor Report and in what it called its preliminary observations called for:

   a) moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions across the Communion
   b) moratoria on the consecration of bishops in same sex unions

and will report to the Anglican Consultative Council in 2009 having spent a great deal of time at Lambeth listening to all kinds of views. It all depends therefore on whether these moratoria will be observed by Provinces. One has to remember here the different polities that operate in different Provinces. In some Provinces it is not just a matter for Bishops alone to decide but for clergy and laity. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in America in 2006 refused to give consent for same sex blessings but whether it will continue to hold that line in 2009 remains to be seen. One could argue, of course, that it is all too late since the Bishops who met at Jerusalem and did not come to Lambeth, whilst saying that they have not withdrawn from the Anglican Communion have to all intents and purposes formed a church within a church. The fundamental question in all of this is whether homosexuality is a matter of choice or not because that should make a difference to the way it is regarded. Lambeth 1988 grasped that point in a way that ’98 did not when it called for “an account to be taken of biological, genetical and psychological research undertaken by other agencies”. In other words, it recognised that experience and reason influence the way we do theology and that information from other disciplines informs and changes our minds as it has done on other issues. The Communion at the minute is deeply divided. As the Reflection Groups noted, for some the way ahead is prohibition and no legalisation or endorsement of homosexual relationships and they look for the strong endorsement of 110. For others, the Gamaliel principle is at work. Let’s just wait and see what happens. Let’s listen more, let’s study the Scriptures theology and other disciplines more carefully and let’s agree to differ in the meantime.

Linked with all of this, of course, has been cross provincial and diocesan interventions. The Windsor Continuation Group has called for a halt to these as well and for the dioceses involved to be cared for in the interim, not by foreign Primates but by a Pastoral Forum. This would mean that existing ad hoc jurisdictions would be held in trust in preparation for their return to their home Provinces, a bit like an escrow account, holding money in trust for their rightful owner on completion of certain undertakings. Again, it is a question of whether those Bishops and Primates who have intervened will cease doing so or would be willing to be involved in such a Forum and it has to be remembered here that at least five Primates have intervened in other Provinces and that cross boundary interventions undermine institutional unity by creating competing jurisdictions and have been condemned by Councils of the Church since the early centuries. The final report of the Windsor Continuation Group will be crucial and will have to be considered carefully by all Provinces.

We come now to the matter of the Covenant. You will remember that we considered a first draft last year, the Nassau Draft, and were not impressed with many of the details – neither were many other Provinces. A second draft, The St Andrew’s Covenant, has been produced and this was discussed at Lambeth and we, as a Province, will have to respond to it fully by next March. In fairness, it is a very different document from the first one and the Covenant Design Group will meet in September to consider it in the light of all the comments that have been made on it at Lambeth.

Where is all this leading? Because of the problems and difficulties caused by recent events, many believe, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the Anglican Communion cannot carry on as before because in his words “the rival bids to give Anglicanism a new shape are too strong”. Therefore he said “we do not want just a federation of churches or an ensemble of purely national churches, or a centralised Communion, but a Communion whose diversity is limited not by centralised control but by consent – consent based on a serious common assessment of the implications of local change – a mutual listening and restraint for the sake of the other”. For the Archbishop, “this Covenant is not about excluding the difficult but an intensification of relations that already exist”.

The concept of a Covenant is unexceptional and there were many positive responses to it. The difficulty lies in fleshing it out. This second attempt at drafting a Covenant is excellent in many ways. It bases the Covenant on the biblical concept of God’s Covenant with us and on classical beliefs about the Scriptures, creeds, sacraments and ministry that bind Anglicans together. It sets out the commitments needed to care for the common good, the respect needed for one another’s autonomy but also too acknowledges the inter-dependent life of the Communion. As the Reflections Report has it, “the Covenant should be about delighting in unity and diversity, rather than imposing uniformity and conformity. It should help affirm our common life and care, rather than restrict life in the churches”. The difficulties arise towards the end of the Draft “in being willing to receive from the Instruments of Communion, a request to adopt a particular course of action in respect of a matter under dispute” and “where a church chooses not to adopt the request of the Instruments of Communion, that decision may be understood to be a relinquishment by that church of the force and meaning of the Covenant’s purpose, until they re-establish their Covenant relationship with other member churches”. The appendix then sets out the procedures for all of this which effectively gives the Instruments of Communion power over Provinces – admittedly with their consent because they will have adopted the Covenant – but it does change the nature of Anglicanism. It also begs the question of what happens if a church can accept the Covenant in principle but not the details of this particular Covenant. The danger is that it could lead to mutual suspicion and reporting, for the appendix elaborates four exclusionary procedures and runs to two thirds of the Covenant itself. All it needs to start the process running is for one Province to complain about another. As I say, the Covenant Design Group will produce a further document in the light of all the discussions at Lambeth and we, and all Provinces, will be asked to respond. The Lambeth Reflections document made it clear that the Covenant is or should pre-eminently be about relationships, mutuality, a voluntary agreement that would also be self limiting for the sake of the other and suggested that it might be the only way that we can continue to relate to those who were not at Lambeth. Having said that, great reservations and concerns were voiced and are listed in the Reflections document and I quote, “it looks punitive, restrictive and limiting rather than facilitating, unity; the Instruments of Communion could become micro managers; it could be expensive to implement and it needs to be a more generous document”.

In the meantime, of course, the difficulties ought not to be under estimated since GAFCON has happened and what that Conference demanded was “that Scripture is God’s word written, and therefore its statements on their plain sense renderings are infallibly true”. That means it will not be able to recognise any liberal readings as legitimate and in fact, several African Provinces have already ex-communicated the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada. Assuming those who attended GAFCON still regard themselves as members of the Communion, how will they use the Covenant under these circumstances? Moreover, GAFCON members do not believe in engaging in dialogue with people with whom they disagree on human sexuality because it means being open to the possibility that the position of one’s opponent might be true when the plain sense reading of Scripture shows in their view that it is not. GAFCON also, whilst it acknowledged “the desirability of territorial jurisdiction” said that this did not apply “to areas where churches and leaders were denying the orthodox faith and therefore sought in North America the formation of a new Province”. In other words, it sought to legitimise interventions.

By now you may be very confused because it is all terribly untidy for no-one really knows where we go from here but that reflects the nature of Anglicanism. Both the Windsor Continuation Group and the Covenant Design Group will have to reflect on everything they have heard in drawing up alterations and modifications to their documents which will be presented to the Primates in early ‘09 and the ACC in Jamaica in April ’09 and therein lies the other problem: who decides the way ahead for the Communion? Is it the Archbishop of Canterbury – or is that too much to put on the shoulders of one person as the office was not meant to bear that weight even though there is great affection for its present holder. Is it the ACC given that there is uncertainty about its function, its size and membership? Is it the Primates whom some see as having too much power although others see them as the only ones able to make decisions on behalf of the Communion. Is it the Lambeth Conference, although that only meets every 10 years, and if so, should it meet more regularly, and what would be the cost of all that?

For my own part, I believe this Conference has shown us the way forward. The real value of the Communion lies in deepening person to person relationships, diocesan partnerships and a sense of mutual affection.

I wish that we could now sit still and do nothing. The Bishops who were at Lambeth 2008 need time to let the nature of that conference sink into their bones. Sometimes in the Church of God, we want to rush into making decisions. We would do well just to stop and reflect. For many people there is no point in having a conference if there are no decisions. The most sensible comment that I have read on this has come from the Bishop of Grimsby who says on his blog “the idea that you cannot meet without a purpose and an outcome is totally driven by contemporary culture, influenced by an economy which only values an activity if it feeds the bottom line”. Surely, he goes on to say, “we will have sold out to the ephemeral values of our age if we fail to celebrate the intrinsic value of worship, prayer study and the recommitment of bishops in mission to their leadership of the church as it works for the Kingdom of God”.

My sense is that most people want a Communion and want to make it work. If however we decide things too quickly and attempt to force Provinces to make decisions, to decide where they stand on various matters when they are not ready to decide, it will all end in tears. We just need at the moment to live with matters being unresolved. Relationship building has to be the way forward. As Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford put it, “God has given us diversity, why do we always have to make it a matter for division?”. Put another way, why cannot a family of differently gifted people carry on listening to and arguing with one another? In the words of one theologian, “the predominant pattern of listening to God in Scripture, is not the simple direct one of the speaking God and the passive recipient. It is the pattern of conversation with God or even arguing with God – just look at the Psalms, the Prophets and Job. The word of God is heard best by those who are willing to argue with God”. And so says this theologian Bill Countryman, “how can we listen and argue with God, whom we cannot see, if we cannot or will not listen and argue with our sisters and brothers whom we have. What is needed is a conversation that is attentive and humble but that also states its own viewpoint”. That is what happened at Lambeth 2008 – that is, in my view, what needs to continue to happen.