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Posts from Lambeth 2022

Bishop Hughes in front of Lambeth Palace. DAVID R. SMEDLEY PHOTO

Bishop Hughes in front of Lambeth Palace. DAVID R. SMEDLEY PHOTO

Bishop Hughes is posting reflections and photos from the 15th Lambeth Conference on her Facebook page. They are being collected here in chronological order. The photo gallery includes her own photos plus additional photos posted by her husband David Smedley, and others, in which Bishop Hughes was tagged.

Eve of Lambeth - July 26

Much prayer, conversation, and work has led to a changed draft [of the Lambeth Calls]. It truthfully names where we are as churches associated with each other but in different settings and culture. We do not agree about human sexuality and we remain in conversation and relationship with each other.

The passage in The Human Dignity Call, has been changed and no longer seeks to reaffirm 1.10 Lambeth 1998. Additionally, each bishop can vote “No, I do not agree” to any call. Grateful for the many hands that worked on this, for being heard, for the countless people who continue to pray, and for so many bishops remaining in the conversation and at the table.

I admit I still feel nervous, but dinner and sleep will be a big help.

Day 1 - July 27

Looking back on the first day. A lot of walking, a lot of stairs, and therefore a lot of being careful with my knees. It has forced me to take things slowly and be intentional about movement. Not being able to keep up with a fast moving crowd has made for good conversation with others who need to move slowly or that choose to join my pace.

The highlight of my day was meeting my Tuesday zoom group for the first time after being on calls discussing our ministry and studying 1 Peter together. One of them is a classmate from seminary. For VTS 2005 friends our classmate Bishop Given Gaula - Diocese of Kondoa was in my group!

Finally — Mr. Bishop, as he is fondly called by some folks in our diocese, is my rock. Glad, once again, that I said “yes.”

Day 2 - July 28

This day was so full of meaning and activity. Bishops everywhere you look all over Canterbury Cathedral, when our day ended the streets were a sea of purple shirts. The spouses were at U of Kent all day as we went on separate retreat days. It was a good and prayerful entry into our time here.

Two highlights: Meeting Bishop Aime' Joseph Kimararungu of Gitega in Burundi. His diocese has received two Alleluia Fund grants from the Diocese of Newark to build a well and sanitation service in a community without reliable water sources. I asked how the project had worked out and part of the success was the project led to planting a church. Wow! We have made a plan to stay in contact here and long after the conference ends.

Dr. Esther M. Mombo was one of the speakers and asked the question that needs to be asked and answered around the full communion. Whose kingdom — the Church’s, the Empire’s, or God’s? So fun to be in the room with her again. Trinity - Ft. Worth folks will remember her for preaching and teaching during her year in residence at Brite Divinty School.

Sitting and chatting with Dr. Mambo and Bishop Emily Onyango, the first woman elected to the Episcopacy in Kenya, was a great joy and full of insight. It was one of several moments where I felt grateful, humbled, and blessed by ministry of faithful women around the world.

Even with all the joy and high spirits of this day, I remain aware that we have hard work to do. I am grateful for your prayers.

Day 3 - July 29

I was determined to capture the sound of 650 bishops, musicians, speakers, and staff singing on our second day of retreat. I tried and what played back did not even come close to capturing it. I have that same difficulty with naming all that I see, hear, experience, and learn at Lambeth.

There are more grace filled and blessed moments than I can count. It seems the delight of being together continually fuels our interactions. While it is sad and odd for some to choose not to receive communion in response to the presence of LGTBQ+ bishops and allies, the vast majority of us prayed, sang, and received communion together. The Holy Spirit was not limited by our disagreement. She turned up and continued her work in and through us.

Retreat ended at midday and the afternoon was all about the spouse group photo followed by the bishop group photo. Three hours to set up and two minutes to get the photo. Spirits were high, the afternoon was hot, and once again I was humbled by the company I am keeping.

Then the day kept going with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s first address. It was just what I needed to hear. And if you love God and are worried about the world we live in, please go online and listen. He gave a message meant for Lambeth and that spoke to every believer. In essence he said, this is not the time for infighting, but rather the time to deal with the terrific challenges facing humankind right now. I agree and am convinced church fights are an instrument of evil to keep us from our calling to bring God’s love, mercy, and healing to the world.

It was a long and wonderful day. I am humbled to be one of the 97 in the women bishops photo. God does amazing things.

Bishop Hughes appears at 3:44 in this highlights video from Day 3 at Lambeth.

Day 5 - July 31

Sunday at Lambeth was spectacular. Worship was a beautiful expression of who we are and how we love God. Multiple languages were used for readings, prayers, and song. Classical choral anthems, praise songs, the Zinafe choir singing in Zimbabwean, African drums, a contemporary band, and the organ all added to an expansive expression  of Anglican worship. It was glorious, diverse, and inspiring.

I was surprised to see how much is being made in news sources of the global south bishops who have chosen not to receive communion. Let me be clear, their number is small and most bishops, that means hundreds of bishops are receiving communion. Yes, the division is obvious, but even more obvious is the genuine caring and affection growing among all of us. I do not know how the Holy Spirit gets her work done, but I can tell you she is busy drawing us into deeper relationship with each other. I trust her to help us navigate division. I have more to say about the rest of the day but I want to wrap this one up with one more thing about the opening Eucharist.

What I wished the media picked up was the stirring sermon given by Bishop Vicentia Kgabe Lesotho, South Africa. If you love God and want to know how to show that love in your ministry, go to the Lambeth Conference site and listen to it. Her closing words will stay with me for a long time. "As I conclude, my prayer is that during our time together and beyond,
May God’s name be hallowed and not ours!
May God’s will be done and not ours!
May God’s kingdom come and not ours!"

Day 8 - August 3

Over the past week I have been learning just how deep and wide the bonds of friendship and affection are between the provinces of the Anglican Communion. We are not connected by legislation, confessional statement, theological treatise, rules, central authority figure like a pope, or canon law.

We are connected because of our love for Jesus and our desire to be together. These connections are informed by Holy Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, and nurtured by years, in some cases decades or centuries, of shared ministry. This communion of churches, clergy, and people is a unique and special community.

For just over a week now I have watched Archbishop Justin Welby do what leaders of groups of every kind have been doing since the start of pandemic. He is working very hard to keep our community, the Anglican Communion, together. It is a complicated task.

Against a backdrop of colonialism in which British missionaries evangelized the people of colonized lands and alongside a growing recognition that the voices of underrepresented groups must be heard, comes the conflict around human sexuality. As one of my brother bishops explained to me, “the missionaries brought us Jesus and the church. They taught us to have one wife and that marriage is a sacramental rite for one man and one woman. So this is what we do and believe.” Across the globe those lessons were learned and incorporated into local customs and traditions.

Meanwhile Anglicans in western countries have spent decades studying, praying, writing theology about the place of LGBTQ+ people in our church and world. We believe that all people are beloved creations of God. For us, all means every single person, including LGBTQ+ folks too. Our ministry with, by, and for LGBTQ+ people is an important part of who we are as church. This is what we do and what we believe.

Today we looked at the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity. This call ignited a firestorm a two weeks ago as it recalled Lambeth 1998 resolution #1.10 that was prescriptive and restrictive towards LGBTQ+ people. Additionally, with little notice about the Lambeth Calls and its process, we were informed that we would vote on on those documents.

Since the bumpy start of the conference, Archbishop Justin has offered several new versions of this call and other calls. Each day since the program began, includes a presentation about one of the calls. The Archbishop has spoken with candor and consistently sought our feedback and input on the calls. Various creative attempts at voting have been tried and eventually abandoned for more time in conversation and intentionally seeking our feedback.

Archbishop Justin’s leadership has become more expansive and expressive each day. He speaks in a forthright manner while firmly guiding us to face the facts of where we are now. A vital component of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ministry is to unite the communion. Helping us to grapple with the differences of beliefs and theologies we hold within the communion is a truthful approach to a complex situation.

I do not know if he can keep us united, but I openly admit that I am pulling for him. I am pulling for us. I hope we decide that our relationships are more important than our rightness. I hope we can live our individual calls to ministry despite the differences between us.

Archbishop Justin ended his talk with us yesterday with this quote from the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity, “As Bishops we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues.” That is what this week has been about. That is what the Anglican Communion is about. And it seems to me, that is what every facet of life is about. I have great hope for us and for the whole wide world.


Day 8 - August 3 (continued)

Today we took a break from our regular routine and traveled to Lambeth Palace, the London home of Archbishop Justin and Caroline Welby. Imagine inviting 1200 people to lunch in the garden of your home. On arrival we received a program booklet and letter from Queen Elizabeth. The main focus today was care of creation and the climate. The secondary focus was a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. And then there was God’s focus which so often sends us on a mission far different from what was planned.

At lunch I sat next to Junia, spouse of a Sudanese bishop. She told me stories of painful situations and a long delayed hope for life without war or terror. She longs to visit the USA, but insisted that I visit her diocese first. “We need to see you. And you need to see us in Sudan.” She then asked me to pray: 1) for children and youth to get education. Exile due to war has destroyed schooling. 2) for widows who are deciding that death by suicide is a better alternative than rootlessness and endless violence. 3) for an end to war.

Her spirit seemed heavy with countless burdens she tends. These days at Lambeth have been a respite for her. She needed to share her story as much as I needed to hear it. We prayed together and she asked for my promise to keep praying for her and the people of her diocese.

I have felt the comfort and power of your prayers while at Lambeth. Please add Junia your daily prayer list. This too is what being part of the Anglican Communion is about.

Day 11 - August 6

Friday was the first day that I could see and feel the end of the conference approaching. It seems as if the limited time we have left infused today’s speakers with heightened energy and insight. Sometimes the best is saved for last, or in this case almost last. Here is what I heard that I want to hold onto for years to come:

"We are revolutionaries... the Christian revolution must be one of mercy and forgiveness, generosity and engagement. Revolution should be part of the institutional life of those who proclaim Christ."
Archbishop Justin Welby

“We are trying to form Christians, not churchians.”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

“People have been threatening to leave the Anglican Communion for a long time. I am telling you it is a new beginning to the Anglican Communion and we are threatening to stay!”
Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell

It was the last day of our small group. I left with mixed feelings. I am grateful for the time we had together and even more aware of the incredible divide that is between us. I also cannot help but feel the tension about sexuality between predominantly white provinces, like ours, who seem hopeful and those in some of the predominately black provinces who feel silenced. I am glad for the challenging small group experience and I am exhausted from it too. I leave it with my eyes wide open, recognizing the struggle continues and in some cases it is a life or death struggle. I do not know if the relationships begun in our group made any difference to any of our thinking or beliefs, but we all left knowing the individuals of our group. We know each other’s beliefs, hopes, burdens and worries. I trust God to hear and answer our prayers for each other and our dioceses.

I rejoice that for these 10 days we have been one people, focused on God’s tender love and mercy for all people and all of creation. And I hope we continue to find our way together for a very long time. The quotes above, along with those of Dr. Esther M. Mombo during our retreat and Bishop Vicentia Kgabe at the opening Eucharist, mean the world to me because the speakers voiced truths we need to hear. Listen up Diocese of Newark, northern New Jersey needs us to remember what we are about: a revolution of God’s love and mercy. I am praying for you and our shared ministry. David and I remain grateful for your continued prayers. Please keep Junia on your prayer list.

Day 12 - August 7

One more plenary and worship service tomorrow and Lambeth will come to a close. We did not coast today and many others have posted the details of the day. Rather than review the day, here are three items that have my attention as I head to bed way past my bedtime.

First, Archbishop Justin and team devoted themselves to holding us together. Time will tell in the long run, but during the 12 days of Lambeth hundreds of bishops have worked diligently to get to know each other. We talked about our lives, ministry, and dioceses. We chose to be in relationship with each other and this time has been a blessing to our spirits. I leave with three places on my heart to hold in prayer: Burundi, El Salvador, and Kenya.

Second, I am grateful for the expanded view of who we are as the Anglican Communion. Sometimes we do not know what we don’t know. This gave us all a chance to know more about the breadth, depth, and width of the Anglican Communion.

Finally, tonight was our night to join Archbishop Justin and Caroline Welby for dinner at their home. They have done this every night of the conference. Listening to David and the Archbishop of Canterbury talk about educational needs in the city of Newark left me with an even greater appreciation of David who has been a steady support throughout the conference.

Another full and wonderful day. Alleluia and amen.

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