Thursday, August 14, 2008

Article written for General Parish Newsletter

Reflections of a Lambeth Steward
By Allie Graham

Having spent the past month across the pond, I can say it's good to be home! But in a way it often felt like I was home the entire time. For the past four weeks I've had the honor of serving as a Steward at the Lambeth Conference – the decennial conference of all the bishops in the Anglican Communion – at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

As a brief background, the Anglican Communion is made up of 39 provinces, which are basically national churches, of which we – The Episcopal Church, USA – are a part. All of these national churches are descended in some way from the Church of England, and are all united through “bonds of affection.”

Bishops and spouses from all across the communion gathered to discuss and grow in their ministries and faith as well as to discuss issues facing the church and the world. We as stewards were there to provide support, security, facilitate events when necessary, answer questions, move objects, and to generally be there for the conference organizers. The stewards were Anglicans between the ages of 19 and 35 from 18 different countries spread over six continents. Between all of us we spoke 30 different languages not including Hebrew, Latin, and Ancient Greek. There were eight Americans, each from a different diocese, who brought very different viewpoints and experiences to the conference.

While the media, who were restricted in where they were allowed, generally portrayed the conference as something that was either negative or futile, as someone who was in allowed in almost all of the venues and sessions, I would have to say that it was a very positive event. While the hope of many Americans and Canadians – the full inclusion of all of God's children into all orders and sacraments of the church – was not attained, there were steps forward. For a communion that many in the media claim is “broken,” all of the stewards heard bishops saying to each other:
“I like you, I'm drawn to you, I see God in you, but I disagree with you strongly, and I don't know what to do with this information.”

This was an accomplishment.

This however might not be where many of us in the west wish we were, but it is a far better place than we were in before hand. Much else was discussed as well-- poverty, the environment, improving ministry, the role of a bishop, and young adult issues were only some of the issues covered.

But more importantly, we were Anglicans, celebrating our faith and history together, worshipping together, eating together, and meeting the queen together. Yes, really. Well, not all of us met Her Majesty, but we all got within a few feet of her during the garden party at Buckingham Palace. Prime Minister Gordon Brown also dropped by our lunch at Lambeth Palace in London to give one of the most dynamic speeches of his time as PM.

I had the opportunity to hang out with both of our bishops and their spouses (+George and Ruth Councell and +Sylvester and Eva Romero) as well as with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife Jane. After the conference, Archbishop Rowan actually joined the stewards for almost all of a two day retreat! I was actually able to sit across from him at lunch, and we all had some fun conversations.

For whatever the press reported, the Lambeth Conference – though weakened because there were some could not or did not attend - helped to strengthen the bonds of affection within the communion, and at the very least, left the status quo and provided a wonderful time for worship, fellowship, photo-ops, and growing in God's love.


Ann said...

There has never been a Lambeth Conference where all the bishops who were invited - attended. It has ranged from half to 3/4+.
Thanks for your reflections from the inside. I did not think our coverage was that the conference was futile or negative although we were pretty disappointed in the ABC speeches pimping the Covenant - especially the punitive aspects of that document. All the good of the Indaba groups could be undone if we go with legalism of the Covenant.

FranIAm said...

Thanks for your words Allie- I read every post you put up.

You know I am on the outside looking in - here in my progressive Roman diocese where I am happy and a conservative TEC diocese that would not be for me anyway.

However, my online community of Episcopal and Anglican bloggers is very important to me and we are all connected.

I feel like my faith is informed and my life is enriched by you all.

Thanks and God bless.

Pierre said...

All of you stewards were wonderful! Thank you so very much for all you did to keep us bishops in line.

I especially loved the joint session with the stewards. The last comment by one the panel of responders was, "of course there'll be an Anglican Communion in thirty years!"

Love it...

Bp Pierre Whalon

Allie said...

Ann, understood,

Fran and +Pierre, THANK YOU!