Are they listening?

By Simon Barrow
July 29, 2008

This week the Anglican bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference will have to confront their divisions and future options.

The Lambeth process so far has been about listening and reflacting. But how far will this be followed through? Savitri Hensman, who has been on site for the conference at the University of Kent, writes:

"The Bishop of Botswana’s Church Times interview ( is especially significant in light of the Windsor Continuation Group’s Preliminary Observations, e.g. "a great virtue of the Primates' Meeting is that the Primates are in conversation with their own Houses of Bishops and located within their own synodical structures. They are, therefore, able to reflect the breadth and depth of the conversations and opinion in their Provinces." There are also suggestions that the part of the document about opposing irrational fear of homosexuals and ministering sensitively has been taken out. We will see."

The Bishop made a point of saying that the Sudanese bishops had not called for the resignation of the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, and of criticising the politicking that has been going on.

The story is picked up by Thinking Anglicans ( The Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba, was even more forthright on the discrepancy between the [Sudanese bishops'] statement and the views expressed later by Archbishop Deng. “My personal view is that it wasn’t helpful at all. I can understand where they are coming from in being in a Muslim context. But having said that, I am also aware that somebody organised that position. In the context of the conference it’s regrettable that it was done but here are other factors at play and we need to name those factors.

“We are using each other at times for ends which are not constructive. That’s just one example of people being used. Another is that people are continuously talking up the absence of our brothers from four African provinces from this meeting. But the point is that a lot of those brothers of ours – 200 is a nice round figure – would have wanted to come here. That’s important to say.”

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.” He finds it therefore a paradox that while they stay at home, some of the American allies who have been working with them – for example, Bishop Robert Duncan and others - are here.

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