Today, Monday, July 21, was the first "working day" of the conference. More about this later.
Yesterday was a remarkable day.
On Sunday morning, the bishops gathered to worship at the historic Cathedral Church of Christ in Canterbury. Apparently, as they disembarked their buses to enter the cathedral (and again when they left the cathedral), they had to march through a gauntlet of silent protesters carrying placards emblazoned with the "clobber passages" from Scripture so familiar to so many of us.
Maybe the protesters were on to something. It was, apparently, a remarkable worship service in many ways, with all the pomp and majesty which is one of the treasures of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. From our perspective, what was the most impressive was the sermon.
The invited homilist was the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Columbo, Sri Lanka. The gospel lection for Sunday was that passage from St Matthew where Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Regarding the current crisis in the Communion, Bishop de Chickera had this to say: “if we attempt this game of uprooting the unrighteous then, my dear sisters and brothers, none of us will remain.” The challenge facing the Communion, he stated, was this: “Here is an insight of what the church is called to be: an inclusive communion, where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of colour, gender, ability or sexual orientation.” (To read or view all of this remarkable sermon, visit: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/daily/news.cfm/2008/7/20/ACNS4438)
Some of us, while travelling to Canterbury, feared that the authorities would try to sweep the sexuality issue under the carpet, to avoid it at all costs. Apparently, this is not to be.
"He hit the ball out of the park," said Bishop Michael Ingham of Vancouver when asked about the sermon. Bishop Michael was gathered on St Stephen's Hill on Sunday afternoon with 32 of his colleagues, along with 200 clergy and lay people gathered at an outside Eucharist to, for the first time ever at a Lambeth Conference, celebrate the ministry of gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
The celebrant was the head of Changing Attitudes UK, the Rev. Colin Coward; and the sermon was delivered by the Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity USA. Susan challenged everyone to: “commit ourselves to tell the truth about the very real gap that exists between the experiences, worldviews and theologies of many members of the Anglican Communion. It is equally to speak the truth that the gospel we share is stronger than the differences we acknowledge.”
Today, Monday July 21 was the first working day of the conference. The Marketplace, where our display is located, also opened today. But more about that tomorrow....