The Rt Revd Alastair Redfern gives a brief rationale of the scriptural preparations for the Conference
The scriptural foundation for the Lambeth Conference will be the great ‘I AM’ sayings of our Lord, echoing a moment of supreme revelation in Exodus. The key factor in each saying is God’s self-disclosure in the present tense (albeit a present pregnant with the potential we receive as God’s future).
Bishops will come with a bewildering variety of views, hopes and fears, to be joined in worship and in the study of these texts, in the present tense. Like good liturgy, study of scripture provides a moment to know God more deeply, perceive Jesus as Christ more clearly, and be moved with an outflow of love which brings all that we have been into Gods greater, more holy communion. In the present tense of worship and of breaking the word, new life is given and received.
This is the moment when children stand most self-consciously in the presence of the Father, seeking shaping by the Son, embraced by one Holy Spirit. This placing of separated selves in the present
tense of Gods I AM’ provides a perspective on the past and a faith for the future. Both elements will retain all the diversity of a fallen, wilful world scarred by selfishness and sin – but each of these powerful tendencies can be redeemed and refined by moments of communion. No neat answers, just common faith in the Father.
The art of leadership in the church involves giving priority to the moments of worship and study of scripture that place us together in God’s present tense: and the insisting that the gift of such communion can give confidence for robust exploration of different integrities and insights. The first moment requires us to give precedence to God’s T AM’; the second requires us to respond in our different contexts always chiefly conscious of the communion God ever offers. The dynamic between the moments provides the syllabus for episcope, and for disci-pleship. The painful agendas of diversity are held and resourced by a prior engagement with the genesis and reference points of our life – God who is – in Jesus as risen and present, source of communion for sinners.
As for every parish priest, the issue is one of priorities. We tend to aim for pastoral perfection – wholesome relationships between ourselves. The reality is that God’s life emerges from fraction, within us, between us, embracing us in the crucified one. Bishops worshipping and studying scripture together will never be a recipe for pastoral perfection, nor for prophetic precision: these moments provide common ground before the cross, owning our culpability and lack of charity, seeking forgiveness, restoration and new directions rooted in the historic faith. We will be sent out bearing this branding and this bonding, to explore further the challenging diversity of God’s abundant creation and call to eternity.
The Lambeth Conference will model something central to the life of every Anglican church the priority of worship and the study of scripture; resource for children called into communion with the Father; brokenness made whole in Jesus; empowerment by the spirit of love. This present tense moment provides courage for engagement beyond, new directions, diversity confident of a common core and call.
I AM: we are from, and to, put into perspective.