Evangelical bishops call for humility and unity ahead of Lambeth 2020

Anglican bishops are due to meet for Lambeth 2020 next year but some have said they will boycott the gatheringLambeth Palace/Picture Partnership)

Evangelical bishops have issued an appeal for humility and unity ahead of a major conference next year that has laid bare divisions between liberals and traditionalists in the Anglican Communion.

In a letter, published on the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas' website, the bishops write that it is an "acceptable time" to articulate their vision of Lambeth 2020, a gathering of bishops in the Anglican Communion taking place in Canterbury, Kent, next year.

The Lambeth Conference takes place around once every 10 years but some orthodox bishops have revealed plans to boycott the meeting because of differences over homosexuality. 

The evangelical bishops in their letter plead with their fellow bishops to refrain from "harsh disagreement" and see each other "in the best light possible" in spite of their differences. 

While they state their agreement with traditional teaching on the nature of marriage, they say that Anglicans should be able to listen to those with dissenting views.

"While all are free to offer their views, harsh disagreement ought not to be the dominant note the world hears from us," they write. 

They continue: "At Lambeth, though a fractious family, we ought still to think of our fellow Anglicans in the best light possible.

"For example, there have been many important movements of mission and renewal in our Anglican tradition (e.g. the Oxford Movement and the East African Revival), and we can likewise see GAFCON in this way.

"We can also appreciate the role Global South Anglicans have played in strengthening the mission of Christ in their provinces.

"We commend the Primates' view that only Churches aligned with Communion teaching should represent it in 'doctrine and polity.'

"But we are also willing to listen to our colleagues who hold in conscience dissenting views.

"More generally, we all need in our hearts to lay aside old recriminations, as each of us hears these Gospel injunctions: 'bear one another's burdens,' 'speak the truth in love,' 'do not let the sun go down on your wrath' (Galatians6:2, Ephesians4:15,26)." 

The letter was signed by a number of evangelical bishops, including the Bishop of Dallas, George Sumner, Bishop of Egypt, Dr Mouneer Anis, the Bishop of Penrith, Emma Ineson, and the Primate of West Africa, Archbishop Daniel Sarfo.

Elsewhere, they write of their desire to see the Lambeth Conference be a place where Anglicans can take their "common inheritance of truth seriously and seek to build upon it for the sake of witness and teaching".

They also express their hope for a conference that "nourishes humility" and that will "reject all forms of cultural and racial pride, while listening and deliberating with one another with full respect".

They conclude by saying that the next Lambeth Conference must confront the "urgent" problems facing the Anglican Communion and lay out a path for the way ahead.

"United in faith, hope, and love, we can at Lambeth confront together the urgent problems in our Communion and in our world. We all share a worry about what may lie ahead in our common future, for as a divided Church we will struggle to witness to a divided, broken world," they say.

They add: "Within the Communion itself, some have felt frustration with the 'Instruments' over the past two decades, as they have struggled to balance autonomy and mutual accountability. We hope for a Conference that lays out a path ahead in the next decade, and we pray for the patience to walk it."

Orthodox bishops belonging to GAFCON, a fellowship of orthodox Anglicans, have stated their intention to boycott the conference over the presence of several bishops who are in same-sex unions. 

The Archbishop of Kenya, Jackson Ole Sapit, is the latest to have confirmed he will not be attending the conference. He follows in the footsteps of bishops from Uganda, Nigeria and Rwanda. 

GAFCON has previously called on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, not to invite bishops who endorse same-sex marriage. 

The Archbishop sought to meet orthodox Anglicans half way by inviting the bishops while refusing to allow their spouses to join the conference, bucking the tradition hitherto of allowing all active bishops and their spouses to participate.

GAFCON has announced plans to hold a separate conference for Anglican Communion bishops in June next year for those who are not attending Lambeth.