The St. Augustine's Seminar, to be held next week in London, has as its task the fine-tuning of the program of the Lambeth Conference 2008.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, said in a recent pastoral letter: "The St. Augustine's Seminar, in a new format, will be digesting what emerges from the process and working towards a full program. The Lambeth Conference 2008 should reflect the discernment of the wider Communion, and it is essential that your agenda should be addressed, in a way that is fruitful for everyone. The proposed focus on theological formation and development is a way of trying to encourage you to explore what are your own most important needs, as individual bishops and as churches, not to impose a plan from outside."
The first session of the seminar will begin on November 5 and will include some 30 participants from various parts of the Anglican Communion, including Africa, India, Mauritius, Australia, Pakistan, South America, New Zealand, Canada, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, USA and the UK. Staff from Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office will also be present.
From the Anglican Communion office at St Andrew's House, London, preparatory work has begun by the Lambeth Conference Manager, Sue Parks, and her new assistant, David Craig. Members of the Lambeth Conference Design Group and members from Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC) will also attend. Design Group member Bishop Thabo Makgoba of Grahamstown in South Africa, and Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary of the Lambeth Conference and secretary general of the Anglican Communion, will serve as co-chairs for the seminar.
Parks said that participants may want to address one specific question from their own experience by asking: "In which areas of Episcopal ministry do you discern bishops in your Province, and more generally, require additional training/formation? How best might such deficits be addressed?"
The formal seminar begins on November 6 in Westminster. Sessions will also be hosted by the Williams at Lambeth Palace, where, on the evening of November 10 he and his wife Jane will host a dinner marking the conclusion of the seminar. Also present will be members of the Lambeth Spouses' Conference Planning Group, who will be meeting the following week at Lambeth and in Canterbury.
The name of the seminar derives from the name of the trust that funds the meeting. The trust has supported some of the preparation work for successive Lambeth Conferences as well as other projects concerned with theological education in different parts of the Anglican Communion.
Williams indicated that the emphasis would be on training, "for really effective, truthful and prayerful mission." He ruled out (for the time being) reopening resolution 1.10 on human sexuality from the previous Lambeth Conference, but emphasized the "listening process" whereby diverse views and experiences of human sexuality are being collected and collated in accordance with that resolution, and said it "will be important to allow time for this to be presented and reflected upon in 2008."
Williams suggested that the traditional plenary sessions and resolutions would be reduced, where it would be less likely to be doing work in the traditional four large "interest groups." Instead, Williams said, "We shall be looking at a bigger number of more focused groups, some of which may bring bishops and spouses together."
He is encouraging TEAC to work closely with the planning groups for Lambeth to see how the agenda and the style of the meeting might maximize the opportunities for training and development. Williams hopes the main focus of Lambeth 2008 will be centered on "equipping the people of God," a theme that has emerged strongly from the work of the Lambeth Conference Design Group.
Williams says this is "very much in step with the work of the Primates' working party on theological education. Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC) has been working hard on identifying training needs at every level and also at shaping a definition of 'the Anglican Way,' the distinctive characteristics of Anglican theology and ministry."