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ENGLAND: Lambeth Conference preparations continue; spouses announce program plans

[Episcopal News Service]  Preparations for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, when bishops from around the Anglican Communion will gather to share experiences and concerns and "celebrate their fellowship in Jesus Christ," were addressed November 10-13 as members of the St. Augustine's Seminar met at Lambeth Palace in London.

Participants at the seminar, which included representatives from more than 15 provinces of the Anglican Communion, were invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, to prepare an agenda for consideration by the Lambeth Design Group.

A planning meeting for the gathering of bishops' spouses was also convened at the invitation of Williams' wife, Jane Williams. A spouses' program will run concurrently with the Lambeth Conference. Further details about the Lambeth Spouses' Program are available here.

A statement released at the Seminar's conclusion noted that participants had "met in a spirit of openness where the views and opinions of each participant could be sympathetically heard."

In addressing the seminar, Williams expressed his hope that the Lambeth Conference would lead to "a recovery of structural self confidence in the Anglican Communion to make it a more effective agent of God's mission."

As well as being an opportunity for bishops of the Anglican Communion "to gather to celebrate their fellowship in Jesus Christ," the Lambeth Conference is "an occasion when the bishops can listen to and discuss the challenges that are facing the Communion," the statement said. "By respectfully listening to each other in the spirit of reconciling love, bishops will be enabled to address controversial issues."

"We pray that through the open sharing of their experiences and concerns, the bishops will return to their dioceses better informed and equipped for their role as leaders of the Church for God's mission to the world, and with a clearer understanding of the Communion today," the statement continued. "To ensure full participation and to enable each voice to be heard, the bishops will meet for prayer and Bible study in groups of eight, and, later, move to groups of forty for wider discussions. In addition there will be a number of plenary sessions and presentations."

The statement outlined "Five Marks of Mission" to help the bishops develop their skills of leadership and their understanding of their ministry. They are: proclaiming the Good news; teaching, baptizing and nurturing; responding to human need by loving service; seeking to transform the unjust structures of society; and striving to safeguard the integrity of creation.

"We share with the Archbishop of Canterbury the prayer that the 2008 Lambeth Conference will lead to a reconciled Communion through renewed commitment to God's mission," the statement concluded.

The Lambeth Design Group, which is officially responsible for setting the agenda for the Lambeth Conference, is next scheduled to meet in December 2006.