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Lambeth Conference Daily Account: Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison of Texas, Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama

[Episcopal News Service, Canterbury] Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison of Texas and Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama offer the following Daily Account for July 29 at the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

Last night's (Monday) plenary session by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was a brilliant address in which he looked at the role of Judaism and Christianity in society. He spoke of the scriptural meaning of covenant which is about love, trust and cooperation which helps keep society together. He said that such covenants of cooperation sustain our social order, and when they break down, society breaks down. He said the Anglican Communion is one of the most long lasting religious fellowships in the world, and we are part of the landscape of hope for the future.

Rabbi Sacks concluded by challenging the churches of the Anglican Communion to stay together, to forgive one another, join hands, and be a blessing to the world.

The topic for today was Equal in God's Sight: When Power is Abused.

Today, Tuesday, the bishops and spouses held a joint plenary, which brought 1,400 people into the "Big Top." Jenny Plane Te Paa, principal of the College of St. John the Evangelist in New Zealand, was the keynote speaker; the session was facilitated by the head of the Bible Study Team Professor Gerald West. It included a provocative drama highlighting several stories of Scripture about women who were not always visible to the religious leaders of the time -- women who were oppressed or marginalized by power and to whom Jesus offered healing. We found it moving, and it demonstrated how often we don't notice the women in the Gospel whose roles are very significant. We broke into small groups; the men and women were separated because, for some women, the topic is not a safe one even in the church.

Groups undertook an in-depth study of the story of the rape of Tamar from II Samuel 13. This discussion went on to include the relationship of violence against women and our common life. We noted from the story the real danger of men keeping silent and refusing to acknowledge the tragedy of gender violence. Also discussed was the danger of the abuse of power by church leaders, and the urgency of bishops laboring to make the church a safe and healthy community for all people.

The bishops of the Episcopal Church who were gathered at the Lambeth Conference met in a brief provincial meeting for updates, discussions and announcements. This was followed by time for visiting and fellowship with a number of bishops from African provinces to discuss partnerships in ministry.

Bible Study focused on John 10: 11-18: "I am the good shepherd."

We discussed in depth the shepherding ministry of Jesus and the call of bishops to share in that ministry.

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