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Lambeth Digest, Day 12

[Episcopal News Service, Canterbury] Much happens each day at the Lambeth Conference. In addition to Episcopal Life Media's other coverage, here's some of what else happened on August 2, the twelfth day of the conference.

Bishops discuss fourth draft of conference's final report
The group drafting the reflections document, expected to be issued tomorrow on the last day of the Lambeth Conference, released a fourth draft of the document late this afternoon. The document's structure appears to be nearly complete. The concluding section and one called "Leading in God's Mission" are yet to come.

The text, available in full here, was given to reporters after the bishops began a closed plenary meeting to discuss this version.

The fourth version includes new or more fully formed sections on human sexuality, Scripture, the covenant and the Windsor Process. More information about the latter two sections, which stem from the bishops' discussions today and yesterday, is here.

Significantly, the section on human sexuality, while reiterating the disagreements and divisions facing the communion on the issue, contains draft paragraph 99 which questions why the communion "made space" for provinces in which polygamy is practiced to deal with the issue "at their local level" but that the same space has not been given to other provinces to deal locally with homosexuality.

The section also includes draft paragraph 104 which says: "There have also been positive effects in parts of Canada, the U.S. and England when homosexual people are accepted as God's children, are treated with dignity and choose to give their lives to Christ and to live in the community of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ with fidelity and commitment."

The content of the final document will no doubt change from the current draft, although Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to Anglican Church of Canada Primate Fred Hiltz and one of the conference's media briefers, said during a morning news conference that this draft "ought to be pretty close to getting a final document."

The drafting committee is expected to work overnight to include comments from this afternoon's plenary session. The final document is expected to be released August 2.

Marketplace folds its tents
Bishops, spouses and conference participants spent part of their time today looking for bargains in the Marketplace on the last day of its operations. The official Lambeth Conference booth was especially busy during the morning as shoppers chose from pens, mousepads, "Save Canterbury Cathedral" t-shirts, key chains, bookmarks, flash drives, etc. Shoppers still had to pay full price for polo shirts and baseball caps with the conference logo, and for the official bishops and spouses group photos.

As bishops reflect, additional statements may appear
At a morning news conference, the Rev, Canon Kenneth Kearon, Anglican Communion secretary general, said some bishops are proposing statements to their colleagues that they think the conference should make on various topics such as peace on the Korean peninsula and the crisis in Zimbabwe. Generally, bishops with such statements have been advised, he said, to "test" their concerns in their indaba groups to gauge the strength of support. It is possible for the indaba group to ask the group drafting the conference's final reflections document to consider including the essence of the statement in that final paper.

The fourth draft of the conference closing "reflections document" does contain "statements of solidarity" as its proposed Section L. The people mentioned include those who suffer "on account of their faith whatever their faith may be;" aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia; the dalits in India; the hungry in Ethiopia; persecuted Christians in Somalia; and those who suffer the consequences of natural disasters, including those in Myanmar and the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The latter statement commends "the Church in Louisiana as she attempts to promote a Truth and Reconciliation Commission despite widespread opposition."

One of the statements registers solidarity with "the continent of Africa" and special support for bishops "working under extreme and trying conditions" due to conflicts in Zimbabwe, Sudan and South Africa. That statement calls on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to "stop harassing the bishops and faithful of our church."

Another statement affirms the peacemaking efforts of the Anglican Church of Korea and "its inspiring witness for reconciliation and reunification of the Korean Pennisula."

Four primates issue a call for 'soul-searching'
The primates of Bangladesh, North India, South India and Pakistan issued a one-page statement today calling for the Anglican Communion to uphold "the biblical norms of human sexuality … for the effective witness of the Gospel."

The four men made their plea after praising the Archbishop of Canterbury for organizing the conference's July 24 Walk of Witness in London meant to call on governments to honor their commitments to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. They also call on the communion to be serious of restoring the dignity of "exploited and abused humanity" and to "stand in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed religious minorities and work for equitable justice to all especially women, children and the dalits of South Asia.”

The primates noted the "fractured nature of the Anglican Communion," which they say seems to have been caused primarily by divisions over human sexuality. They asked for it to be resolved "by a continuing process of listening and healing where we may be willing to forgive and accept one another generously and move towards true reconciliation."

They invited the members of the communion to "do some soul-searching and in humility walk the Calvary Road so that our difference, self-justifications and arrogant attitudes may be crucified" and transformed by the power of the resurrection.

Spouses leaving their conference 'as a people of hope'
Margaret Sentamu, wife of Archbishop of York John Sentamu, told the afternoon media briefing that the spouses of Anglican Communion bishops have formed strong relationships with each other by telling their personal, vocational and spiritual stories -- and listening to those of other spouses.

Some of those stories were "really heart-rending," including ones of a bishop walking eight miles to a church where there are no roads and being forced to be away from his family for months on end, and of a Congolese bishop being arrested for his reconciliation work.

Sentamu said the stories humbled the spouses from the Global North. "It makes my problems pale into insignificance," she said.

"We shall go away taking with us in our hearts the men and women we have met at this conference," she said.

While trying to focus on the things that unite them, Sentamu said "we also carry the same burdens that our spouses, the bishops, do carry because we talk to them."

During the spouses' final liturgy, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams joined the spouses to bless a collection of leaves they made and wove together to form a vine. The spouses began making the leaves early in the conference as they told their stories to each other. They used materials placed on each of the hall's tables around which groups of spouses gathered for their sessions, according to Lambeth Spouses Conference spokesperson Sarah Meyrich.

All six of the male spouses participated in the leaf-making "as completely and as enthusiastically" as their female colleagues, Meyrich said.

While the vine had to be dismantled, each spouse will take home a leaf made by another spouse to remind them of their experience and their connections with each other, she said.

In another act of symbolism, the spouses ate cherries and planted the stones in little bowls. The bowls were given to the English spouses, Sentamu said, to tend "because we believe this is a real symbol of enjoying the sweetness of gathering together and being together for these two and a half weeks, but also recognizing the hardness [that] the tough stone represents, the toughness of people's lives and contexts, but also looking to the death of that seed into resurrection."

LGBT Anglicans recommit to mutual support, global mission
Leaders of seven lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Anglican organizations met August 1 in Canterbury and agreed to form an umbrella organization named "Inclusive Communion."
 
The founding groups are Changing Attitude Nigeria and Changing Attitude, Claiming the Blessing, Integrity Canada, Integrity Uganda, Integrity USA and Other Sheep East Africa.

According to a news release, the groups recommitted to work for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life and ministry of the Anglican Communion and the right of LGBT people to live free of violence and discrimination, to develop and distribute additional educational resources for church leaders and civil authorities, to continue promoting and supporting the Anglican Communion Listening Process, to support each other's intra-provincial work and to help LGBT Anglicans develop "ministries of support and witness."
 
The news release said that the new umbrella organization planned to convene a worldwide summit of LGBT Anglicans in the near future "to build on the cooperative ministry and witness begun during this Lambeth Conference."

Next up
The schedule for the conference's last day is here.

-- Today's digest was compiled by Episcopal Life Media correspondent the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg.

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