No votes, no resolutions — a typical Anglican fudge?
The Lambeth Conference, the once-in-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops from around the globe, has come up with what it hopes will be the perfect solution for avoiding any mud-slinging.
No news could be said to be good news for the beleaguered church right now and the organisers of the Anglican summit in the English cathedral city of Canterbury may well have the Zulus to thank for that.
Anglicanism has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons as conservatives and liberals lock horns in an increasingly bitter war of words over the ordination of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. Up to a quarter of the bishops have stayed away from Lambeth in protest, a move that has shaken the Anglican Communion but, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Willliams says, will not lead to a schism.
Lambeth organisers have come up with a solution to keep the angry rhetoric to a minimum, hoping that their gathering will be given much more anodyne coverage.
The bishops are being split up into “Indaba” groups of about 40. Indaba is a Zulu word for “a gathering for purposeful discussion.”
But the organisers, explaining the concept, warned that even after two weeks of the bishops putting their heads together on every subject from evangelism to transforming society, “Indaba is not shaped for producing a communique, an encycical letter or a text.”
“Indaba is open-ended conversation,” they explained. Open-ended, but not open to the media — we can’t attend the sessions and report on how they actually work.
As the procedure was explained to us, each Indaba group, after much soul-searching together, appoints a “listener” who will help to put together a final “reflective document.” So there will be no messy fights over resolutions like the debate over homosexuality that dominated the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
Little wonder then that Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the 450-year history of the Anglican church, does not expect any fireworks at the conference — to which he has not been invited.
In an interview with Reuters before Lambeth, Robinson forecast that the Anglican summit “will drive the press crazy. There will be be no resolutions, no proclamations, no lines drawn in the sand, no up or down votes to report the count.”
“This is the place where the Archbishop got it exactly right. What we need at the moment is deepening conversation,” he said.