A visit to the Dudley outpouring

In the most recent of my series of posts on the revival in Lakeland, Florida led by Todd Bentley, I referred to similar things happening in Dudley, England. My vicar and his wife, and a couple of others from my church, are planning to visit Lakeland on Tuesday for a week or so. As I am unable to join them but didn’t want to miss out on anything God is doing in the area of revival, I decided to check out what was happening in Dudley. At first, on Friday, I was thinking of going next weekend, but I felt God saying to me “Why not tomorrow?” I asked my vicar, and he said “Go, get as much blessing as you can, and bring it back!” So yesterday, Saturday, I went. And it proved to be a good day to go.

What is happening in Dudley, just west of Birmingham, is being called the Dudley Outpouring. It is being organised by Revival Fires, which is a ministry hosting renewal and revival conferences and also a local church. Trevor Baker is their main leader. They have been holding daily meetings for more than 20 days, since Trevor came home from his first visit to Lakeland. They have their own blog about the outpouring, mostly of testimonies, although this has not been updated for several days. Last week Trevor visited Lakeland again, and, as can be seen in this YouTube clip, was commissioned by Todd Bentley to bring the Lakeland revival to Britain, to be our very own British TB. And he arrived back in England yesterday morning, so the meeting I went to was the first after his return.

Dudley is nearly 200 miles from my home in Chelmsford, and the journey can be a nightmare. But as usual the roads were very clear on a Saturday and the journey took me only 2½ hours each way. The meetings were being held, just for the weekend, in a converted cinema, in fact a rather run down venue in a run down area, but at a strategic location at the very summit of this hilltop town – even slightly higher than the parish church opposite. The venue seats about 800 in the main hall and 600 in the overflow, and both were full last night. I joined the queue nearly two hours before the meeting was due to begin at 7.30, and got into the main hall about half way back.

I must say that I was not entirely impressed by the meeting, which was long, hot and noisy. The first hour and a half was worship, sometimes rather repetitive although not weird, a lot of it of the kind which encourages clapping. 800 people clapping for over an hour in a low ceilinged room left me rather dazed, and it was also rather hot and cramped. I was much more comfortable when they moved on to quieter, more meditative songs, and I was able to worship the Lord in a meaningful way through them.

Then at last Trevor Baker took the stage, and started by giving “words of knowledge” about healing of some quite specific serious infirmities. Those who believed they were being healed were called forward, and quite a lot were invited to give testimonies. This was good, but not what I had gone for. It was probably after 10.00 when Trevor at last got us to take our seats for his main talk. It was also good, but I’m afraid not very memorable, at least for someone as tired as I was by this time, so I won’t try to summarise it.

At the end of this they took up an offering, which was rather protracted but mercifully carefully avoided any prosperity gospel type teaching that people should give so that they get a greater benefit for themselves. Instead the point of the offering was clearly stated as to benefit others, to build up a “war chest” for future outpouring events. Specifically, they are hoping to hire the NEC in Birmingham for Todd Bentley who has announced his intention to visit Britain in the summer. The NEC (National Exhibition Centre) is the biggest such venue in the country, with 12,300 seats in the main arena, and of course is expensive!

So it was getting on for midnight when Trevor got on to what for me was the high point of the evening, the “impartation”. In Florida Trevor had been given a cloth soaked in anointing oil which Todd Bentley had used to anoint people at one of his meetings in Lakeland. Trevor then offered to impart this anointing to everyone present. This is of course a biblical procedure – see for example Acts 19:12 and 2 Timothy 1:6. This anointing was what I had gone to Dudley to get, so I was quick to go forward to get it – as was almost everyone else!

Of course it was bound to take a long time to anoint over a thousand people. How they handled it was to line people up across the front of the hall facing the stage, with space behind them. Trevor walked across the line touching each forehead briefly with the cloth; I reckon he was taking less than two seconds per person. At the touch most people fell over, and were caught by “catchers” and lay on the floor- but only briefly. For, as Trevor had warned would happen, after only about five seconds each person was encouraged by the catcher to stand up immediately and move away, so that a new line could be ready as soon as Trevor finished the old one. It was a bit like serving communion at my church, but faster.

Eventually, just before midnight, I got my place in a line. Despite this conveyor belt approach, necessary simply because of the numbers, this was a profound experience. The cloth touched my forehead with a slight pressure but nothing like enough to push me over. But as it did I felt the power of the Holy Spirit come on me and nudge me over. This is not the first time this has happened to me, and sometimes I have fallen over, although at other times for various reasons I have chosen to stay on my feet. Last night I let myself fall over, and was caught gently and laid on the floor. I felt God’s anointing on me, the anointing which had arrived from Lakeland only that morning. I could gladly have lain there and soaked in God’s presence. I wasn’t allowed to, but getting up and going back to my seat didn’t take away the anointing.

I think this was probably more or less the end of the meeting. It was for me, as just after midnight I joined the stream of people leaving to take the anointing back to their homes around the country, and the world. Some people I met had come for the day from as far away as County Durham, perhaps twice as far as I had come. By the time they got home it must have been morning. I made it home on empty motorways just before 3 am, tired but rejoicing and praising the Lord.

Was it worth going all that way for a touch and a few seconds on the floor? By the standards of the world it might seem not. But things work differently in God’s economy. There were special reasons why I had to be there that night, some I know (I haven’t said everything here) and probably some I don’t. I wouldn’t have gone if it had just been for me, or even just so that I could blog about it. I went, and deliberately asked for my vicar’s blessing first, so that I could bring something back which would bless and transform my church and my community. Already today in my church I was able to pray with many people, especially those I felt were key people for God’s work in this community, to receive the same anointing. Some said they felt the power; one fell over. Others seemed unmoved, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened. As for what will come of it, we will see! Great things are beginning to happen in my church, and we are expecting even greater when my vicar and the others return from Lakeland.

Looking at some Lakeland revival issues

There is a lot of interest on the Internet in the continuing revival in Lakeland, Florida, under Todd Bentley. There are also reports of a similar, although smaller scale, revival in Dudley, England.

In a comment on my blog, Dave Warnock quotes me then asks a question:

Peter,

“I did wonder why the need to actually go there, why this revival can’t be caught from a distance, but on further reflection I believe they are right.”

Please would you unpack this more. I do not understand how this fits theologically.

Can you express that “rightness” theologically?

A good question indeed, and an issue I had only touched on earlier. Although of course God is not constrained by space and completely capable of working from a distance, there does seem to be some special power associated with being in the presence of his holiness or a holy or Spirit-filled person, and especially of being touched by such a person. This is what a number of people have experienced and it is also biblical. See for example, for presence 1 Samuel 10:10 and 1 Kings 8:11, and for touch Acts 19:6 and 19:12, as well as 13:3 and 2 Timothy 1:6 for the practice of laying on of hands for imparting spiritual gifts. This is of course just a quick summary. So I think it is right for people to seek the presence of the Lord in the places where he is working and the physical touch of those who he is using in special ways.

Dave Faulkner, a Methodist minister from the other side of my own town (but we have never met), gives a fascinating analysis of several aspects of Todd Bentley’s ministry. Thanks to Dave Warnock for the link. I would like to look at just a couple of these matters.

First, Dave F suggests that when people on the Lakeland stage apparently fall under the power of the Holy Spirit, in fact Todd may be pushing them – something which, Dave says, in different from what happened in Toronto. Well, I was watching some of the meetings on God TV projected on to a large screen (so much more clear than the YouTube videos Dave was watching). Yes, Todd may have been applying a little pressure to the head of the people being prayed for (but usually more downwards than backwards), but there is no way he was pushing hard enough to push over anyone who didn’t want to fall. I would suggest that the push was more symbolic, almost sacramental, an indication that this is the right time to fall over rather than a serious attempt to push anyone down.

Now I have been in ministries which encourage people being prayed for to fall over, and others which encourage them to stay on their feet so that prayer can continue. I have been in situations where I have been being prayed for, have felt weak at the knees, and have had to decide whether to fall over or stay on my feet. I would suggest that in most cases this is just a matter of choice. When the Holy Spirit comes on someone, he does so gently, leading them but not forcing them in any way, and that includes not forcing them to the floor. Of course in a situation where falling is clearly expected, especially if that expectation is encouraged by a gentle push on the forehead, most people will fall over, while a few will resist. The Holy Spirit respects their decisions.

But we should not focus too much on such matters, which are not the real issue here. Dave is spot on when he writes:

But if you asked all the responsible church leaders who were heavily involved in the ‘Toronto Blessing’ at least in this country, they would have said that the outward manifestation was not itself the proof of the Spirit’s work. … The evidence of the Spirit’s work is the fruit. Outward signs at the time may be commentary on the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit, or they may be ‘fleshly’ human responses.

Well, I would have put the last sentence the other way round, to put the emphasis on the fact that, even among some fleshly excesses, the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit is at work in Lakeland.

Dave also questions the financial accountability of Todd Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries. Well, here we can be grateful that it is based in Canada (just across the US border near Vancouver) and so there is no option for it to invoke the separation of church and state to avoid the moral if not always legal requirement of financial accountability. In fact I heard Todd confirm what Bene D comments on Dave’s post, that Fresh Fire is not short of funds. And so, Todd said, he is not taking any money from Lakeland to finance his own ministry. I’m sure that in due course that decision will be confirmed in published accounts.

In another comment on my blog with a follow-up, Scott Gray asks some interesting questions, but ones I find hard to answer because he is approaching this with a different theological viewpoint from mine. He asks if the Lakeland experience is “mystical”, and if so “how is it different than the experience of god in sacrament– eucharist, for example?” Well, the first question depends partly what is meant by “mystical”; if this word refers to an experience which is not readily explained by normal scientific laws, then yes, this revival is “mystical”. As for it being like a sacrament, apparently Scott understands a sacrament as about meeting Jesus, and as something to be avoided if one is not ready to meet him. Well, I think in a lot of the evangelical tradition I come from people are far too ready to worship God and perform sacraments with no real expectation of meeting Jesus or openness to being changed. Their attitude is well summed up in this cartoon. What Scott writes is much more appropriate:

if we expect to meet jesus anywhere … we have to be ready to be changed.

And I am sure that is true also of revival meetings in Lakeland or elsewhere. We need to go there prepared to meet God and be changed. If we don’t, God is patient and kind and so doesn’t actually squash us with his big sandal, but we are likely to leave the meetings offended and critical, as in some of the comments on Lakeland which I have seen. But if we go to meetings like this with a positive attitude and an openness to change, even if we continue to watch out for possible ways in which the experience is less than ideal, then we can expect to truly meet God and know his presence with us, not just in a mystical moment but as a lifelong relationship.

Weird children's worship

The Weird Worship meme seems to have taken off. See David Ker’s latest roundup, also this one I wrote earlier today in a comment, and this comment I made on ElShaddai’s blog.

Here I offer some examples of weird worship from children’s songs. These are all from songs in my church’s official song book, although we don’t sing any of these now at least in the main services.

I’m gonna dance, gonna go completely loopy, will you? (from God Loves Me, Whoopah, Wahey!)

Great great brill brill, WICKED ! (from Oh It’s Great, Great, Brill, Brill)

You won’t get to heaven by jumping from a plane
And flapping your arms real quick (from The Camel Song)

I love custard creams and Wall’s ice-creams (from The Custard Cream Song; “Wall’s” is of course a trade mark, one of several potentially infringed in this song)

Got knobbly knees or fifteen chins,
Doesn’t matter just what shape you’re in (from Touch A Finger, Touch a Thumb)

All of these songs are by Doug Horley. Now Doug does excellent Christian work with children. But his “worship” songs, taken out of context, are just weird!

And this from a song we do sometimes sing:

More than magnet and steel are drawn to unite (from More Than Oxygen by Brian Doerkson)

Women don't want to be bishops with protection

It seems an age, but is actually little more than two weeks, since I wrote about Possibly another hopeful moment in the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion, referring to the Manchester report on how the Church of England might accept women as bishops. I welcomed this report not because of how it related to women bishops (or female bishops, as some prefer to say), but because of its

acceptance … of the principle that, in effect, a congregation or parish may choose to separate from the diocese in which it is geographically located and join [another] one

– what some have called the Swiss cheese model of dioceses with holes in them.

But my welcome for the Manchester report is not shared by the women who might become bishops. John Richardson and Ruth Gledhill both post a statement from WATCH (Women and the Church) which has, according to John, now been signed by nearly half of the ordained women in the Church of England. They write, among other things:

We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. …

The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately. We would commend the good practice over the past 20 years of the 15 Anglican Provinces which have already opened the episcopate to women: none of these has passed discriminatory legislation. …

We long to see the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, and believe it is right both in principle and in timing. But because we love the Church, we are not willing to assent to a further fracture in our communion and threat to our unity. If it is to be episcopacy for women qualified by legal arrangements to “protect” others from our oversight, then our answer, respectfully, is thank you, but no.

I understand and share the ordained women’s objections to proposals such as the Swiss cheese model which treat them as less than equals within the Church of England. It is appropriate to make some kind of accommodation for clergy and others who cannot accept the ministry of a woman bishop, but this should be done without formalised discrimination against women.

My welcome for the Swiss cheese model is restricted to the way in which it is a move away from the geographical principle of dioceses, a relic of the Roman empire which reflects the entirely anti-Christian mediaeval model of the bishop as a secular ruler.

I can also understand why the opponents of women bishops will find it hard to accept the WATCH women’s proposals. Their theological stance will not allow them to accept the nominal authority of a woman even if in practice they are ministered to only by a man sent by the woman.

Is there a way forward here? The issues are not only about women’s ministry, for very similar ones come up concerning acceptance of homosexuality and broader theological matters. In the long term the only kind of model which I can see working, for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion as a whole, is one in which congregations are under the authority of bishops on a non-geographical basis, in effect each deciding which of a number of bishops to relate to. If this situation is not formally accepted, it will surely happen anyway. Indeed it is already happening the United States and Canada, with the affiliation of many parishes to provinces outside North America. The Anglican Communion needs to accept this as a legitimate way ahead, or else to prepare for its own demise.

God and Mammonianity

Agathos of the blog Scotteriology has been blogging about what he (gender assumed from the grammatical gender of the Greek word “agathos”) calls “Mammonianity”. This is basically criticism of what is otherwise known as “Prosperity Gospel” teaching, that Christians can expect to prosper materially and the key to this is giving.

Now there is some truth to this teaching. God does indeed desire to give good things to his people, and especially to bless those who give generously to his work. But it is a complete perversion of this good biblical teaching to make material prosperity, rather than serving God, the aim, and also to make giving into a means of becoming prosperous rather than a cheerful sacrifice.

I remember long ago reading a book called “A Daily Guide to Miracles”. I was indeed looking for miracles. But as I read the book I found that every example given was of someone living a reasonably good life, certainly by international standards, who was looking for and received a miracle of financial or other material provision enabling them to live more of the Great American Dream. I found this book, and the selfishness it encouraged in its readers, so repulsive that I rejected it and, to a large extent, the Christian ministry which had recommended it, which was sadly moving towards that teaching.

Todd Bentley has been accused of following this prosperity teaching. I don’t have any evidence that he does. One thing I did hear him say from Lakeland is that he is not accepting offerings taken up there towards his own ministry which, he said, is fully funded from his home in Canada. This is not at all the attitude of the stereotypical prosperity gospel teacher who encourages crowds to make offerings as “seed faith” and then (allegedly) takes tens of thousands of dollars for himself.

Here is some of what Agathos has to say:

This my friends is what the prophets of Mammon prey upon. People that are unaware of how blessed they are and want more. The prophet of Mammon promises them that he has a formula to get more. Their heart makes them susceptible long before the prophet of Mammon ever speaks. Which leads to the next point.

The heart disposition that is adopted to make one susceptible to the lies of the Mammonian prophets leaves absolutely no margins for joy, contentment, gratitude, or thankfulness. There is literally no room for these thing, especially in relation to a God that is holding back on you because you do not have enough faith or haven’t “seeded” enough. A heart full of envy, covetousness, and greed cannot be thankful for the many blessings that have already been recieved just by being born in a North American society.

There may be no sadder commentary on the North American church today than the sector that already has incredible blessing and abundance but sits around desperately unhappy, conniving how to get more from God.

Those heart dispositions and actions are not Christian. They are Mammonianity.

Amen! The worship of Mammon, even by professing Christians, brings one into bondage. The worship of the true God sets one free.

Lakeland revival with Todd Bentley continues

UPDATE 3rd June: I know a lot of people are finding this page from Google searches on “Todd Bentley” and similar. Welcome! Note please that this is only one of a series of posts I have made about Todd and the events in Lakeland. For the rest of the series follow this link to my Todd Bentley category.

Today I watched quite a lot more of Todd Bentley and his team from the revival in Lakeland, Florida, which friends had recorded from God TV. I am convinced that this is a real move of God’s power, although through imperfect human agents and so not entirely perfect. My previous post on the subject generated some discussion, but I will not try to engage with criticisms of what is happening.

Henry Neufeld offers an interesting perspective on these revival meetings from his friend and former pastor, rounded off with some of his own thoughts, cautious but not negative. The former pastor, who was involved in the Brownsville revival in their home town of Pensacola (also in Florida but several hundred miles from Lakeland), writes as follows:

My experience at Lakeland was awesome. It is nothing like Brownsville. Everything about this move of God will drive everyone’s religious spirits crazy. Nothing fits the normal church theology. God just shows up and melts people. …

I recommend that everyone who wants to make a commitment of more of themselves to the Lord, to go! If you go as a spectator you will come away only with disappointment and criticisms, which only hurts the critic. The healings are awesome. Are some fake? Probably. Are some real? Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! …

As long as God gets the glory, I believe this will continue to grow around the world.

Some people from my church are flying all the way to Lakeland next week to catch the revival fire and bring it back to England and this town. In some ways I wish I could go with them. I did wonder why the need to actually go there, why this revival can’t be caught from a distance, but on further reflection I believe they are right. I have already heard stories of church leaders who have returned to the UK from Lakeland and seen revival start to break out in their churches. I long to see that happen in my own church, and in all the churches in my town. In fact we have already seen some small signs of it, just enough for us to realise that we need and can hope to receive far, far more.

Weird worship in the Bible

David Ker has started a new meme on Weird Worship, and has honoured me as one of the first group of five to be tagged. Not being one to duck out of a challenge like Nick Norelli, I decided to look for my own selection of weird lines from worship songs. But I will look in a more authoritative source even than Songs of Fellowship volume 4 – my TNIV, and specifically the Book of Psalms:

There is no God (14:1)

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls (42:7)

Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph. (108:9)

Happy are those who seize your infants
and dash them against the rocks. (137:9)

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals. (150:3-5)

Well, almost anything taken out of context can seem weird. That includes what is happening in Lakeland, Florida. But weird worship is biblical, because it is found in the Bible. Accept it, and get on with it, or at least let others get on with it without doubting their spirituality.

Well, this was a meme, so I’m supposed to tag some other people. I’ll give them a choice: either continue David (I mean Ker, not King)’s search for weirdness in contemporary worship songs; or follow my example by finding more weird worship in the Bible. I hereby tag:

  • the wonderful Eddie Arthur,
  • the incomparable Jim West,
  • the latest enfant terrible of my blogging circle Roger Mugs,
  • the pastor with the furthest to fall if his congregation decide to re-enact Luke 4:29, Brian Fulthorp,
  • and, to try to get him to blog more than one post, my old friend and weird worship leader Dave G.

Pentecost and Tongues of Fire

Singing in the Reign, despite being by Roman Catholics, has become one of my favourite blogs. Michael Barber has marked Pentecost there not by quoting Aquinas, as he did for Easter and Ascension Day, but with a fascinating post on the significance of the tongues of fire which appeared at the first Pentecost.

Now, despite what some translations make of them (and my humorous misunderstanding of one of them!), “tongues as of fire” in Acts 2:3 cannot mean “tongues that looked like fire”, at least in any sense that these were the physical body parts tongues. Rather, surely, they were tongue-shaped pieces of fire, or what looked like fire. That is, they were what we would now call flames. It is good to keep the word “tongue” in a translation to preserve the link in the original text with the “tongues”, languages, in which the first Christians began to speak in verse 4, but the word can be misleading in a language like English which doesn’t usually call flames “tongues”.

What did these tongues mean? Michael Barber considers some possibilities, and I am sure that the meaning is not exhausted by any one or two of them. One idea which he does not mention is that the tongues which rested on people without burning them are reminiscent of the flame which did not burn up the burning bush, Exodus 3:2. That fire was of course the presence and glory of God, and surely the tongues of fire at Pentecost symbolise the presence and glory of God the Holy Spirit resting on the believers.

But there is more to it than that. Michael points out the description in the Jewish book 1 Enoch of the heavenly temple as “built with tongues of fire“. Since this book would probably have been familiar to Luke and the readers of Acts, the suggestion is that the tongues of fire at Pentecost symbolised the believers as a new temple, whose stones were the first Christians as in Ephesians 2:21 (and more clearly, I would add, in 1 Peter 2:5).

Todd Bentley, like many revivalist preachers, makes a big thing of praying for the fire of the Holy Spirit to fall on his congregations. This is clearly a re-use of the imagery of tongues of fire at Pentecost, although I haven’t heard of visible flames of fire at modern revival meetings. This fire is understood as the power of the Holy Spirit inside someone, to burn up what is wrong in their life, to ignite within them a passion for God, and to continue to burn as a symbolic light of God’s presence. Michael’s post suggests another sense in which believers today need this fire, to be built together all the more firmly as God’s church. For it is by the Holy Spirit that

you also, like living stones, are being built into a temple of the Spirit to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … 9 … you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:5,9 (TNIV, following the marginal reading in verse 5)

Satire: Romans 9:13 Bible

Elder Eric of Tominthebox News Network has reported that CBD Introduces New “John 3:16 Bible”. I responded with my own announcement:

In a response to the CBD initiative, Crossway today announced the Romans 9:13 Bible, which includes just the text of this verse and only in the ESV version, together with comments on the verse from Calvin, Owen, Spurgeon and Piper.

A Crossway spokesman (no need to write “spokesperson” here) told us that this new product would give a double benefit. Firstly, this would be a convenient way for every good Calvinist to remember and carry around the only Bible verse and interpretation they need to know. Secondly, because the book is so small, only two pages, it can be sold for just 10 cents, and so will be a good follow-up to the success of the recent 50 cent New Testament campaign in pushing ESV towards the top of the chart of Bible sales by volume.

Could this one be the Wright letter?

About a month ago, as I reported, Bishop NT Wright referred to a letter which Archbishop Rowan Williams was supposed to have already sent to Anglican bishops, supposedly in an attempt to dissuade from attending the Lambeth Conference those who were not committed to the Windsor Process and the Anglican Covenant. But, it seems, no such letters arrived. What was sent out at about this time was a video message. Ruth Gledhill suggested that this video was in fact what Bishop Wright was referring to. But, as I wrote at the time, the content of the video was nothing like the message which Wright described.

Now, a month later and only just over two months before the Lambeth Conference begins, another message from Archbishop Rowan has arrived in bishops’ letter boxes. Ruth Gledhill gives the full text and again speculates that this is the message that Wright was talking about. And indeed the content seems to fit what Wright had to say. Well, given the current state of the British postal service it is believable that these letters have been in the post for a month. But as the message is explicitly linked to the feast of Pentecost, yesterday, surely Wright was misinformed about it being in the post, even if it was already being drafted a month ago.

Actually it is a really good letter. I am impressed with the seasonal appeals to the Holy Spirit:

The Feast of Pentecost … is a good moment to look forward prayerfully to the Lambeth Conference, asking God to pour out the Spirit on all of us as we make ready for this time together, so that we shall indeed be given grace to speak boldly in his Name. …

We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ’s Body as a sign of God’s Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice. …

And our ambition is nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of his Spirit.

Todd Bentley would give an “Amen!” to that, even though his style is entirely different.

The “indaba” discussion groups Archbishop Rowan describes seem a helpful model for this kind of conference. But as for Wright’s suggestion that Williams was trying to persuade certain bishops not to attend, Williams writes that something (I’m not quite sure what)

makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

Will this actually stop any bishops coming? I doubt it, unless “discussing privately … the need” is a euphemism for “ordering”.

Will the letter persuade any to come who were not planning to? Well, it might win over some who were wavering, and increase the number attending both the Lambeth Conference and Gafcon. The latter, the alternative conference in late June in Jordan and Israel, arranged by conservatives, is currently expecting 280 bishops, compared with the total of about 800 invited to Lambeth.

But a letter like this will not go far towards healing the deep divisions in the Anglican Communion. A month ago I wrote, actually quoting Wright’s words, that the letter he was referring to

is far too little, far too late.

The letter which has now arrived is still far too little, and it is even later.

Meanwhile Dave Walker suggests to me, with a cartoon to illustrate it, another way in which Archbishop Rowan might be discouraging Lambeth attendance. He will not be flying anywhere this summer. But of course he is the only bishop who can reasonably walk from his cathedral to the Lambeth Conference. The next nearest diocesan bishop, Nazir-Ali of Rochester, could just about walk the 30 miles or so to Canterbury, but is not expected to attend. So, by giving up flying, is Rowan giving an example which he doesn’t expect any other bishops to follow, or is he giving a subtle message to those from outside Europe not to bother to travel to Lambeth?