The long awaited Lambeth Conference has started. But for the moment it doesn’t seem to be very interesting, in terms of any real content. The blogging bishops, and even the usually irrepressible Dave Walker who has got himself a pass through the security fence, are keeping quiet about anything non-trivial. The real press have been reduced to talking about themselves and sneaking through the fence.
The most interesting news I have seen, with the possible exception of the contradictory Roman Catholic reactions, is that the bishops are saying what they think about the Church of England’s antiquated parish system by breaking its rules. They are meeting for their conference without the permission of the incumbent of the parish they are meeting in – as reported by that incumbent, who is also a blogger. But he doesn’t report that a bishop who is not at the Conference will this Sunday attend an open air service in his parish. Nor has the bishop in question yet reported it on his blog; this news was hinted at by Ruth Gledhill and confirmed here. Has the incumbent officially invited this bishop? Does he even know he is coming? Of course the bishop doesn’t need an invitation if he is just going to attend, but will he do more? The bishop I am referring to: none other than Gene Robinson!
What can we hope for from this conference? The press have gathered in the hope of picking over the bones of a deceased Anglican communion. But I doubt if they will find a corpse. I suspect that the whole thing is now being carefully enough stage managed that an appearance of unity will be kept up, even if everyone knows how superficial it is. In that case there will be no news to satisfy the reporters, so I hope the weather warms up so they can enjoy their swimming pool. Of course if the stage management breaks down and real fireworks start to go off among the mitres, that will be news. But I expect that even if the rain stays away Lambeth will be a damp squib, three expensive weeks which will do nothing to solve the terminal sickness of the Anglican Communion if not actually making things worse.
I am sure a lot of Anglicans are taking a “wait and see” approach to the GAFCON process until after Lambeth, and after their summer holidays. But by September they will be starting to realise that they have to make choices one way or another. Time will tell.