Lambeth 2008 is finished. We have only the packing of our bags, some time to try to digest what is happening and then the flight back to Charleston on Tuesday. I am eager to return. This morning while saying Morning Prayer in my dorm room and having my meditation time before the final day’s session, I begin to write down a few impressions forming in my mind. Before the day was out I had read them before my Indaba Group and was later dragged reluctantly in front of a TV camera and reporters, one of whom went a little further with the interpretation then I might have gone, but “stories” have that sort of life to them. I share my scrawl with you here because I come back home to South Carolina with these words very much in mind. They colored how I perceived the moving events of this last day of Lambeth 2008. Here’s what I wrote in my journal. For me it is primarily a metaphor of hope.
I am glad I came here for this Lambeth and worshipped one last time in the Cathedral home of Augustine and Dunstan, Anselm and Becket, Cranmer and Laud, Temple and Ramsay. I had come to speak a word of hope and perhaps to intervene on behalf of our beloved, but in the last resolve the family refused the long needed measures. So he just slipped away, our noble prince, one dreary morning in Canterbury with hardly even a death rattle.
The new prince was born last month in Jerusalem. I was there—arriving late, departing early. I was never quite sure what I was witnessing. It was an awkward and messy birth. He hardly struck me as I gazed upon him there in the bassinet as quite ready to be heir to the throne. I even wondered at times if there might be some illegitimacy to his bloodlines. But that I fear was my over wedded ness to a white and European world. May he live long, and may his tribe increase—and may he remember with mercy all those who merely mildly neglected his birth.
As for me my role for now is clear, to hold together as much as I can for as long as I can that when he comes to his rightful place on St. Augustine’s throne in Canterbury Cathedral he will have a faithful and richly textured kingdom.
It is hard for me to convey the peace and providential perspective through which I have come to see the crisis we find ourselves in as Episcopalians and Anglicans. We are not primarily in some North American struggle. This is a far bigger matter than the Episcopal Church (TEC). And although we face more than a few difficult questions in maintaining a vital, yet differentiated, life within TEC, I am convinced our Lord has a unique role for the Diocese of South Carolina to play as Anglicanism comes to its global maturity. These ideas are still gestating in my mind after this intense summer’s course in the Anglican Communion. To have this at the beginning of my episcopacy is a privilege I can hardly even begin to fully appreciate. Now I’m looking forward to meeting with the Standing Committee, the deans and other key leaders as we look ahead at the opportunities that await us in mission and ministry.
Since it is now past midnight, and I have an early morning tomorrow, and more than a little reflective work to do before I am able to offer a more far reaching evaluation of the time at both Gafcon and Lambeth, let me for now share with you a few of the highlights of the Final Plenary Session this afternoon, and then the Closing Eucharist.
The Plenary began with what you would expect: Reflections on the Spouses Program, then brief responses from two of the ecumenical participants. These were surprisingly stirring, particularly Metropolitan Kallistos words. “Your questions” he said, “are our questions, or if they are not already they will be. The double headed eagle is one of our symbols. Not the double headed ostrich! I ask two questions of your time: Did they clearly proclaim Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior of the world? And did the bishops uphold marriage and the sanctity of the family? How should I answer? To the first question, Yes, Christ was proclaimed as Lord. There was the uniqueness of the incarnation. To the second question I’m still wondering. Where is there a plain statement of the sanctity of marriage? What about Lambeth 1.10? Does not Truth matter more than outward unity?” Here were profound questions and observations posed by one of our ecumenical participants. Those with whom I was sitting were heartened—but of course they were theological conservatives.