For the last two weeks I have been at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England as a steward, along with fellow Community of The Way members Stacey McCowan and Aaron Vidyasagar. The theme of this year’s Lambeth Conference is ‘God’s Church for God’s World’. As stewards, we have been helping with the running of the conference, assisting delegates, and learning from spiritual leaders from around the Anglican Communion. It has been an inspiring and exciting experience, as well as a lot of hard work!
A highlight of the conference for me was attending a seminar titled ‘Environment: Living with the Fifth Mark of Mission’, and hearing from Christian leaders in environmental activism from around the world. Throughout the presentations and discussion there was a particular focus on the role of young people in environmental activism and restoration. I was particularly inspired by youth activist Mandisa Gumada’s call on bishops to “be present at the young people’s events, whether it is a clean-up or tree planting,” and Archbishop Julio Thompson’s call for the Church to “take off the gloves” and listen to young people, because “they will be receiving whatever is left in the next generation.”
On the topic of young people, I have been most inspired throughout the conference so far by the grace and commitment shown by my fellow stewards. We Lambeth Conference stewards are a team of 48 young people, aged 18-35, from 22 different countries, with very different cultural and theological backgrounds and life experiences. Despite these differences everyone in the team treats each other with care and dignity, and openly hears others’ perspectives on difficult issues, working together to understand each other. As we watch current Church leaders walk, listen, and witness together, it is inspiring to see young future leaders doing the same thing.
One of the most interesting bishops I have met is the Bishop of Tamale, Ghana, The Right Rev’d Dennis Debukari Tong, who I spoke to at the environment seminar. Bishop Tong explained the ongoing issues related to flooding earlier this year in Accra. He described how the Church is responding to the needs of the community, while also looking to the future, and it was insightful to hear how the Church is responding to the effects of climate change in other countries.
The Lambeth Conference has demonstrated to me that bearing witness to different perspectives in our Church community is instrumental to building a Church that loves and accepts all. If we cannot listen to and sit with an opposing idea, it is nearly impossible to make decisions or progress. In all the topics the bishops have discussed so far, a key part of their deliberations is hearing one another fully, and this has led to wholesome and fruitful discussions.
I hope this practice of listening and bearing witness to one another is a practice we can strengthen as a Church at local, national and global levels, to better work together for God’s world.