- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

About 625 Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference in England in July will not hold decisive votes on sexuality and other issues tearing apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, two participants said yesterday.

Instead, the bishops will use the gathering to convene “postmodern” discussion groups, the participants said.

“It is a global conversation,” Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said at a news conference in New York. “It is not going to legislate. It is not going to make final decisions about anything.”

The Lambeth Conference, which convenes once every 10 years, will be held July 20 through Aug. 3 at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Traditionally, the meeting sets policy for 80 million Anglicans on issues ranging from contraception and divorce to a 1998 vote declaring homosexual practice as “incompatible” with Scripture.

This year, the three-week-long gathering will feature a three-day retreat, 10 days of eight-person group studies on the Gospel of John, 10 days of 40-person discussion groups, a visit to Buckingham Palace and evening speakers. Daytime meetings will be closed to the public.

“In these post-Colonial times, those old processes that create winners and losers — is that the best way forward?” said seminary professor Ian Douglas, a member of the Lambeth planning committee. “We are changing to a new way, rather than the parliamentary way that tends to alienate and divide.”

He said the 40-person groups, dubbed “indaba” groups after the Zulu word for such gatherings, “are not shying away from hard questions.”

“How we understand authority of the Bible, human sexuality, we are not sidestepping those issues,” he said.

Conservatives have found fault with the retooled Lambeth, saying it offers no definitive leadership for adherents of the world’s third-largest Christian denomination after Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

“The non-Western leadership has pretty well given up on Lambeth,” Anglican Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone province in South America told the Anglican blog Stand Firm in January.

He and other conservative Anglican bishops have scheduled a rival conference June 22-29 in Jerusalem for 1,000 clergy and laity.

Many of the 280 bishops planning to attend the Jerusalem meeting will boycott Lambeth; others are planning to attend both gatherings.

Thousands of Episcopalians have left the church in recent years over issues of biblical authority and sexuality, most notably the 2003 consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is openly gay.

Bishop Schori refused to comment about conservative bishops attending Lambeth but described the Jerusalem meeting as “problematic.”