To the Good People of the Diocese of Olympia,
I bring you greetings from day 9 of Lambeth Conference 2022 being held in Canterbury, England. For those of you who are interested in this, usually decade only, event, the media has certainly covered much of what has happened to this point. It has been a fast and furious conference, made shorter for both economic and health reasons. While packed, it has also been spirit filled. Many of you followed the somewhat rocky start, in which I added some of my thoughts. Indeed, our Episcopal Church House of Bishops was not the only province within the communion quite concerned about the “bait and switch” nature of the various Calls being presented and that came to the participants just a few days before our arrival here. If you followed that, you know that in that communication we were told that we would be voting, something that in all the build up to the conference had never been mentioned. I am happy to say early on in this conference this was abandoned. I give the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, and leaders great commendation for listening and adjusting to this desire. In fact, we only actually voted and used the little digital machines once. We have never see them again.
Of all the “Calls”, the two most controversial, were expected to be, and indeed were, Human Dignity, which ironically was the one including a reaffirmation of Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 that affirmed that marriage was only recognized by Anglicans as between a man and a woman. This too, was one of the week early “surprises” sent to us. The other controversial Call was the one on Anglican Identity, which held several ideas that, quite frankly, are anathema to Anglicanism, and a complete polity change to our common life. Much in this Call would have made this church more of a Roman Catholic type polity and not a federation of independent provinces bound together by the Archbishop of Canterbury and prayer and relationship. Quite frankly this was one of the major reasons I was drawn initially to Anglicanism and ultimately gave myself to the life of it through ordination. Though not nearly as present in the media ahead of this conference it was one of my major concerns, and I was so thankful, as it turned out, of so many others here as well.
I want to say here that ultimately, once the voting machines were abandoned, and even more, once we began meeting in our small groups, for Bible study, and for relationship, both of these Calls and all the others, came to the beautiful “middle way” that is also such an appealing part of Anglicanism for me, and for so many that call it home. More on that later as to me, this is the beauty and the brilliance of this gathering and of our common life in this greater Communion.
Some of the other Calls, in my mind, are far more important for the Church, the Earth, and the inhabitants of it, and is truly where our true attention should be directed. And, through the work of the Holy Spirit, and also to the faith and leadership of our Archbishop of Canterbury, I believe this conference has now turned its attention to these more pressing matters. Creation Care and Climate Justice is one of those. This, is where I have put much of my energy while here, and this is what was celebrated, discussed and highlighted in our day at Lambeth Palace just finished yesterday.
Now, back to the beginning “unpleasantness”. In one of two of our special called meetings here of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops we discussed at great length what to do with the various hiccups sent to us at the last hour, voting, resolution 1.10, the exclusion of our LGBTQ+ people, etc. One Holy Spirit moment in this was the urging of those of us who attended 2008 Lambeth, and the few who actually were at 1998, to take a deep breath, to, as Brene Brown so well teaches, “take heed of the story you are making up about others” you have not discussed or met with, or tried to be in relationship with yet. Most often the story you are making up is not the story, and most usually the story they are making up about you isn’t either. Constantly, in the good, intentional, committed work that does happen at Lambeth, this is revealed. As one of my colleagues said, “we haven’t even started Bible Study yet, let’s do that and see where the Holy Spirit leads us.” I believe that worked, very well, and again brought us together in a way that led to some most amazing decisions about all of the issues before us. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his remarks during the Human Dignity discussion, we are a federation of very diverse provinces, in some, in which not upholding marriage as only between a man and woman will do harm to the Church and its members, and also those who, without moving forward with a theology of the holiness of same sex marriage does detriment to the Church and the people. Anglicanism if nothing else, is a place, a container, historically and in purpose, has always been a house where such differences could be held together in the reality that, ultimately we follow one Lord, Jesus Christ. In that one thing, that one focus, that one hope is our unity. We will differ on many things, but in Christ, we are united. That is not only a great witness to the Church writ large, but to this earth as well. I don’t only believe that, here have seen it with my own eyes.
I think I speak for all here, that your prayers for our continued work in these last days are coveted, and needed. As you do that for us, we all do it for you, across this globe, Anglicans joined together in our diversity and our oneness. On the blog portion of this website, I offer several links that will more fully explore some of what I have stated above. Included in this is a letter from “Inclusive Bishops” addressed to the LGBTQ+ community. Please know that some of the early renditions of this did not include my name, ONLY because I had not been asked or presented with it. Two things, I was in London a day before Lambeth day and not here to sign, and it was not sent out on our HOB listserv so as not to appear coercive to those who would not want to sign it. But please know I signed it as soon as I was given a chance to. No need to write to me about your dismay about not being on it if you see versions in the press that do not contain my name. I hope those of you that know me would trust me more than that.
Be assured, if there is any anxiety, that nothing that has happened here which will affect our purpose and mission in the Diocese of Olympia or the Episcopal Church, save to strengthen it, through our oneness and unity in Christ Jesus with our siblings across this globe. I write to you rejoicing in that reality and blessed to be on that journey with all of you.
Bishop’s Statement on LGBTQ+: www.bit.ly/InclusiveLambeth2022
Main Lambeth Conference site; https://www.lambethconference.org/
Discussion on Human Dignity at Lambeth 2022: https://www.lambethconference.org/bishops-at-lambeth-conference-discuss-the-lambeth-call-on-human-dignity/
Lambeth Day at Lambeth Palace on Creation Care: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2022/08/03/at-lambeth-palace-bishops-and-spouses-celebrate-launch-of-anglican-communion-forest-initiative/
You can Join the You Tube Lambeth Channel as well to get livestream as well as highlights from each day.
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel is the VIII Bishop of Olympia, the Episcopal Church in Western Washington State. He has been the bishop here since September, 2007.