Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he hasn’t heard directly from the Archbishop of Canterbury whether the next Lambeth Conference will be postponed, but “it’s pretty obvious that in all likelihood it would not be in 2018 because it takes three, four, years to plan.”
Hiltz responded in an interview with the Anglican Journal to media reports that the next Lambeth Conference, for which bishops from across the Anglican Communion usually gather every 10 years and which was expected to be in 2018, would may be delayed, perhaps until 2019 or 2020.
In an interview that aired Oct. 5 in a BBC Radio 4 Sunday program, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that he was following through with a promise he made-to the primates of all provinces in the Anglican Communion when he was installed at Canterbury-to visit all primates in their home countries before consulting with them about the timing of the meeting. “The next Lambeth Conference needs to be called collegially by the primates together with real ownership of the agenda and a real sense of what we are trying to do with such a large effort, such costs,” he said. “And so when we meet as primates, which I hope [will be] with reasonable notice after the end of this trip that I have done, then we will decide together on the details, but the reality is that by then it will be too close to 2018 to have one in 2018.
Hiltz said that sort of consultation is “okay,” but noted that it is a change from the way the meeting has been called in the past. “He may want to style it so that it is the Archbishop of Canterbury in consultation with and support of the primates, but historically it is the Archbishop that convenes a Lambeth Conference, and then people decide whether they will come or not, including some primates.”
Although Welby told BBC Radio that he was “never going to say definitely,” he did say that “it would be enormously difficult simply to book a place big enough” to host the Lambeth Conference for 2018. “One of the places, the place that they’ve gone for the last few conferences, is already booked up for 2018. Two or three years is far too little [time] to arrange such a huge operation.”
Aside from such logistical challenges, Hiltz observed that the Archbishop hopes to host a Lambeth Conference that is broadly representative of the whole Anglican Communion. “The other piece that seems to be coming out of interviews he is doing in England is that his ardent hope is that we will get to a point in the Communion that when it’s called, everyone will come.”
The worldwide Anglican Communion has been divided over issues such as the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships, and in the past, some bishops have boycotted the conference in protest. Also as a part of the BBC interview, Welby said that his tour of all provinces of the Communion, which should be complete by the end of November, has shown him that the Communion is “alive and incredibly vigorous. It is noisy, argumentative, diverse, has churches in 165 countries in 37 provinces. It would be bizarre if there were not tensions in something that was so incredibly diverse.” When the Lambeth Conference is called, Welby said primates “will make up their minds at the time” whether to attend.
-with files from André Forget
Editor’s note: A correction has been made in the second paragraph to the year the Lambeth conference was expected to happen.