In 2008, I see “visions and dream dreams,” as the Apostle Peter declared, citing the prophet Joel, on the Day of Pentecost. And I see and dream of what, by the action of the Pentecostal Spirit, can be at The Lambeth Conference of July 2008.
Before this vision and dream can be received, the most likely scenario of who will attend and what will happen at Lambeth 2008, needs to be recalled.
Right now—as I indicated in my piece of January 8, “The Windsor Process and Lambeth”—using normal forms of prediction, the best guess is that only two thirds of those bishops invited will attend The Lambeth 2008 Conference. Further, it is generally agreed that the one third absent will be amongst the most evangelistic and missionary minded of all Anglican bishops. Thus the outcome will reflect this inblance. Regrettably, the build-up for the Conference and attendance there has become a clear example of the Churches acting in the political mode, that form of behavior with which we are most familiar amongst political parties and politicians.
Now to the vision and the dream.
First of all, I have a vision of Canterbury Cathedral filled to capacity for the opening Service of the Conference, present at which are all the bishops invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury—over 800. As good Anglicans, they are using the historic Book of Common Prayer, the first prayer book of The Church of England. And the quality of the English language of worship and prayer is matched by the melodious singing of the great congregation. The preacher, Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria, anointed by the Holy Spirit, powerfully proclaims the Word of God, so that there is a hush, a silence, as reflective minds allow its truth to sink into their hearts, knowing that the Shekinah (glory) had descended into this ancient sanctuary.
Secondly, I dream of the bishops, divided daily into groups to study various topics, relating one to another, not merely with good manners but moreso with Christian humility and graciousness. Also I dream of their work together as being means of both growing in love and respect for one another and also gaining real knowledge of the subject under review to benefit them and their ministries.
Thirdly, I have a vision of the daily morning periods for prayer and Bible study, where bishops from each Province have their turn to lead others in the worshipping in spirit and in truth and meditating upon the Word written. Here I sense amongst them a sense of worship in the Spirit and a communion with God and with each other. Also I sense a growing appreciation in them of how people of different cultures and languages approach and serve their Lord God.
Fourthly, I dream of bishops in twos or threes or small groups, and from different places and perspectives, sitting down together in the Kent sunshine, and engaging in discussion and dialogue, followed by prayer, as means of being blessed by each other, and learning more of fellowship one with another in the Lord. I also dream of them facing together the emotionally charged topics that have divided members of the Anglican Communion in recent times, and doing so in a way that both honors persons and seeks the truth as given by the Lord in revelation.
Fifthly, in the large meetings of bishops I see emerging a consensus that those bishops present who cannot accept the received biblical and traditional Christian teaching on the nature of sexual relations, which includes the prohibition of same-sex unions and blessings, ought to withdraw from the Lambeth fellowship voluntarily; and that the same applies to provinces (which would need to take this action on their return home). Happily, I see this sensitive and tender development occurring within the expression of much love and understanding.
Sixthly, I dream of Rowan Williams, President of the Conference, filled like the Apostle Peter of old on Pentecost, and fluent in the content of the revelation of God in the prophets of the Old Testament and from the New Testament, leading the assembled bishops into a new appreciation of the gift of God which is the Global Communion, and new dedication to God the Holy Trinity and to each other, and a consecration to world mission for Christ’s sake. In all this I dream of the draft Anglican Covenant taking on a renewed shape, in readiness for its being sent to the member Churches. And in this context I dream of a way being found of uniting the various factions and groups in the U.S.A., all of whom claim to be godly and orthodox.
And seventhly, I also had a vision of the spouses of the bishops, having their own meetings and activities, and determining at them and because of them to help their spouses to be genuine modern-day apostles, to proclaim the Gospel, to bring reconciliation, to care for all classes and types of people, and to glorify the Holy Trinity in their ministries.
Finally, I had a dream, profoundly symbolic , whereby in pictures, diagrams and models, I dream of how the autonomy of each Province can exist peacefully within the interdependence of all the Provinces; how the whole global Communion can continue without schism as it faces real challenges; and how the “Instruments of Unity” can be energized by divine wisdom and grace to function to help create and maintain unity in truth and truth in unity.
My visions and dreams leave me exhausted but hopeful, for with God, the Holy Trinity, all things are possible (said Jesus).
Dr Peter Toon January 9, 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org