The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of the world’s Anglican bishops, usually held every 10 years. About 650 bishops will meet in Canterbury from 26 July to 8 August 2022 to discuss mission and evangelism; reconciliation; safe church; environment and sustainable development; Christian unity; inter-faith relations; Anglican identity; human dignity and discipleship.
Here is a glossary of words and terms that may crop up in reports of the conference:
Anglican The word comes from the Latin for English, Anglicus. It describes the church that developed from Henry VIII’s reign when the church in England broke away from Rome in 1534, and then developed under the Elizabethan settlement as the established church, with the sovereign as supreme governor. It has since spread around the world and considers itself as catholic and reformed by the Protestant tradition. There are an estimated 85 million Anglicans in 165 countries.
Anglican Communion The word communion comes from the Latin communio (sharing in common). It describes the relationship between Anglican and Episcopalian churches, where there is no central authority but shared traditions, for example in liturgy and church structure.
Anglican Consultative Council This is one of the four instruments of communion that hold the communion together. The others are the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates meeting. The Anglican Consultative Council is a gathering of clergy and laypeople who advise on organisation and seek to develop common policies.
Anglican Communion Office The administrative headquarters of the communion based at St Andrew’s House, west London. The Anglican Communion’s chief executive and secretary-general is Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, from Nigeria. He is retiring after the conference and will be succeeded by Bishop Anthony Poggo of South Sudan.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been the Archbishop of Canterbury since 2013. He is president of the Lambeth Conference, but this comes with no power to direct policy in provinces outside England.
Bishop Leader usually associated with a diocese. Their authority derives from a line of succession going back to the Apostles and allows them to ordain and discipline.
Bishops at the Lambeth Conference 1,000 bishops were invited from every province and about 650 have accepted. They include diocesan bishops and suffragan (effectively assistant) bishops. See our factsheet here. Bishops from Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria have stayed away in protest at other churches allowing same-sex marriage. Some bishops from the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Ecusa), have stayed away because their same-sex spouses were not invited.
Catholic From the Greek word katholikos, meaning universal. Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican church have a tradition that was preserved when the Church of England separated from Rome in 1536. They emphasise sacraments, apostolic succession and elaborate liturgy. They include those opposed to the ordination of women and against liberal views on sexuality. There is, however, a liberal Anglo-Catholic movement, which is open to dialogue.
Calls At this conference, the bishops will not vote on resolutions. Instead they will vote on “Calls”, documents with declarations outlining Christian teaching, affirmations on what bishops want to say, and calls to the church for action.
Canterbury The city has been the centre of the Church in England since Augustine in 600. The Lambeth Conference has been held at the University of Kent at Canterbury since 1978, moving there from London to accommodate increasing numbers of bishops.
Episcopalian Most people from the Anglican tradition are called Anglicans but some are known as Episcopalians. The word derives from the Latin and Greek root episcopus, meaning bishop. The Episcopal Church was formed in United States after the American Revolution, when Anglicans there could no longer swear allegiance to the British monarch, who is supreme governor of the Church of England. It claims bishops in the apostolic succession, consecrated in a line going back to St Peter.
Evangelical From the Greek word euangelion, meaning gospel or bringing good news. Evangelicals are “low church”, emphasising conversion, experience and the supremacy of the Bible in matters of faith. Many hold traditional views on morality while others embrace contemporary insights. See our factsheet here.
Diocese A geographical and administrative area within a province.
Gafcon The Global Anglican Future Conference was set up in 2008 in protest at what its members saw as liberalising tendencies, especially over same-sex relationships and marriage. It said that moral compromise, doctrinal error and the collapse of biblical witness had affected parts of the Anglican Communion. It has members from six provinces in Africa, three in south America, Myanmar and some parts of Europe and America, with branches in Australia and New Zealand. It runs parallel global conferences for its members.
GSFA The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches held its first meeting in 1994, and seeks that the church remains true to scripture and explicitly that any sexual expression outside marriage of a man and woman is sinful. Its members are from Africa, South America and traditionalist groups in the West. This group will attend the Lambeth Conference and has vowed to seek the affirmation of Resolution I:10, which is against same-sex marriage.
Lambeth Palace The palace has been London home and business base of the Archbishop of Canterbury since 1200. The bishops are gathering there on 3 August to discuss climate change and to plant trees.
Primates These are the most senior bishops in the hierarchy, sometimes known as archbishops or presiding bishops. They are often head of a province, but sometimes head of several.
Provinces Large areas of administration of the church, often based on national boundaries. There are 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion. In the UK these are: Church of England, Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland.
Resolution I:10 This resolution was passed by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and proved deeply divisive. It rejects homosexuality as incompatible with scripture and cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions.
Synod The Lambeth Conference has no authority to pass laws. It is a consultative body where ideas are discussed and voted upon, but which are not binding on any province, but carry moral and spiritual guidance. It is unlike the synodical structure of the Church of England, where the General Synod takes votes which change church law, for example the ordination of women.