A number of current and past OCMS students and scholars serve as Anglican bishops around the world and July saw most of them gathering in Canterbury, UK with over 2,000 bishops, spouses, speakers and facilitators for the Lambeth Conference, last held in 2008. For three quarters of the bishops present this was their first time to be present in such a global gathering of Anglican bishops. It was a special answer to prayer to see Bishop Saw Maung (Michael) Doe, an OCMS alumnus, arriving with four of his fellow bishops from the crisis in Myanmar, together with bishops from South Sudan, Polynesia, Hong Kong and Jamaica, all with their own particular concerns.
After a retreat focused on 1 Peter, the conference came together around seven main themes beginning with Mission and Evangelism and ending with Discipleship, a missional sandwich filled with a rich mixture of environmental responsibility, Christian unity and inter-faith relations, reconciliation and of course human sexuality. The last of these remains painful and the divisions are real (bishops from at least three African countries were absent from Canterbury) but in a sandwich which majored on Mission, Evangelism, Church Planting and Discipleship it was almost digestible.
The need for training and research within the Anglican Communion is huge and conversations over breakfast, lunch and dinner often turned to what OCMS might offer to this particular Christian tradition through equipping theological teachers, offering leadership in research, and developing networks of mutual enrichment. Many bishops are expected to wrestle with complex pastoral, leadership and theological issues equipped with little more than a very basic college education. One breakfast time I found myself in an animated conversation with three Tanzanian bishops struggling to know what to do with Muslim converts to Christianity who bring with them their three wives and wish to continue adding more wives as women in their community find themselves widowed and destitute. Not an issue I faced in my parish ministry in Newcastle!
Revd. Canon Mark Oxbrow
Director, Guided Research Programme