Last night to Lambeth Palace for the Lambeth Partnership - another really inspiring meeting. Justin spoke very movingly about his plans and about the situation in the Anglican Communion and the CofE. Strikingly, the typical (churchgoing) Anglican is a sub-Saharan woman in her 30s living on $3-4 per day. There is a 50% chance that they are living in a conflict zone and a 40% chance they are in a country where Christians are persecuted.
He recalls visiting Myanmar where one of the bishops had a 6-8 day walk to get to his remotest parish. The Archbishop explained that it should be only 2-3 days but for the landmines: one member of the party walks ahead and then the others follow exactly in his footsteps. He also recalls phoning a Bishop who was taking the funeral of dozens of members of his flock who had been killed in an attack on a church - and being put on speakerphone so that he could pray for the congregation!
In the UK the CofE peaked at 3.5M regular Sunday attendants in 1935 (out of a 33M population) and until 5 years ago there had been a pretty steady decline of 1.2%pa. But in the last 5 years the total decline has only been 1.5% (and remember 3% die every year) so we seem to be turning a corner. During the 15 years Richard Chartres has been Bishop of London, London Diocese has grown by 70% - Justin described Richard, rightly, as "one of the greatest Bishops of the last half millennium" and now the CofE is rolling out some of the effective growth strategies used here in the rest of England, with a new Bishop of Islington to be appointed very soon to spearhead this.
Justin spoke to us about his three priorities:
- Prayer and the renewal of the religious life. I met the Prior of the Community of St Anselm and they have had over 350 applicants from 60 countries for the 12 places initially on offer!
- Reconciliation. Justin spoke movingly of the many initiatives here including reaching out to Muslim leaders for joint work on conflict resolution. One great scheme has been to get Christians and Muslims from Nigeria to see how Christians and Muslims from Nigeria live together here and then spread the word back home: the first group has already reached out to over 60,000 people back in Nigeria.
- Evangelism and Witness: we cannot all be evangelists but we can all be witnesses - and invite people to hear evangelists.