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Hallo again to all.

Who's coming?Some years ago, we made an invitation list for our wedding. It was hard, long work, and it almost got the better of us. There were classmates, close friends, family, family friends, and teachers who were on the list by default, and without whom we never imagined our wedding day. It was when we got to discussing people known to only one of us, or people one of us didn't particularly like, that we ran into trouble. One of us didn't want our day to be shared with him because of that, and the other didn't care to see her because of those things.

We are normally reasonable, civil and even loving people, but making this list began to draw us apart. In conversations with friends who have been married before and since, we've learned that this is a common occurrence in the year before a wedding. The marriage in utero begins to be obscured by the wedding; battle lines are drawn; and the invite list becomes a more difficult part of matrimonial planning than choosing food, attending marriage preparation sessions with a priest, picking clothes or making other arrangements.

In the midst of all this, we faltered. During an intense discussion—a full argument, in truth—about our wedding invites, we neglected to notice that we were driving slowly in the passing lane of a major highway where most of the traffic was moving at twice our speed. We saw the lights of the police car first, and then we heard its sirens. Said car escorted us to the side of the road, and its badged, armed driver issued a hefty fine along with a serious driver's license penalty that increased our insurance payments for years to come. No one was hurt, but we were embarrassed and briefly impoverished; we are still embarrassed that our inability to confer peacefully led to serious, lasting consequences well outside what we could have imagined.

Over time, our initial invitation list grew significantly. We stepped back and each retreated on various points. In the end, we realized that the invitation to our nuptial mass was an invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb as much as it was to a day we planned for our families and ourselves. We finally invited our entire parish—our siblings in Christ, among whom our love had grown, and with whom we hoped to begin our new life together. The pews were full to the bursting, and so were our hearts. In some sense, exclusive invitations were not ours to make in this case; our joy was a gift from God to be shared widely. We still made mistakes with our list that we would not have done again given the chance, but in hindsight we think we made most of the right decisions for most of the right reasons.

The Lambeth Conference is not the heavenly banquet, to be sure. It is less momentous in the whole economy of salvation than the sacramental life-markers that happen each day and each week in our parish churches. Nor are we at all convinced that the Narrow Way is at all delineated by the confines of its list of official attendees. (It is a certainty that any bishops not invited will have scads of people willing to pay airfare and lodging for them for the duration of the conference at any rate.) The wisest, most careful minds of what may still be called the Anglican Communion have noted the mysterious, tremendous state of flux in interrelations among us right now, and they have decided to hold off from thunderous pronouncements about the list of official participants.

Even a cursory acquaintance with the history of the Lambeth Conferences reminds us that the Archbishop of York refused to attend the first conference; J.W. Colenso was not invited at all. In fact only 53% of Anglican bishops (76 out of 144) accepted the original invitation to the Lambeth Conference of 1867 and actually showed up. In 1878 this rose to 58% (100 of 173); and in 1888, year of the famed Quadrilateral, the attendance rate increased to 68% of invitees—still just above failing on any university grading system. We imagine something false and self-created if we pretend that all bishops in good standing have always attended this talismanic event that tends to happen only once or twice in the tenure of any given episcopal career.

A relatively liberal bishop in one of the more conservative, equatorial provinces of the communion wrote us this week wondering genuinely and hopefully: 'I hope I'm still on the list'. We do not know who is on the list. To rail against a tree in one's path that may be swept away by flood or lightning a week from now makes nothing but wasted blood pressure and tainted passions. There are other ways forward: sometimes around, under, or through rather than in the usual path one imagines from experience. The important thing is to move forward, marshaling what strength we can for the purpose. God knows now what we cannot about the coming year. We hope and pray that it will not take sirens and flashing lights—as it once did us—to bring churchfolk to their senses about the issue du jour.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 27 May 2007

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