Archbishop Justin Welby has hailed the Diocese of Leeds Link Bishops initiative held at Parcevall Hall as a “wonderful thing".
At a special meeting in Canterbury with Bishop Nick and those involved, he suggested the unique residential visit, which brought together Link dioceses from Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Pakistan, the USA, Sri Lanka and Germany, could provide a template for use by the wider church.
“I’m really excited by this and think it’s a wonderful thing you’ve done,” said Archbishop Justin at a private meeting in The Old Palace, beside Canterbury Cathedral on Monday.
The Diocese of Leeds Link Bishops have already agreed to re-unite for more talks prior to the 2020 Lambeth Conference and Archbishop Justin asked Bishop Nick if he could prepare an advisory report on the groundbreaking Yorkshire event:
“This might be an idea for something we could do before Lambeth.
“The week before the conference could be used to get people together like this, warmed up and listening to each other,” he said.
Bishop Nick said the intense time spent together gave the space needed to examine key issues and also to create a framework for exchanging views in listening conversations.
Bishop Toby added that everyone had “got their heads down” and discussed tough questions - sometimes with laughter and sometimes with tears.
Bishop George Okoth, of Mara, Tanzania, said the power of The Cross bound everyone together: “We need to put much energy and emphasis on unity and despite the fact that we are different, we should not be judgemental of others.
“Loving, Living, Learning is the message of the Diocese of Leeds and it has been wonderful for me to learn from my brothers here.
Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo, of Khartoum, Sudan said: “We have listened to stories from one another of how people are wrestling with their own situations in very different contexts.”
Bishop Mark Bourlakas, of Southwestern Virginia, USA, said: “What has been surprising for me is how different the polity can be.
“We can sometimes assume that a bishop is a bishop and an Anglican church is an Anglican church – but clearly that’s not so.”
Bishop John Samuel of Faisalabad, Pakistan, told of the struggle against religious intolerance in his country and Archbishop Justin agreed that Christians there were “in a position of considerable persecution.”
Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey, of Columbo, Sri Lanka, told of coping during his country’s violent strife and said: “It is the commitment of discipleship until death.”
He also summed up the visiting bishops’ conclusion on their stay in the Diocese of Leeds: “Christianity is all about relationships and there has been such a strong bonding between us all.”
Before the hour-long meeting with Archbishop Justin and his Anglican Communion Advisor, Bishop Anthony Poggo, the party from Leeds was warmly greeted by the Dean of Canterbury, Robert Willis.
The Dean, who has been in post for 16 years, gave a personal tour of the Cathedral, taking the guests to the site of Thomas Beckett’s murder, the Chair of St Augustine and also provided lunch in his home.
Speaking after the visit, Bishop Nick said: "I am enormously grateful to the visiting bishops who demonstrated such trust and generosity in engaging together during our shared time.
"Now we look to build on this for the future."
*Link Bishop Ake Bonnier, of Skara, Sweden and Senior Dr Matthias Rein, Superintendent of Kirchenkreis, Erfurt, Germany, had already returned home before the Canterbury visit.