Peace is part of the Christian DNA

20 July 2012

THE recent exchanges about world mission, both the report and the debate in the Synod at York, showed the C of E in its best light. Through the parochial system, it has an interest in every citizen of this country, and it has noted that many of these citizens either come from or have links with other parts of the globe. By this reckoning, every parish is part of the global Church. This is wholly positive. Exposure to the faith and customs of people in other countries, hearing of the problems they face, helps churches conform to the New Testament model of charitable interconnectedness.

The necessity of housekeeping and the temptations of internal politics can turn a Church in on itself. This is why working with mission agencies is so vital. These take the concentrated passion of individuals with a calling to a wider mission, and use it to enthuse the Church around them. The newest of these, the Anglican Alliance, deserves to be better known, although, for the present, its contribution is a fraction of that of the older, better-connected agencies. Reading its list of priorities is salutary after these weeks of anxiety about women bishops, gay marriage, and (for a relative few) bishops in the House of Lords: "economic empowerment, climate change, food security, women's empowerment, youth empowerment, community empowerment, peace and reconciliation, governance, and migrants and refugees". Also, it seeks to play a part in alleviating suffering "in all disasters". The harvest - God's fulfilling work - stands ripe in the field; where are the labourers?

The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed this theme in a sermon to Anglican Communion guests in Lambeth Palace chapel on Thursday of last week. "What is it that binds us as an Anglican family? Not the peace that we have achieved by negotiating with one another until we come to a standstill, but the peace that is given by God." The acceptance of all people as children of God has a profound effect on our behaviour towards them. Love can be refused or spurned, but, made in the image of God, Christians cannot stop offering it. Nor is love hierarchical: one cannot love down to someone or up to someone. Love, rather, is presumptuous, treating all as equals.

The Anglican Communion is in danger, at present, of being characterised by argument. Different elements in national and international Churches are at loggerheads, to such an extent that it would be a relief to take different paths and have less to do with each other. This is not, however, an Anglican option. As Dr Williams said: "We make peace, we proclaim and work for reconciliation, not because we think it's quite a good idea, but because our Heavenly Father has implanted it in the DNA of our new creation, our rebirth as his children. We cannot help ourselves; we cannot give each other up as Christians."

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