From Canon Colin Craston
Sir, — Every congregation should be praying for wisdom and guidance for the Archbishop of Canterbury in his attempts to help the Anglican Communion to more effective unity of purpose (News, 18 and 25 September).
In more than 60 years of ordained ministry, the most significant period I experienced was 15 years on the Anglican Consultative Council and its Standing Committee. It was both inspiring and encouraging to see the gospel and church life being worked out in a multitude of nations and cultures.
To worship and minister in parishes as different as in Nigeria and the United States was an experience unknown before. In a final address on retirement as chairman in 1996, I said I thought there was hope for more effective unity. That was before Lambeth 1998, when the sexuality debate manifested such disunity — despite the Conference’s having received an agreed statement from a widely representative group of bishops after ten days study.
The resolution from the plenary debate acknowledged the need for continuing study supervised by the Primates and the ACC — which did not happen. In fact, the Primates, or some of them, have monopolised attention.
Anglicanism is governed not solely by bishops. Synodical government is episcopal leadership in consultation with representative clergy and laity. Both conservatives and liberals need to follow St Paul’s teaching on the divisions in the Church in Romans 12-15 and Ephesians 4.
There, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were sharply divided. The former claimed that the latter were “not following the Bible” — not obeying the Law given by Moses — as conservatives today are accusing liberals of being contrary to scripture. Paul says that they are to “prefer one another in love”, accepting each other’s search for the truth.
The unity of the Church is based on “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. Faith understood there is trust in Christ’s saving work.
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From the Revd David Rhodes
Sir, — I have sympathy for the Archbishop of Canterbury in trying to hold together the Anglican Communion. It must be like herding cats. What is seen as a problem, however, may really be a gift. Over the years, we have made an idol of organisational unity. I once asked a bishop whether there was any issue on which the Anglican Church might be willing to risk its unity. There was no answer.
For some people, St Paul’s image of the Church as a single body is a mixed blessing. But he did offer us a helpful picture of the separate parts of the body with their different functions. So, too, did Jesus. He gives us powerful images of seed that is scattered and buried; yeast that is dispersed and lost in the dough; salt that is sprinkled and disappears in the stockpot.
The unity Jesus seems interested in is a unity of purpose: those who do the will of the Father. Bringing good news to the poor might not be a bad place to start.
The Welby summit comes just before the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but maybe we should have a Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity, celebrating the different ways we’re called to work for the love and justice of God — and, in doing so, find common cause with many people of good will outside the Church. Perhaps Jesus wants to send us out in different directions as purposeful cats, not herd us together like sheep.
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