General Synod: Primates’ address

16 February 2018

Primates of the Anglican Communion address the Synod on ‘sister Archbishops’, crises, and identity

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba

THE Synod was addressed on Friday morning by the Primates of Southern Africa and Pakistan, and one of the three joint Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, expressed a hope that “sister archbishops” would soon be added to their ranks. “Historically speaking, you are our mother Church; so it is a special privilege to be here in England,” he said, before thanking Archbishop Welby for his “heart for the Communion” and Dr Sentamu for his “practical solidarity”, demonstrated in his removal of his clerical collar in protest against Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. “It’s good to see you properly dressed!” he added.

He briefly referred to the water crisis in Cape Town and described being able to take a daily shower in London as a “mercy”. The Lambeth Conference, at its best, “modelled hospitality and the fostering of deeper relationships” and hospitality was “a key principle for dialogue”. He commended diocesan companion links. They “help us to acclimatise, not least to your weather”. He concluded: “We are tied to each other’s umbilical cord.”

The Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Most Revd Humphrey Peters, spoke about the challenge of being the “tiny body of Christ” in his country. He described how actions such as caricatures about the Prophet Muhammad had ramifications for Christians in Pakistan: “We become the victims of it. They burn our churches; they do suicide bombing.” Yet “God in his wisdom is keeping the body of Christ there.”

People in Pakistan, Muslims and other non-Christians, were “internally bruised”, he said, and brought to mind John 10.16: “they are also the sheep of Jesus and, though [they are] not from the same sheep pen, Jesus is worried about them as well.” Perhaps this was why God had kept the Church alive in Pakistan. “They need a healing touch. The world of Islam needs someone to wipe their tears, someone to hug them. . . Quietly, they come to us and say ‘What is happening in this world?’”

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The Church had made “inroads”, even with the Taliban. He pointed out that Osama Bin Laden had been found just a 20-minute drive from an Anglican church. About eight months before Malala Yousafazi was shot, she and her father had spent time with him and asked for prayer. The biggest mosque in Peshawar had “become closer to us”.

He asked: “Do we want to see the tiny body of Christ having the fate of Christians in Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon, or do we want to strengthen the body of Christ in that context, so that we can offer a shoulder on which people can cry? At least we should become a source of healing and joy and blessing for them.”

The Bishop of Polynesia and Archbishop representing Tikanga Pasefika, Dr Winston Halapua, spoke of an “amazing identity” and the “blessing” of the arrival of missionaries who brought Jesus to his home. He focused on the challenge of climate change, recalling the commitment made in 2015 in Paris and relating it to a synodical debate about the purpose of mission, defined as “engaging in God’s activity in the world”.

Oceans could not function without each other, and neither could Churches: “Together is the only way forward, and no one walks alone.” He suggested that “together” was “a secular word for the Trinity”.

He continued: “Missionaries came with Christ and our soul was the emphasis. . . I return with a new theology: we cannot claim salvation as human alone. The entire creation of God is God’s glory.”

He concluded that “Our identity is the Communion. Without the Communion, the Synod cannot be complete. Without the Synod, the Communion cannot be complete.”

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