REMORSE is a feature of the Call on Reconciliation, which was discussed at a Lambeth Conference plenary on Tuesday. During the session, participants were asked to exchange pectoral crosses temporarily as a sign of trust.
“Scripture”, the Call says, “has been interpreted over time by those wielding power in nations, churches, cultures and households to support the domination and oppression of human beings in gender, religious, economic, ethnic, racial, environmental, and cultural systems.”
It asserts that, “without justice and accountability, God’s reconciliation is not fully realised. Instead, oppression continues, impairing the humanity of all caught up in these systems, regardless of their role.”
The powerful “have sometimes used talk of reconciliation to maintain status and impede efforts towards justice and wholeness”.
Among the specific requests — the Calls themselves — each Province is invited to undertake “an exercise of self-examination and reflection, listening respectfully to the experiences of those who have historically been, and continued to be, marginalised in their contexts and in their church”.
Each Instrument of Communion is called to a similar exercise. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent book The Power of Reconciliation (Books, 27 May) is among the resources that bishops are recommended to use.
A key request is that the Archbishop of Canterbury and/or the Anglican Communion Standing Committee begin a new conversation with the Churches of Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda, seeking a full life together as an Anglican family of Churches.
The Bishop of Te Tai Tokerau, in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Rt Revd Kito Pikaahu, spoke of the struggle of indigenous people in the Anglican Communion. He drew attention to the work of the Anglican Indigenous Network with Maori nations. Reconciliation required trust and optimism, he said. Indigenous Peoples had been subject to colonisation for generations. “First Nation people know what it is to suffer,” he said.
It was for the dominant culture to ask what the customs were when addressing Indigenous Peoples, he suggested. “It’s critical to begin right. Rituals of encounter must be properly understood, as in, ‘Who are you? Who sent you? What is your purpose?’ The response would be either welcome, advance, or you will be turned back. It is either exclusion or embrace.”
He urged: “Get the power dynamic right. Without that, we cannot take another step.”
He made reference to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s apology — for which there had been “a great need” — to the First Nation of Canada. He also quoted Pope Francis: “I humbly beg for forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against Indigenous Peoples.”
Reconciliation was a gift of God to the whole world, he said, “the power of love as opposed to the love of power. It requires more listening than speaking. This is the right custom.”
The Worldwide President of the Mothers’ Union (MU), Sheran Harper, declared women and families to be powerful forces for reconciliation around the world. “They suffer most in times of division and conflict, and also on the long journey of reconciliation, always seen to be on the front line of the most violent and heartless of circumstances,” she said. “This is the day-to-day reality we face in a changed world.”
She referred to MU responses to conflict in South Sudan, where 160 women from the community had been engaged as leaders in the consultation process on reconciliation. At first, they had found talking about the past difficult — as in “They are the ones that killed our children.” “The baggage was heavy, the burden intolerable,” Mrs Harper said. But the result had been the MU’s wider engagement in community work.
In Formosa, Argentina, women had become the peacemakers in areas of confrontation. A group marching towards the police was first regarded with hostility, but told the police, “We’re here to pray for you and your jobs.”
The women prayed publicly for God’s blessing on the police’s job of maintaining the law. “Now they are frequently called on to mediate in the community,” Mrs Harper said. “It is more important than ever for us to learn how to handle conflict and disagreement.”
The Bishop of Amritsar, in the Church of North India, the Rt Revd Pradeep Samantaroy, recalled the power of Archbishop Welby’s prostrating himself in Amritsar at the memorial to the victims of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, when he visited during the centenary commemoration (News, 13 September 2019). Hundreds of Indian civilians had been shot by British troops when attending a public meeting in defiance of a ban by colonial authorities.
Archbishop Welby had said on the occasion: “I have no status to apologise on behalf of the UK, its Government, or its history. But I am personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity.”
He went on to say: “Learning of what happened, I recognise the sins of my British colonial history, the ideology that too often subjugated and dehumanised other races and cultures. Jesus Christ calls us to turn away from sin and turn to him as Lord. . . The past must be learned from so nothing like this ever happens again.”
Bishop Samarantoy said that the act had been “appreciated by everyone in my country. It was about honesty to God, looking inside at ourselves.”