ARCHBISHOP ROWAN’S Advent Letter to Anglican Primates

Archbishop of Canterbury: “The Communion is a gift not a problem”

Posted On : November 30, 2011 4:47 PM | Posted By : Admin ACO
Related Categories: Lambeth

By ACNS staff

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches to reiterate that the “Communion matters” to its members across the world and to the mission of God.

In the letter issued today Dr Rowan Williams highlighted how, over the past year, Anglican co-operation and fellowship has provided real support and encouragement to Anglicans undergoing challenges in such countries as Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Referring to his recent visit to the Church of the Province of Central Africa he said, “The experience especially of visiting a Church that felt isolated and exposed in Zimbabwe reinforced powerfully for me the need to stand together with one another. When Archbishop Thabo from Southern Africa announced to the thousands who gathered in Harare for worship that ‘what touches you touches us’, he was giving voice to this.

“This is why the Communion matters – why it matters for a bishop in Jerusalem facing the withdrawal of a residency permit…a congregation in Nigeria facing more interreligious violence, an island in the Pacific facing inundation because of climate change, an urban community in Britain wondering how to respond to rising social disorder as poverty and unemployment increase. The Communion is a gift not a problem to all such people and many more. Only in such a mutually supportive family, glorifying and praising God in Christ together, can we truly make known the one Christ.”

The Archbishop’s letter acknowledged the “numerous tensions” in the Communion, but cautioned Communion members never to say “I have no need of you” to anyone seeking to serve Jesus Christ. He also used the letter to appeal for “more careful and dispassionate discussion” on such issues as the powers of Primates’ Meetings as well calling for “a sustained willingness on the part of all Provinces to understand the different ways in which each local part of the Anglican family organizes its life.”

Dr Williams also commended the Anglican Communion Covenant “as strongly as I can” stressing that it would neither change the structure of the Communion nor give “some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body.”

“It outlines a procedure, such as we urgently need, for attempting reconciliation and for indicating the sorts of consequences that might result from a failure to be fully reconciled,” he said. “It alters no Province’s constitution, as it has no canonical force independent of the life of the Provinces. It does not create some unaccountable and remote new authority but seeks to identify a representative group that might exercise a crucial advisory function.”

He said the fact that the moratoria were being “increasingly ignored” was deepening mistrust “which is bad for our mission together as Anglicans, and alongside other Christians as well. The question remains: if the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?”

The Archbishop concluded by looking ahead to next year’s Anglican Consultative Council meeting in New Zealand at which he hoped the following items would be addressed: The Bible in the Life of the Church project, the issue of gender-based violence, the environmental crisis, and “our commitment to evangelism and conversion in a diverse world”.


Below is the letter which was published today on the Lambeth Palace website:


This Letter, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, reminds us all of the importance of working together for Peace and Justice in our various situations of conflict around the world. Here is a significant part of that message, relating to the task of evangelism in a world of needy people:

“The Communion is a gift not a problem to all such people and many more. Only in such a mutually supportive family (the A. Communion), glorifying and praising God in Christ together, can we truly make known the one Christ.”

This Sentence is at the heart of the Archbishop’s commendation of the proposed Anglican Covenant process, which, however, as he himself recognises, will depend on each Province allowing others to do the work of the Gospel in their own context. The ABC’s mention of the Windsor moratoria – which, he acknowledges, have been ignored by more than one or two Provinces – witnesses to the fact that he is almost totally relying on the observation of the moratoria against such actvities as Same-Sex Blessings, the Ordination of Gay Bishops, and the Invasion of liberal Provinces by certain other Conservative Provinces, which were a product of the Windsor Report.

What needs to be distinguished in these different motivations for the breaking of the moratoria, is between those which are being ignored for the perceived application of human justice in the local Church; and those which are seeking to provide a foreign alternative Church in another Province, by conservative Churches, on the pretext of raising up so-called ‘orthodox-Anglican’ bodies (such as ACNA.; AMiA; CANA & AMiE ) , which hope to displace local Anglican Churches – such as has happened in the United States and Canada with TEC and the A.C. of Canada and now, the U.K.

While such different motivations exist in the communion – between local Anglican Churches that seek to pursue the path of common human rights for their members – and those conservative Provinces of the Communion that ignore such needs among their own people and seek to establish their anti-Gay agenda in other Provinces of the Communion; there can be no common ground within the fellowship on such matters.

The only Covenant that would work in the communion would be for all Provinces to agree to ‘live and let live’ on matters of disagreement; agreeing to basic doctrines – such as the Creeds – while striving to work together on the fundamental task of bring-ing the Good News – the Gospel of OLJC to the world – in the local context – with the hope that the pursuit of Peace and Justice, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, will make a real difference to ordinary people in the larger context of world poverty, social justice, racial harmony, economic security and spiritual health. The present Covenant, with it’s proscriptive, pre-enlightenment culture of social and cultural imperalism, simply cannot and will not serve the potential  freedom of Christ in the Gospel.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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