St. Mattthew’s, Westminster – Reflection on Communion

Reflection on Communion

The Canterbury meeting of Anglican Primates evoked a range of responses from bemused incredulity at the failure of the church to connect with the way the world is, to relief that the largely dysfunctional Anglican communion had found a way to kick the can down the road until the next time human sexuality comes up for consideration – probably at the next Lambeth Conference in 2020.

There are understandably cries of protest from the LGBI community and those who support it, tempered at least by the sense that Archbishop Welby had apologised for the Church’s discrimination against gay people and a commitment actively to oppose homophobia both in church and society (Archbishops of Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria please note). In a way the conference was a managerial triumph for Archbishop Welby whose previous experience as an oil executive was put to good use as he poured oil on troubled waters. Maybe he has made progress where his predecessor stumbled, though many would have been content to see the Anglican communion implode under the weight of its own incoherence, allowing the provinces of the communion to shape their own destinies according to their own conscience, cultural contexts, and interpretation of scripture, tradition and reason. But that implosion hasn’t happened. The fragments remain – maybe by some miracle they will be gathered up. The Primates meeting didn’t vouchsafe us  an Anglican utopia : but for the moment it has avoided an Anglican dystopia.

The Primates have agreed to ‘walk together‘ – only one African Archbishop absented himself from the proceedings early on, unable to force through a motion to exclude TEC. Instead of exclusion the American Episcopal Church  (TEC) was rapped over the knuckles for its attempt to re-write the church’s teaching and discipline on  marriage and banned from decision making within the communion on issues of polity and doctrine.

Maybe this is an Anglican fudge. But the Anglican Communion, progeny of the Church of England, though it may blur the doctrinal edges of what it believes, has written within its title deeds a broader understanding of God’s grace and the pluriform ways in which men and women down the ages have responded to the grace that is lavished upon them – while still holding hands with their fellow Christians, whatever their race or tribe, colour or class, wealth or poverty, sexuality or gender. Slowly but surely (and often painfully)  those barriers of division are coming down, and maybe the Primates meeting is a straw in that wind of change.

Change takes time – which is frustrating. But building bridges across yawning gaps  (which after all is what pontifical means, which the thirty eight pontiffs of the Anglican Communion might remember) takes much more time than the click of the papal fingers or the publication of an encyclical. It’s a long road and requires shared, mutually supportive prayer (and Jean Vanier’s involvement in the Primates‘ meeting may have helped the bishops with their spiritual priorities). It will also require imagination, humility and, serious matter though these are, a sense of humour.

Perhaps most of all it requires the kind of gracious humility and generosity of spirit exemplified by the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Archbishop Michael Curry, after the Primates’ Meeting. He had good cause to be indignant, but he came across as wise, gentle, courteous and understanding : like a compassionate father waiting for his prodigal children to return. TEC may not be allowed to vote on Anglican matters in the next three years, but there is no doubt that its influence, – especially when so graciously expressed – will be huge, and may possibly help to transform the Anglican Communion and help us truly to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

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The Anglo-Catholic Church of St. Matthew’s, Westminster, London has published its own reflection on the outcome from the Primates’ Meeting, called by the ABC and held at Canterbury, U.K., in the past few days.

This report gives as good an account as any on the state of the Anglican Communion in the wake of the Primates’ Meeting – from the point of view of a vibrant inner-City Church in the heart of London, that rates highly as a centre of inclusivity for Anglicans who are open to the forward movement of gender and sexuality issues within the Church of England and in the Anglican Communion at large.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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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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