Archbishop in Jerusalem urges Anglicans to work for reconciliation
The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has stressed the need for reconciliation amongst Anglicans. Speaking to delegates at the Gafcon event being held in the city, Archbishop Suheil spoke of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s work of reconciliation in the Holy Land, and emphasised the importance of the Church being one. This message featured in a homily delivered at an evensong in St George’s Cathedral on Sunday attended by some 200 of the Gafcon participants, including more than 70 bishops; and repeated in a welcome message to the Gafcon event being held in Jerusalem’s International Convention Centre.
Archbishop Suheil invited the Gafcon delegates to consider the three steps that are needed for unity and reconciliation. In a summary published by the Diocese in Jerusalem, he said: “First, in order to face the enormous challenges of our time, and to work towards unity and reconciliation we need to be able to meet in dialogue and mutual respect. Second, the community needs to be able to celebrate the differences that it has, and accept each other through seeing Christ in each other, and not by imposing our own image of Christ on each other. The final step towards unity and reconciliation . . . is hospitality, since it is through hospitality that we can transform the exclusion of others to an embrace.”
The theme of the pre-Gafcon evensong was “Friendship and Reconciliation” which was, Archbishop Suheil said, “at the heart of our Christian faith.” He said that gatherings and meetings of Christians – like Gafcon – were “part and parcel to our ministry. Not only are we to have good relationships; but we strive to have excellent companionship and fellowship with Christians from around the world. We look for opportunities for collaborative ministries.
“In this land, our existence as Christians depends on these relationships. These are relationships that spiritually nourish us. I am told by pilgrims who pass through here that when they meet a Christian in the Holy land, and ask their denomination, the first response is ‘I am a Christian’. Our primary identity is in Christ.
“And it is this identity that enables us to reconcile with one another, even with those who we perceive to be different to us. As Christians we are reminded this evening of what it is Jesus calls us to be. Our Scripture readings remind us that Christ is our sign of unity. Christ has called us to the ministry of unity in friendship and reconciliation. Jesus said: ‘I ask . . . also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one’ (John 17: 20-21).”
In a message of welcome to the Gafcon delegates on Monday morning, Archbishop Suheil said: “We have a duty to recognise that Christ is revealed afresh and anew in every encounter, everyday. That we have a duty not to try and impose our impressions of Christ or God on another, rather to see this afresh – to contemplate what God is revealing to us.
“Only through being open to the other, that we can begin to understand how the Kingdom is revealed – and for Christians, this must be ‘the longing is for a home from which no one is excluded’.
“Whatever we hear in the coming year, we must realise how precious our unity is and seek to keep our fellowship alive between each other, and remember that we are called to exclude no one from the love of God.”
He concluded his homily on Sunday evening by saying that friendship and reconciliation “begins with the understanding that the person who has caused hurt is equally loved by God just as we are.”
I was intrigued to read that the first religious service of the current GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem was planned to take place in the local Russian Orthodox Church in that City. However, it appears that the actual location hosting the first Evensong of the Conference was held in the Anglican Cathedral of Saint George the Martyr. The Preacher at Evensong was The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, whose sermon majored on the theme of ‘friendship and reconciliation – a them that seems at odds with the fact that many of the delegates were drawn from Churches which have already separated out from the worldwide Anglican Communion – headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lambeth.
One of the defining moments before the Conference was when the representatives of ACNS, the Anglican Communion News Service, based in the U.K., were refused permission to be present at the Conference as representatives of the Communion at large. This surely, above anything else, shows the disaffection by the Conference organisers for the Founding Province of Canterbury and its Primus-inter-pares, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The odd thing about this is that one of the proponents of GAFCON, the Revd. David Ould and his friend the Archbishop of Sydney publicly stated their surprise that the Conference was being ignored by the Church of England and by the very press agency ACNS that had been denied permission to attend the Conference in order to report on it!
However, despite the intentional snub being rendered to the Canterbury news outlet, this item has obviously escaped the embargo imposed by the organisers of the conference, to reveal the fact that the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, ++Sulheil Dawani (pictured in the article above) is intent on trying to keep the Communion together – despite expressed intention by some of the GAFCON Primates to separate out from Canterbury in order to form a new alliance around its own sodality.
Her is a relative extract from the above article which expresses ++Dawani’s hopes”
‘In a message of welcome to the Gafcon delegates on Monday morning, Archbishop Suheil said: “We have a duty to recognise that Christ is revealed afresh and anew in every encounter, every day. That we have a duty not to try and impose our impressions of Christ or God on another, rather to see this afresh – to contemplate what God is revealing to us. Only through being open to the other, that we can begin to understand how the Kingdom is revealed – and for Christians this must be ‘the longing is for a home from which no one is excluded’. Whatever we hear in the coming year we must realise how precious our unity is and seek to keep our fellowship alive between each other, and remember that we are called to exclude no one from the love of God.”
The very last line of the Archbishop’s eirenic call, says all that needs to be said.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand