Living—together—as the body of Christ
BY ARCHBISHOP LINDA NICHOLLS -September 11, 2019
I began to write this, my first column for the Anglican Journal, on the plane heading back home after General Synod. My head and heart are full of intense, exhilarating and painful moments from the previous week, as the Anglican Church of Canada gathered together to discern the work God has given us to undertake. That discernment called us to work together as a community.
In high school, in the midst of the cliques and divisions that inevitably grow as teenagers form their identity, I found a home in the community of Christian young people in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). These young people welcomed all—the geeks and the cool kids, the jocks and the artists! Everyone was included as they lived out that primary command to love God and love your neighbour as yourself.
From that time I knew that Christian community is a gift that must be nurtured and protected. I experienced it again when I lived and worked at Woodstock Christian School in India, an international boarding school. Students and staff came from all over the world and lived together in community. All had left family and familiarity, and we needed each other especially in the midst of international political tensions that directly touched our lives. Differences of race, culture and language stretched us to live together with compassion, to seek understanding and to discover joy in relationships we had not expected. I continue to seek and find this kind of community in Christ in ecumenical dialogues, nationally and internationally, and within our beloved Anglican Communion.
We are called by our baptism to love of God and each other. St. Paul (1 Cor. 12) vividly describes our community as the “body of Christ” in which all have a place and a purpose. Other passages call us to love in word and action so that the world will see something of God in our midst (1 John 4; Romans 12:4-13).
In a world that increasingly seeks to polarize people into rigid camps, marked by hatred or rejection of the other, we are called to be a community in which love is stronger than hate; in which disagreement on an issue does not demand separation; in which uniformity is not demanded; in which diversity is our teacher; in which we all acknowledge our own limitations and seek in good conscience to respond to God’s call.
In the midst of both rejoicing and agonized pain at General Synod, we continued to worship together: lifting our voices in song; praying together; reflecting on scripture together; and sitting together as children of God—all called by name, all forgiven, all valued, all needed in community together. St. Paul’s image of the body reminds us that no one is more important than the other; the body functions when all exercise their gifts for the sake of the whole. We do not yet live perfectly as the body of Christ, and we have wounded each other. However, I see the signs of hope as we grow into our calling.
Our witness to the world demands that we build communities, rooted in Christ, where all are welcomed and valued as we each and together respond to the gospel. When we fail to live up to our calling in community, we veil the light of Christ. When we do it well, the light of Christ shines strong and clear, inviting others to join us in the adventure of faith that brings wholeness of life.
The new Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, ++Linda Nichols, has a welcome message to all the Churches of the Anglican Communion, as she enunciates the goal of Christianity – to relate, lovingly, to all its members and to spread that love through the living our of the gospel precepts, despite differences of interpretation of Scriptural understanding on matters of gender and sexuality.
In the wake of the Canadian Anglican General Synod – which elected her as Primate – Archbishop Nichols is determined that; though the Synod decided, by a narrow majority in the House of Bishops, not to change its Canon on Marriage, leaving each diocese free to decide on their own action on the matter of the celebration – or not – of Same-Sex Marriages within their own jurisdiction, this did not signal a need for the break-up of the Church. “Unity in Diversity’ has long been an Anglican tradition.
Besides leaving diocesans (and dioceses) free to alter the status quo on S.S.M., (re the ‘Note To The Church’ issued by the Bench of Bishops after the G.S. vote); the new Archbishop notes the need for tolerance, compassion and patience for both sides of the obvious arguments about Same-Sex Marriage – so that all may live together in tranquility and mutual acceptance of one another in Christ; a truly worthy objective
This Statement by the Canadian Primate might well serve as a preamble to the gathering of Anglican Bishops at the next Lambeth Conference projected to be held at Canterbury, U.K., in 2020 – where the Assembly will consider the urgent prospect of learning to work together on hermeneutical process, and a united discerment on how to live together with one another in harmony and peaceful co-existence as a members of the Body of Christ in the modern world.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand