Over the last day or so, I’ve posted a couple of links on the topic of #Primates2016 on my Facebook account and I’ve tweeted about it multiple times. As such, I’ve decided to offer a brief, threefold reflection on the events of the last week.
First, Jesus as Lord, and his continued presence by the Holy Spirit in the Church, seems to have been first, centre and last, above and below all the discussions they have had. Comments by Welby, the other Primates at the press conference, and in the communique indicate that God was present and there was a deep awareness and thankfulness for the prayers of the Global Anglican Communion.
Second, the key distinction between ‘consequences’ and ‘sanctions’ seem to be what the media representatives were asking about. The Arch-Bishops were very clear that they do not have the authority to impose sanctions, and that this is primarily not about the theology of marriage per se. Rather, this has been an exercise in unity and catholicity with regards to decisions of polity (ie, any changes to the constitutional framework of the Anglican ‘institution’). The Episcopalian Church has not been kicked out, or ex-communicated. It has, however, acted independently of the rest of the communion and as such its ability to vote on what the rest of the communion of provinces do in this regard has been suspended. The ‘consequence’ of this is that they still participate in the internal body of the Anglican Communion and are encouraged to join with the rest of the communion in walking together, ‘however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ.’ As such, the key determining factor for the future of The Episcopalian Church within the communion lies not on the rest of the provinces accepting or rejecting them, but on their response and actions over the next three years. My personal hope is that they will continue to walk along side their Brothers and Sisters in Christ around the world, in unity and communion.
Thirdly, in this digital age in which we live it can be all to easy to assimilate and spew forth opinions and commentary hastily, seeking and finding between the lines hidden agendas which either support or oppose our own personal views. My primary impression from the press conference is that the Arch-Bishops and their comments come from a place of good faith. I don’t believe that the communique is a ‘victory’ for any side because I don’t think that the Primates are operating, on the whole, in a pure dichotomy of pro-this, anti-that; Team GAFCON vs Team TEC. The words of the communique are agreed upon, and as such occupy the ground common to all. It’s worth noting, too, that much of it is descriptive, rather than prescriptive.
This leads to my hope and prayer for all those who consider themselves Anglicans or who are commenting on the topic from any number of perspectives:
Let us imitate the prayerful and Christ-centred approach that our Primates have taken when engaging with this issue. Let us put Christ first and seek to glorify him in our conversations about the communion. And lastly, let us not be hasty to accuse others of hidden agendas and political motives but rather be ambassadors of the Prince of Peace and forgive the, likely unintended, offence(s) which are given all too often during social media discussions.
A quick side note, I was rather excited and interested to hear Justin Welby mention in the press conference the potential for future discussions between the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Churches to potentially unify the date on which Christians of all denominations celebrate Easter! Now wouldn’t that be something?
May the words of ‘Addendum B’ be an encouragement to us all:
We, as Anglican Primates, affirm together that the Church of Jesus Christ lives to bear witness to the transforming love of God in the power of the Spirit throughout the world.
It is clear God’s world has never been in greater need of this resurrection love and we long to make it known.
We commit ourselves through evangelism to proclaim the person and work of Jesus Christ, unceasingly and authentically, inviting all to embrace the beauty and joy of the Gospel.
We rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us speech, brings new birth, leads us into the truth revealed in Christ Jesus thus building the church.
All disciples of Jesus Christ, by virtue of our baptism, are witnesses to and of Jesus in faith, hope and love.
We pledge ourselves together to pray, listen, love, suffer and sacrifice that the world may know that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Come Holy Spirit.
Grace and peace to you all,
Samuel S. Thorp