A somber farewell to the primates from Rowan Williams: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2012 p 5. December 12, 2012Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Rowan Williams
The Anglican Communion can no longer be considered a communion of churches but a “community of communities,” the Archbishop of Canterbury has told the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
In a pessimistic farewell letter to the leaders of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Rowan Williams’ final letter to the primates as Archbishop of Canterbury conceded that nothing now bound the communion together.
“Despite many questions about how our decisions about doctrine and mutual responsibility are made in the Communion, and some challenges to the various ‘Instruments of Communion’, the truth is that our Communion has never been the sort of Church that looks for one central authority.”
He added “this doesn’t mean that we are not concerned with truth or holiness or consistency,” rather the leaders of the church have not been able to find this truth. “All forms of human power and discipline can become corrupted, and that in the Church we have to have several points of reference for the organising of our common life so that none of them can go without challenge or critique from the others.”
It was not the destination, but the journey that was important, Dr. Williams wrote, saying in this dialogue amongst Anglicans some light of the truth may be glimpsed. “Our hope is that in this exchange we discover a more credible and lasting convergence than we should have if someone or some group alone imposed decisions – and that the fellowship that emerges is more clearly marked by Christlikeness, by that reverence for one another that the Spirit creates in believers.
“Another way of saying this,” he said, citing the words of theologian was that “we are a ‘community of communities’. And perhaps in our own time we could translate this afresh and say we are a ‘network of networks’.”
Dr. Williams recommended for the primates consideration the “the official networks of the Communion”.
“In the work done around evangelism, healthcare, the environment, the rights and dignities of women and children and of indigenous peoples and many more areas, what drew people together was this halfway formal model of a global community of prayer and concern maintained by deep friendship and common work. This is where you are probably most likely to see the beauty of the face of Christ in the meetings of the Communion; this is where the joyful hope of Christian believers is most strongly kindled,” he argued.
The archbishop’s words will likely have little resonance amongst the leaders of the growing churches of the Global South, however. The networks that have bound African and Asian Anglicans to Anglicans in the developed world have not focused on works or issues, but upon doctrine. The focus of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the Anglican Communion’s largest network, upon Anglican beliefs lies outside the outgoing archbishop’s model of action networks.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.