Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue
Last June the Anglican Church of Canada reported on a consultation held in May that included bishops from Canada, Ghana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Burundi, Zambia, England, and the United States.
Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue finds unity in diversity
Introduced by the Most Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante as an ecumenical contribution from the Methodist Church of Ghana, the Akan concept of sankofa served as a guiding framework for the Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, which took place from May 25-29 in Accra, Ghana…
Sankofa—literally, ‘It is not a taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind’—refers broadly to the unity of past and present, where the narrative of the past is a dynamic reality that cannot be separated from consideration of the present and future.
Professor Asante’s paper is available in full as a PDF here.
The full text of the document that emerged from the May meeting is here: Testimony of Unity in Diversity
The signatories are:
Bishop Jane Alexander: Edmonton
Bishop Johannes Angela: Bondo
Bishop Victor Reginald Atta-Baffoe: Cape Coast
Bishop Paul Bayes: Liverpool
Bishop Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith: Asante Mampong
Bishop Michael Bird: Niagara
Archbishop Albert Chama: Primate of Central Africa
Bishop Garth Counsell: Cape Town
Bishop Michael Curry: Primate, The Episcopal Church
Bishop Given Gaula: Kondoa
Bishop Michael Hafidh: Zanzibar
Archbishop Fred Hiltz: Primate of Canada
Bishop Michael Ingham, New Westminster (retired)
Bishop Shannon Johnston: Virginia
Bishop Julius Kalu: Mombasa
Bishop Edward Konieczny: Oklahoma
Bishop Sixbert Macumi: Buye
Bishop Robert O’Neill: Colorado
Archbishop Daniel Sarfo: Primate of West Africa
Bishop Daniel Torto: Accra
Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya: Swaziland
Bishop Joseph Wasonga: Maseno West
Bishop Joel Waweru: Nairobi
And there is also a paper giving the historical background to these conversations. The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue emerged after the 2008 Lambeth Conference as a way for bishops from different backgrounds to continue an ongoing, respectful dialogue in the midst of significant disagreements, primarily over the issues of human sexuality and same-sex marriage.
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On the Testimony of the Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue:
A welcome and heartfelt plea for 'unity in diversity' and prioritising love and common ground, even in all our differences - the common ground we find in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ... and the service of our neighbours.
"Our purpose is neither to resolve nor to ignore differences, but to deepen relationships and therefore to nurture mutual understanding."
Exactly. The key is not to demand uniformity, but to open our hearts to love.
"In our Anglican tradition this means unity but not uniformity. Unity in diversity is a distinctive feature of Anglicanism throughout the Christian world."
If we look at our past, as Anglicans, we have always had diversity, yet drawn strength from our differences, with their need for love and grace. And no, unity does not mean uniformity.
"Our conversations are intended neither to condemn nor to condone, neither to agree nor to disagree, but to love."
The test is not 'which one is right' but 'can we open our hearts to love'.
"To be fully the body of Christ we are compelled to be together. We are learning to live with our differences and with each other."
The Body has many parts - they are not all the same. And yet, with grace, we can love one another, and learn to live with difference.
Of course, at the same time that Liverpool, Virginia and Kumasi where creating alliance, along the old slave triangle, the Nigerian diocese of Akuri was breaking off links.
None of this is easy, if we insist on uniformity. On the contrary, demand for uniformity creates a drive towards schism.
But once again, as with the Anglican Consultative Council meeting (that Justin rather poorly misrepresented), we can see here a spirit of good intent, of longing for 'family', and a willingness to seek our unity - not in uniformity - but in Christ, and our mission and service to our neighbours.
We have so much in common, and gatherings like these solicit trust and hope. Love and grace are the familial characteristics of the household of God. Love is the greatest commandment. Differences need to be viewed in this perspective, within the primary context that we should love one another, and that we are one in Jesus Christ.
"Exactly. The key is not to demand uniformity, but to open our hearts to love."
Would you judge the Nicene Creed and the conflict that led up to it -- Arians, Eusebians, semi-Arians, the 'orthodox' -- to have been avoidable if everyone at Nicaea had sought 'love' instead of 'uniformity' in Catholic Confession? Is the Nicene Creed a uniformity that excluded a wider group who might have loved each other into a 'deeper consensus'?
One wonders about the 'uniformity' vs 'love' options, unless the latter is a sentimentality only. What kind of 'love' did Bonhoeffer exhibit that demanded his rejection of false teaching?
Interesting how Bonfoeffer, or the name Bonhoeffer, becomes a new Shibboleth for one's orthodoxy or fundamentalism. One often hears the line that "orthodoxy is the party that won out"; seems so true but of course could count both ways. Whose orthodoxy? Whose false teaching? What with all those exclusions, excommunications and anathemas being issued, heresy trials, witchburnings, Christian authoritarian fatwas - so removed from the Gospel - yet backed up by authoritarian regimes.
I don't seem to read that, other than the Shema, Jesus left us any Creeds or the Fundamentals of Scripture. No fencing off of the altars. Can't seem to see the Lord Jesus turning away people because they didn't sign up to credal or textual uniformity or sentimentality for that matter (certainly didn't turn away the woman who touched the helm of his robe and eventually didn't turn away the Syro-Phoenician woman). One of the young persons in my theology class perhaps rightly countered my attempt at justifying Trinitarian orthodoxy to say that such doctrinal attempts are not necessary to be a Christian. Also pointing out that a few hundred years ago, not just him but me too would have been burnt at the stake for voicing our thinking.
I suspect Bonhoeffer wouldn't demand the exclusion of those who still believe in Adam and Eve or Bultmann or even dear old Jack Spong; probably wouldn't excommunicate the members of the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue and for what they are on about. Thank God for that.
See Anglican Journal;
"[Canadian Primate Archbishop] Hiltz used this opportunity to bring up the Canadian church’s upcoming vote on same-sex marriage.
'I plunked it right on the table: the marriage canon [vote],” he said. “Some of them, I think, were actually relieved that the elephant in the room was no longer the elephant in the room, that I actually had put it right on the table.' "
Clearly, opponents of same sex marriage are unhappy with this kind of diplomacy. It does not play well with conservative longings for a kind of political hegemony based on a romantic reading of church history.
Instead of "reconciliation" and "unity in diversity" we need to be clear that the split has already happened - the East and the West cannot coexist, once again.
Rather than repeating the historical blunders of the churches which led to rancor and even murder, acknowledge it, separate firmly and completely, without further contact and continue on to useful work, rather than the vanity project that the idol of "church" has become!
I wonder what Nicea would have been like without Constantine...or the English Reformation without the Royal Supremacy?
How are these expensive jollies relevant to my parishioners and me? How is General Synod similarly relevant? Or faciltated conversations? or the rest of the narcissistic nonsense that is viewed with such scorn by all except the club. People believe what they like irrespective of what bishops say. So do I.
@ keithmcianwil. "I don't seem to read that, other than the Shema, Jesus left us any Creeds or the Fundamentals of Scripture."
Interesting observation. The Canadian (traditional) Book of Common Prayer provides for the Hear O Israel, "the two great commandments" to be recited as an alternative to the ten commandments at the opening of the Communion Service, where one or the other serves a didactic purpose.
However, The Book of Alternative Services Services (1985), in the services of morning and evening prayer, allows the, Hear O Israel to be used as an affirmation of faith, as an alternative to the Apostles Creed. The option is taken forward in the recent set of liturgical texts for the offices.
The introductory notes to the BAS explains: "An affirmation of faith may follow the liturgy of the word. The
Apostles’ Creed has been associated with the offices since about the
eighth century. The ancient creed of the synagogue, Hear, O Israel, is
provided as an alternative. This creed, used increasingly as a substitute for the ten commandments in the entrance rite of the
eucharist since the eighteenth century, was in danger of being lost in the process of liturgical revision. Here it is restored to something like the central dignity it enjoyed in the synagogue tradition.The Apostles’ Creed and the Hear, O Israel are complementary: the first stresses faith as teaching, the second emphasizes faith as action." (BAS p. 42)
One notes as well the use of the canticle, God's Love (1 John 4:7-12) in the Thursday evening office in, The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer, wherein the Thursday offices are constructed around the theme of community.
Seems to me the Bishops dialogue group are engaging in the very hard work of love in action that one expects from the church. Love of course is a preeminent value--one which grounds unity and holds out the possibility of transcending disunity.
With phrases like, "We hope our dialogue will be seen as a sign of love for our Communion", The Testimony of Unity in Diversity is a very compelling document.
The Sankofa perspective draws out some of the traditional ways Anglicanism has understood itself. "Sankofa challenges us to ask questions of ourselves and teaches us that the past is a dynamic reality that is always present with us. ...In our Anglican tradition this means unity but not uniformity."
The document is worth the read most especially for the stories from local churches.
And,this observation from Professor Asante's paper regarding theological assimilation is interesting, "Assimilation entails requiring minorities to abandon all of their distinctive institutions,religio-cultural values, habits and connections that inform their identities in order to fully mesh into the prevailing or dominant culture. ...theological assimilation plays out as theological imperialism ...The assumption that there is nothing positive in the culture of the so-called mission lands that can be utilized in the propagation and articulation of the Christian faith."
One makes a connection with the conversation First Nations groups are having with the Canadian church.
Love is not 'sentimental' when you are nursing a person dying in anguish and distress. It is a practicality.
Love is not 'sentimental' when you are visiting an isolated old person with mental health issues, and you try to do something about the stench and the squalor they live in.
Love is not 'sentimental' when you try to divert time, energy and funds to communities in abject need, or take practical steps to live alongside them in their lives.
Jesus never just said "there, there" - he took practical steps to respond to deep needs of humanity. Same, of course, with our spiritual needs: to be opened up to the love and touch of God, and healed, and grown whole.
No, I cannot agree with love if it is just sentimental and the pursuit of a nice, fuzzy feeling. Love burns and hurts. Love is costly, and involves death to self and sacrifice. I think, as Christians, we all know that (even though we so often put it off or avoid its cost - at least, I do).
But nevertheless, in the cases I detailed above, the actual uniform dogma is hardly the key issue... the primary command is always: to open our hearts to love, and actually do something about it - love in practical action.
All the theology in the world is not as precious to a scared and dying person as... mouthcare to a dry mouth, the touch and feel of a hand in your hand, your presence there.
Does it matter, at that point of critical need, whether I believe in the Trinity or in a Unitarian God? Whether Adam had ancestors?
I'm not saying these things don't matter at all, but at the point of urgency, love is what takes over: the need for love and the capacity for love. Practical love. Non-sentimental love. As a nurse I can hardly not know that from day to day.
And if the bishops in this Testimony are championing that love, and championing unity in diversity, love before uniformity... then I am glad for that.
"Is the Nicene Creed a uniformity that excluded a wider group who might have loved each other into a 'deeper consensus'?"
Perhaps. I love the NC, but I don't make an idol out of it. I don't mistake the pointing finger for the God being pointed to.
"What kind of 'love' did Bonhoeffer exhibit that demanded his rejection of false teaching?"
Dr Seitz, are you seriously comparing non-Nicene Christianity, to Nazism? The "teaching" of the Nazis wasn't merely a "false" ideology, it was MURDEROUS. ALL of our ideas about Absolute Truth (the Divine) must be measured, FIRST, by the reverence w/ which they hold God's Image (humanity).
Well, a pointing finger is pointing in some direction and not pointing in others. Arianism was wildly popular and dominated the known world. It had a high deity and a Jesus Christ who was higher than us and lower than God. One supposes 'love' would enable us to see it as OK, but this is not what happened. The finger did not point in that direction but resolutely away from it.
One can regard that as wrong, of course. But that would require a different creed to be recited than the one now being recited.
When I'm in my sick bed I don't want pastoral aid that doesn't know where the finger is pointing!
@ cseitz, "When I'm in my sick bed I don't want pastoral aid that doesn't know where the finger is pointing!" Good point. You might ponder your own aphorism.
To continue with your metaphor of pointing, you seem to be saying -- Oh my, Look over there! Perhaps it is more comforting to talk about circumstances surrounding the arrival of the Nicene Creed which is, as much as we all like to pay our tithes to it, an arcane post biblical construct that attempts to account for mythological biblical statements in theoretical terms, forged under a particular politcal agenda, and using a conceptual framework that is now philosophically obsolete.
But the articles above are not about that. They are about how some of the bishops are engaging in very difficult and heart felt work on behalf of the Communion they love, and on behalf of its members which they desire to love and serve. They appear to be doing so in a helpful and quiet way. Their work may be one of the better opportunities for bearing fruit in our post-colonial Communion. Perhaps theirs is a microcosm that the Primates meetings can learn from?
As for proportionate comparisons, pointing to the fate suffered by Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the hands of a regime led by infamous war criminals seems especially disproportionate in a discussion about some of our bishops in dialogue and a resulting comment about a values clarification exercise regarding love and unity/uniformity.
"Perhaps it is more comforting to talk about circumstances surrounding the arrival of the Nicene Creed which is, as much as we all like to pay our tithes to it, an arcane post biblical construct that attempts to account for mythological biblical statements in theoretical terms, forged under a particular politcal agenda, and using a conceptual framework that is now philosophically obsolete."
I love this! Thank you, Rod.
I am grateful for the work being done in these dialogues and am very proud that my bishop is part of it. These discussions, along with other work at more grassroot levels, show the real Anglican Communion. The real AC is not the harsh, apocalyptic one of the primates.