ACNS reports that the Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has written a lengthy reflection on the nature of Anglicanism, and what it means to be an Anglican. The reflection is addressed to his fellow Primates. Here are a few snippets from the early paragraphs:
What does it mean to be Anglican? What is it about Anglicanism that has led so many to conclude that it provides the most productive spiritual soil for living out the Christian faith? What is it that we have, which we dare not lose?
Archbishop Rowan offers his own description of our distinctive Christian inheritance…
It is indeed within the territory encompassed by these strands that I find my own experience and understanding of Christianity. These describe the rich heartlands of Anglicanism — the solid centre, focussed on Jesus Christ, to which we are constantly drawn back by the counterbalancing pull of the other strands, if any one threatens to become disproportionately influential.
These Anglican heartlands are the subject of my reflections — the historic fertile middle ground, which is in danger of being forgotten amid polarising arguments and talk of schism.
The ACNS summary is included below the fold. The full reflection by Archbishop Ndungane is here.
‘Heartlands of Anglicanism’ — Archbishop of Cape Town Promotes Middle Ground
The Archbishop of Cape Town has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion issuing a strong call to uphold the ’ broad rich heartlands of our Anglican heritage.’ He argues that this must be ‘the territory on which we debate our future.’ He adds ‘it is not something to be fought out at the limits of conservatism or liberalism, as if they were the only possibilities before us. ’
In a lengthy reflection on what it is to be Anglican, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane declares, ‘we cannot lose this middle ground.’ He argues that the central core of Anglican tradition is not bland or shallow, but offers ‘productive spiritual soil.’ He refutes any suggestion that embracing the middle ground means ‘anything goes.’ Rather, he affirms uncompromising dedication and obedience to the heart of faith, as it is lived under the authority of Scripture, of Church order and structures, and of Christian tradition.
His call follows the recent ‘profound and stimulating reflections’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today.’ In responding, the Archbishop of Cape Town asks ‘What does it mean to be Anglican?’ and affirms Archbishop Rowan’s description of the fundamental character of Anglicanism as combining the best of both catholic and reformed tradition, which together inform mature engagement with contemporary culture. He contends that any authentic solution to current differences within the Anglican Communion must preserve these strengths.
He also argues that the best means of finding such a solution is to proceed in a characteristically Anglican way: in a spirit of tolerance, trust and charity, and through the existing structures of the Communion. Acknowledging that these have evolved over time to serve changing needs, he now calls for their ’ renewal, transformation and revision’ rather than ‘radical replacement,’ so as to preserve their strengths. He points out that legal authority rests with the synodical processes of Provinces, and calls for fuller engagement of clergy and laity in the current debate, which he says will inevitably be lengthy.
Archbishop Ndungane speaks of ‘creative and dynamic diversity’ within his own personal faith, as well as at every level of Anglicanism. He illustrates this by reflecting on experiences within Southern Africa, from which he also demonstrates that decisions to exist separately can leave a lasting and difficult legacy.
He offers a fresh understanding of what it means to live within tradition, not seeing it as ‘dry history’ but rather as ‘holy remembering’ through which we ‘find our place of participation within the unfolding narrative of God’s redeeming acts.’
The Archbishop does not propose specific solutions. Instead, he writes that his intention is to help Anglicans be faithful to what God has done in the past, and so preserve and pass on the best of that heritage — and that he believes that holding on to the middle ground, the Heartlands of Anglicanism, is the best way of achieving this.
– ENDS –
For further information, please contact Penny Lorimer, Media Liaison for Archbishop Ndungane on +27 82 894-1522