Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane
Statement on the Global South Communiqué
24 September 2006
I thank God for the fellowship I enjoyed with my brother Primates of CAPA and the Global South, in Kigali last week, as we shared concerns about the Anglican Communion and other matters of common interest.
I wish to offer this clarification of the position of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, in light of the potentially misleading impression that our Province has endorsed the Communiqué issued at the end of the meeting. Whereas Canon Livingstone Ngewu and I were present in Kigali, neither of us were made aware even of the possibility of a communiqué in the name of the Primates of the Global South, prior to its release.
While I may well concur with some sections of the text, there are others which are certainly not consonant with the position of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, as articulated only earlier this month by our Synod of Bishops and our Provincial Synod. This is particularly the case in relation to Section 10.
As a general point, I want to comment that whereas I fully endorse the rationale for a body such as the Global South, which can help us address some of the power imbalances between North and South that exist within the Church and more generally, I am surprised that we allow our agenda to be so dominated and driven by an inordinate influence from the United States. This flies in the face of the experience of those of us who are steeped in black and post-colonial theology, the theology of liberation, and black consciousness. It is hard to understand why we continue to act in response to the North to such a great extent, rather than making use of our freedom to concentrate our energies on the priorities of our own people and Provinces.
That said, there is no doubt that the tensions within the Anglican Communion, arising from actions within North America, raise serious and problematic concerns for our future. Yet I am deeply disturbed by the tenor of our approach, as reflected in this communiqué. To me, at least, it appears in places that there is a hidden agenda, to which some of us are not privy. For example, I am unable to understand why there seems to be a deliberate intention to undermine the due processes of the Anglican Communion and the integrity of the Instruments of Unity, while at the same time we commit ourselves to upholding Anglican identity, of which these, as they have continued to evolve over the years in response to changing needs, are an intrinsic part. Thus, for example, recent meetings of the Primates, in which the Global South played a very full part, requested various actions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, which he has been assiduous in pursuing; such as setting up the Lambeth Commission, the Panel of Reference, and now the Covenant Design Group. Yet there seems to be an urgency to obtain particular outcomes in advance, pre-empting the proper outworking of the bodies for which we called.
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. As Peter writes in his second letter, ‘Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.’ We do not want the best of Anglicanism to be cast aside, and so to perish! And to allow the due processes of these bodies, and the Instruments of Unity, to be followed through will take such a short time in relation to the life of God’s Church over two millennia.
I must also say that I am disturbed by the apparent zeal for action to be taken against those deemed not in compliance with Lambeth Resolution 1:10, with a readiness to disregard ancient norms of observing diocesan autonomy. Though this was upheld within the Windsor Report’s recommendations, it is of course a practice that was adopted in earliest times by the universal church. It was thus ironic that that the feast of Theodore of Tarsus fell during our meeting: as Archbishop of Canterbury, in 673 he summoned one of the most important Synods of our early tradition. In addressing both the rights and duties of clergy and religious, its decisions included the requirement, already acknowledged elsewhere, of bishops to work within their own dioceses and not to intrude on the ministry of others. We are in danger of giving the impression of being loyal Anglicans, and loyal members of God’s One, Holy and Apostolic Church, only where, and insofar, it suits us!
We must also be careful to avoid creating, in effect, episcopi vagantes. This is a difficult and complex area, which Resolution 35 of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 addressed when it said ‘The territorial Episcopate has been the normal development in the Catholic Church, but we recognise that differences of race and language sometimes require that provision should be made in a Province for freedom of development of races side by side; the solution in each case must be left with the Province, but we are clear that the ideal of the one Church should never be obscured.’ In our time too, we must do all that we can not to obscure that ideal of the one Church.
I am also more than a little wary of calling into question the election processes of another Province in the way the Communiqué suggests, in relation to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. This introduces a completely new dimension into our relationships within the Communion, the reciprocal implications of which we have not considered. I would feel more confident if we addressed this question as a part of the more comprehensive reassessment of the nature of the Communion for our times, which is underway not least through the work of the Covenant Design Group.
An added concern for me is the apparent marginalisation of laity, clergy and bishops in the debate within the Global South. I was particularly glad that circumstances allowed me fully to consult both my fellow bishops, and our Provincial Synod, immediately in advance of the Kigali meeting. For a fundamental and indispensable element of our Anglican identity is that we are both episcopally led and synodically governed. I long for a consultative process that fully engages the whole Body of Christ, recognising that ‘to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good’ (1 Cor 12:7). Primates do not have sole monopoly on wisdom and knowledge at this crucial time, nor indeed at any other!
In light of this, I also want to clarify what may be to some the ambiguous wording of section 14. CAPA Primates ‘received’ the draft ‘The Road to Lambeth’ in the sense of agreeing to give it full consideration. However, we recognised our inability to commit our Provinces to this, or indeed any other text, without consulting them. It is precisely for that consultation that we are referring it to our Provinces for study, with the expectation that comments will be made, and a final text agreed in the new year. Our ‘commending’ should not be interpreted as ‘endorsing’ the text as it currently stands – it remains a draft.
To my brother Primates of the Global South and CAPA, I therefore offer a plea from the heart. Let us hold fast, in word and deed, to the true marks with which we believe the Lord has graced and gifted us as Anglicans – yes, our rootedness in Scripture as our primary touchstone, but also in our Tradition and our use of Reason. The Windsor Report has done us an invaluable service in beginning to address how we understand and recognise these and what they mean for us today, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has offered further vital insights in his reflections ‘The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today.’ I have offered my own thoughts in ‘Heartlands of Anglicanism’ and I am sure there is more to be said. But I am also sure that if we fail to carry forward the ‘three-fold strands’ not just of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, but also of what Archbishop Rowan has so eloquently described as ‘reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly’ – that if we fail to carry forward these, then we certainly relinquish our ability to claim that we stand authentically within Anglicanism.
In the book of the Prophet Isaiah, we read that ‘those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.’ We want the Anglican Communion to rise up, renewed and strengthened, on eagles’ wings. It is for us to wait upon the Lord. We do not have a God who is slow to act. We can have confidence to let him lead our Church forward, through the ways he has so often done in the past. In our concerns for the Anglican Communion which we love, we do not have to be precipitate and risk losing much of what it is we wish to preserve and enhance.
And so I also offer a call to my brother Primates, that we step back from the brink at which the Kigali Communiqué appears to place us. It is certainly the case that we need changes within the life, and structures, and processes of the Anglican Communion. Yet part of the strength of our heritage is that intrinsic to our life, structures and processes is a considerable flexibility and openness to change that has allowed us to evolve – creating and amending Instruments of Unity, for example (and I am thinking here particularly of the ACC) in response to God’s calling to be faithful in our mission and ministry to his people and his world. We are now in need of such evolution, to preserve the very best of the heart of Anglicanism – and working in conformity with this essence of Anglicanism will most effectively preserve that ‘best’ which has been God’s continuing gift to us over the centuries.
Two weeks before our meeting in Kigali, the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa issued a statement which spoke of the gift of tolerance and grace in the face of the pains of divisions among ourselves with which we have had to deal in our past. The breadth of current divisions also find expression within our Province. Yet we remain convinced that what unites us far outweighs what divides us, and that we must therefore both choose and strive, with deep sacrificial love, for the Anglican Communion to remain united.
Our God surely is a God of surprises. As one of my predecessors as Archbishop of Cape Town said, ‘God still works his purposes out, in spite of the confusions of our minds.’
May that be so! Amen!