A leader in this week’s Church Times is titled At last, bishops who value diversity:
IT IS with a degree of shame that we acknowledge the statement from the bishops in Central and South America who met in Costa Rica at the end of last month. After all, a declaration by a group of Anglican bishops which talks of “the plurality and diversity that are universal characteristics of Anglicanism” was once an obvious candidate for the news editor’s spike. Times have changed, however. Now it is a relief to report determined, if somewhat fluffy, pronouncements about the Anglican Communion and its “participative nature, diverse, ample, and inclusive”. The Bishops support the view, often rehearsed in this paper, that plurality and diversity are a “rich source of growth” rather than a cause of dissension.
The present debate in the Communion has been undermined by unsubstantiated claims about who represents whom. Individual dioceses and provinces have their own structures of decision-making and accountability. The Church of England’s understanding of episcopacy — that bishops operate in synods or councils together with representatives of the clergy and laity — is replicated in one form or another across the provinces. The rise of the Primates’ Meeting has disturbed this balance, and its coincidence with — some would say, contribution to — the disunity in the Communion leaves many ordinary Anglicans unconvinced that the innovation is to be welcomed.
The expectation behind episcopacy is that the Church is governed by individuals with theological understanding and a particular charism to keep the flock together. In the same way as MPs are supposed to represent all their constituents, regardless whether they share any political views, bishops are called to mediate for and between Christians of all flavours. The Costa Rica statement is a pleasant reminder that this has not been entirely forgotten.