Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost Letter to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today sent an open letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, in advance of the Lambeth Conference.

The full text of the letter is online and can also be found below:

The Feast of Pentecost is a time when we give thanks that God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes us able to speak to each other and to the whole world of the wonderful things done in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a good moment to look forward prayerfully to the Lambeth Conference, asking God to pour out the Spirit on all of us as we make ready for this time together, so that we shall indeed be given grace to speak boldly in his Name.

I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.

At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God’s way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God.

Each day’s work in this context will go forward with careful facilitation and preparation, to ensure that all voices are heard (and many languages also!). The hope is that over the two weeks we spend together, these groups will build a level of trust that will help us break down the walls we have so often built against each other in the Communion. And in combination with the intensive prayer and fellowship of the smaller Bible study groups, all this will result, by God’s grace, in clearer vision and discernment of what needs to be done.

As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ’s flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely. We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ’s Body as a sign of God’s Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice.

The potential of our Conference is great. The focus of all we do is meant to be strengthening our Communion and equipping all bishops to engage more effectively in mission; only God the Holy Spirit can bind us together in lasting and Christ-centred way, and only God the Holy Spirit can give us the words we need to make Christ truly known in our world. So we must go on praying hard with our people that the Spirit will bring these possibilities to fruition as only he can. Those who have planned the Conference have felt truly touched by that Spirit as they have worked together, and I know that their only wish is that what they have outlined for us will enable others to experience the same renewal and delight in our fellowship.

This is an ambitious event – ambitious for God and God’s Kingdom, which is wholly appropriate for a Lambeth Conference. And our ambition is nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of his Spirit.

May that Spirit be with you daily in your preparation for our meeting. As Our Lord says, ‘You know him, for he lives with and will be in you’ (Jn 14.17).

+ Rowan Cantuar

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revLois Keen
12 years ago

Well, fascinating. NOT the threatening letter we were promised, is it. To expect that “those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage” is not anything close to “be ready to sign off on the Windsor Report and a covenant or stay home, and that means you, TEC and Canada”. At the same time, “That deepening [which the planning committee is planning for] may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the… Read more »

Pluralist
12 years ago

We now have it: Bishop Tom Wright at the Fulcrum lecture was wholly misleading. There were not letters going out presently, but private conversations, and the letter that has gone to all bishops refers to the agenda but in general terms. I would like to suggest that Baby Blue Online was far too eager in thinking something restrictive and disinviting was going out. Not so, and no surprise to me.

JCF
JCF
12 years ago

“the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together”

Tell that to the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Oh wait: I guess he did (via email)—only, for the words “part of”, substitute “separate from”; and for the word “together”, substitute “apart”.

Lord have mercy!

Jay Vos
12 years ago

Interesting, innit, that ABC addresses the letter to the Bishops’ Club, but the TEC presiding bishop’s Pentecost letter is to all, to ALL members of TEC:

A Letter to The Episcopal Church

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_96811_ENG_HTM.htm

Christopher
12 years ago

As a Benedictine oblate novice, the problem with Archbishop Williams’ reasoning here is that a Benedictine method always seeks the input of the “youngest” which stands in for any who the “weak”, the “least”, etc. By not inviting Bishop Robinson in some capacity, he shortchanges any truly Benedictine method for Lambeth.

Spirit of Vatican II
12 years ago

The agenda for the Jerusalem conference strikes all the right notes, but Archbishop Williams goes still further in his almost scary trust in pentecostal ways of doing things. Let’s hope the Spirit puts in an appearance on both occasions. As Sunday’s readings remind us, the Christian community is the model for world peace. If Christians spend their time bickering, the eschatological hopes of humanity are betrayed.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
12 years ago

Funny that the Archbishop appeals to the Quakers in support of these indaba groups designed to avoid the constraints of “Western parliamentary” style debates (presumably such constraints as having to argue cogently rather than remain unchallenged in one’s prejudices?). I can’t imagine Quakers compelling someone to remain outside Meeting because they are gay…

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

I can’t imagine Quakers compelling anyone to do anything…

Boaz
12 years ago

“Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ’s flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely.” Why not? Why shouldn’t this be our aim? Why can’t there be polite disagreement. Who ever heard of a group of affiliates who are in complete agreement? You would never see complete agreement in any professional body, for example. I believe that it is this sort of thinking that is meant to shut up the LGBT persons. “We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that… Read more »

counterlight
12 years ago

For all the concerned mother hen tone of the letter, I think it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. It doesn’t leave any room for those of us who feel the whole Windsor report was deeply flawed, and who oppose the whole idea of a covenant superseding national autonomy, granting curial power to primates, and setting up an Anglican version of the Holy Office. I think he’s thrown in with the segregationists, and is out to expel the North American churches, and all those others (eg Brazil and Mexico among others) that go along with them.

PseudoPiskie
12 years ago

If the Anglican Communion as it is now collapses or certain provinces are expelled, TEC will have the advantage. The Episcopal Church can replace the AC worldwide. Missionaries with the good news of the Gospel rather than the exclusionist message of certain former AC bishops can be sent all over the world. The idolatry of worshiping the Bible will lose it’s hold. A communion which follows Jesus’s example and teaching will help God’s kingdom come on earth. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

drdanfee
drdanfee
12 years ago

Little in Windsor and its offspring covenant drafts provides any more real Anglican solution to hot button differences like womens ordination – or of course, our differences as we live through the new surprise controversy of discovering honest queer folks whom we grudgingly know to be competent citizens, alas, among us – dilemmas of modern church life. The real point is not, then, a covenant effort to fix affiliated Anglican relationships which are now revealed to be broken because conservatives are going to war. The rubric of conservatives now is – tear apart the affiliations/spaces in which others formerly existed,… Read more »

Malcolm+
12 years ago

I disagree with Counterlight’s assessment. I think Rowan’s clumsily executed agenda really is about trying to keep as many people at the table as possible. He wants to create a situation where the onus is on the leavers to leave. They will not be expelled. The likely outcome of this strategy (however poorly executed) is that the “conservatives” will object and some significant portion of them will leave. There will be no martyrs, only departers. GAFFEPRONE was shaping up as the departure point. The recent “conservative” climb-down (Venables, Duncan and cetera) from the Lambeth boycott is a major retreat –… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Father Ron Smith
12 years ago

As the ABC must represent the interests of the whole Church (Anglican), he has, perforce, to try to accommodate the different theological stances within the Church. Previous Lambeth Conferences decreed that homosexual persons are, like other people, children of the God we all worship. Why, then, should he prevent the one episcopal representative who has been honest enough to declare his sexuality from stating his case at Lambeth. Surely he ought to be heard – along with the renegade bishops who elect to meet together also at GAFCON? At least, Bishop Gene is not advocating a rival meeting to the… Read more »

christopher+
christopher+
12 years ago

“At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals.”

Except, of course, that some are more equal than others – and those others have not even been invited to take part in such “purposeful discussion.”

Listening process? Forgotten? Or just not politically expedient for Archbishop Williams?

Pluralist
12 years ago

Duncan’s reason to come to Lambeth is probably to demonstrate he is still in the Episcopal and wider Anglican Church – he’ll go in his own time. Venables is different. He thinks negotiation and discussion is pointless, but is going to state what Lambeth has to do to put itself right. No negotiation. On finding it doesn’t, to his taste, he will probably declare the Anglican Communion bust etc. so that GAFCON can do what it can do. Duncan will just choose his moment. The issue will be, facing this schism and puffed up people after Jerusalem and the Holy… Read more »

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