Plenary Session 1 - The Church as One by Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung

Plenary Session 1 - The Church as One by Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung

The 3rd South to South Encounter, Ain-el-Sukhna, 25 - 31 Oct 2005
Presented at the plenary session on “One,” 25 Oct 2005 by the Most Revd Datuk Yong Ping Chung, on behalf of the Province of Southeast Asia

1. Introduction

I feel greatly honoured and privileged to be given the task of presenting the first of the four theme papers – the “Church as One” to this 3rd South to South Encounter. This paper was a corporate effort of a team which includes scholars, theologians, pastors and researchers from the Province of Southeast Asia. I am so grateful to them all. Another Province in our area has also given it’s input through it’s official report to the Windsor Report. I am happy that this can be a humble, modest but positive contribution from East Asia to this 3rd Encounter, especially as we gather here to seek the face of God in prayers, worship, deliberations and consultation during this challenging and turbulent time in our Communion.

God in His own gracious sense of history has again made this kairos time possible for the 3rd Encounter. We look to the 1st Encounter in Nairobi and the second one in Kuala Lumpur with gratitude and thanksgiving. Now we look forward to this 3rd Encounter with great hope and expectations because we see God’s own hands guiding and leading this movement according to His own way. Calling this meeting as an Encounter and not a Conference expresses our desire to meet God and have a living encounter with Him and to have a deep encounter with one another. We pray these Encounters will help us to stand firm and share our living faith together for an effective mission to the world.

The theme of this Encounter is “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” with the sub-theme “Being a Faithful Church for Such a Time as This.” Arising from events which we are all too well aware of, many are saying that the Communion is in crisis. There are high expectations from some quarters that this Encounter will provide godly leadership and clearer direction for the Communion.

The Church has always faced different sorts of crises. This has been so down through the ages. Each heresy is a painful experience for the Church. However it performs a needed sifting process between truth and error, tradition and innovation, and perhaps, even more painfully, those who believe and those who do not. It forces us into a period of deep soul-searching, testing of the mind and heart, a discernment of hidden personal agendas and those that are corporately owned. I believe the recent crises have brought to the surface serious gaps or ‘fault-lines’ in our Communion. It causes us to reflect more deeply on what it means for the Communion to be faithful expression of the “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic” Church.

Those desiring to be faithful have a way of gathering together and that will be the best explanation for the phenomena of the South to South Encounters, this one included. There is no ‘gathering storm,’ but a gathering of the faithful to renew our call to a shared life and mission together. We are not here over and against other parts of the Communion. We are here for the Communion. As a part of her, we too, as primates, need the Spirit to search our own hearts as we exemplify Christ-likeness before our flock. Borrowing a quote from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “If gold rusts, what will poor iron do?”

Therefore, we need to pray, worship, listen to His Word and weep together on our knees. We need to renew our vision of God’s glory and the commitment to the call to be faithful in a world of sin, unbelief, violence, darkness and spiritual hunger. You will also be hearing encouraging accounts of God’s work in many Provinces. May that encourage you!  2. ONE Church

We have chosen to focus on “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic” Church. In doing so, we remind ourselves of the need to move beyond isolated controversies, but we must also situate them within a broader vision of what it means for us to live as a community of Jesus Christ, that is, in communion with the historic ecclesia. Each day will focus on one aspect of that phrase, with the plenary talks introducing us to the subject. There will be opportunities to reflect, respond and to provide feedback on the daily themes in smaller groupings. It is my prayer that we will continue to reflect and build our ministry together around these important themes.

In what follows, I will confine my reflections on how the confession, “The Church is One,” should shape the character of our mission and common life. May the Lord guide our understanding and application as we think of the wider communion, the Global South/South and our own local contexts.

Undoubtedly, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is imperfectly witnessed to by a divided Christendom, but not un-witnessed to, given the on-going ecumenical consultations (from above) and on the ground, shared ministry efforts (from below). The witness extends to the need for each ecclesial community to play their role, including us in the Anglican Communion.

We often approach the question of “The Church as One” as a problem between different Christian communities, for example, the 1920 Lambeth Conference issued an appeal “to associate ourselves in penitence and prayer with all those who deplore the divisions of Christian people, and are inspired by the vision and hope of a visible unity of the whole Church.”[1] The Lambeth Fathers went on to pass twenty-three resolutions to elaborate on this Appeal under the heading “Reunion of Christendom.”[2] The heading is revealing. The issue at stake is unity between churches rather than the uniqueness of the Christian community within the unbelieving world.[3] Early twentieth century ecumenism flowed from a reflection on the one-ness of the Church within the broken fellowship of Christendom.

The current challenges within the Communion should force us however to consider more seriously the nature and basis of our oneness in relation to God and the mission we are carrying to the world in His name. How are Christian communities around the world able to understand themselves to be visibly one, anchored in the past, and not fragmented into many local communities that only exemplify local contemporary interests? Are there fresh ways that we can approach the question of ‘instruments of unity,” which have all along been expounded on institutional lines? What if we restore our confession of “One Church” along its proper missiological context?

Here is where we believe that many communities within Global South/South can play a part to contribute to the discussion and re-direction. Let us take Asian churches as examples. Although churches in Asia can trace their histories back to the first few centuries of Christian mission – and indeed, Syriac and non-Chalcedonian forms of Christianity left their traces in India and China - the experience of Christianity to many Asian Christians[4] is relatively new. They embody a “sojourner” and “refugee” type experiences, and a desire to create viable communities and a witness to the God we serve.

We need to recapture the importance of this nature of one-ness in a Church called to pilgrimage through a world different from her, as a people set apart to and for God, a common experience shared by God’s people in the Old Testament and the Christian Church.

Let us begin by a having a brief look at the journey to oneness for the people of God in Scriptures. 3.  Biblical Understanding Of Being ONE i.  Portrait of Unity of God’s People in the Old Testament

Although the Hebrew slaves in Egypt already had a shared heritage, nevertheless, it was the Exodus event which radically transformed their status and offered them a unity and identity surpassing and transcending what they hitherto possessed. It’s significant to that this conference is held in the region where the identity of the ‘called-out (ecclesia) to be ONE people of God’ was being forged. The mighty acts of Yahweh were intended to call this group of slaves unto Himself.[5] However, the offer of a new identity and unity is an exclusive calling which has terms requiring distinctive acts on the part of those who want to be included in Yahweh’s covenantal promises.[6] These terms are spelt out in detail in the book of Exodus, but in particular, the covenantal terms are encapsulated in Exodus 20:1-17, popularly known as the Ten “words.” The very first of these Ten Words speak about an exclusive relationship with Yahweh:

“Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:1-3

As a whole, the Ten words set out what makes this group of people, ONE people of God. For in doing so, it also marks this called-out people as distinct and different from those who are not called into this exclusive relationship.

Exodus 24 tells us that this group of slaves agreed to abide by Yahweh’s words[7] and then underwent the process of understanding and the working out of the shape; the form and the nature of this new identity and unity. For Israel, it took years; it took many painful trials; it took many recapitulations of the word of God after they had wandered away from it again and again. All these processes, controversies and results are preserved in the Scripture so that we may know what it means to be One people of God.

Leviticus records for us a group of people united around a common worship based on their sense of the uniqueness or the “otherness” of their God to whom they have this exclusive relationship:

“For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for I am holy.”  Leviticus 11:45

The book of Numbers, especially chapter ten, pictures the twelve tribes of Israel journeying and serving as ONE people. Their lives are structured around the Tabernacle and each tribe carried out its designated tasks.[8] The distinctiveness encompasses iconic expressions of holiness.

With Israel at the threshold of the Promised Land, there is a recapitulation of what it means to be the ONE people of God. The Ten words were recalled and reinforced in Deuteronomy chapter five, but with the emphasis that it is now out of a deep-seated love rather than mere pragmatism and duty. This is expressed in the “Shema:”

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”  Deuteronomy 6:4-6

The “Shema” reminds and recalls Israel to her identity which is unique because it is found in the uniqueness of the LORD God who is ONE: unique, pre-eminent and unsurpassed. They are not to forget the Lord, especially when they are in their Land of Promise. Instead, they are to remember His merciful acts and keep His words.[9] Their very existence, their very sense of being one people of God is grounded and dependent on God.[10]

To express this further and to safeguard the fact that God is the cause and the centre of their community, a common and central place of worship is thus required.[11] Having recalled the word of Yahweh and establishing the place of worship, Israel as ONE united people of Yahweh is now poised to take the Promised Land.

United under God’s word and worship, “Joshua and all Israel” possessed the Promised Land and overcame subsequent difficulties.[12] Interestingly, following the glowing report of Joshua 21, chapter 22 of Joshua narrates a potentially damaging incident to the unity of God’s people. Here, two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half tribe of Manasseh), geographically separated, sought to build an altar in their territory. Their action was seen as going against the word and worship of God[13] as well as threatening the integrity and unity of the whole community.[14] The severity of this act evoked strong responses from the other 10 tribes who threatened war.[15]

War was averted when it was established that the altar was a memorial unto Yahweh and not an act of rebellion. This demonstrates that Israel’s unity lay in the affirmation that the LORD is God, which is expressed through worship and obedience to the word.

As one leaves the book of Joshua, one leaves with a strong sense of unity amongst the twelve tribes. This is seen in chapter 24. Before the twelve tribes dispersed to their own inheritance, they renewed their covenant with the LORD God, making God once again their centre and affirming their willingness to serve him. The people of God are one and are ready to face whatever the future entails.

The time of Judges was a turbulent period for the twelve tribes went through cycles of sin, defeat and deliverance. However, rather than appreciating the underlying reason for their defeat, they sought a human king who would unite and lead them in battle. The request for a king and a kingdom was acceded to in 1 & 2 Samuel. The first king was Saul, followed by David who ushered Israel into a golden age, then Solomon. The kingdom was notably split during Rehoboam’s reign because he had forsaken Yahweh by worshipping foreign gods[16]and not because he exacted hardship upon his people.

Worse was to come. The division became entrenched when Jeroboam set up alternative gods and worship sites in Bethel and Dan[17] in contradiction to God’s word. With such division, the future for the people of God was bleak. When Israel, the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians, the writer of 2 Kings, in chapter 17 sums up the reasons to be the rejection of the LORD God. Eventually Judah too fell, and the reasons are the same – the rejection of the LORD God.

Based on the OT, what does Oneness mean? It means Oneness with God who calls His people into community. They are one. First and foremost, they are brought to God himself and only then to each other. This oneness is manifested by their agreeing to and the keeping of His word which reveals His distinctiveness in character and purpose. This Oneness is also expressed and maintained through a common worship which leaves no doubt as to whom they worship.

For the people of God in OT, it was not just a call to come together to be a people, but to be a people who are One with God in His holiness and uniqueness. ii)  Portrait of Unity of God’s People in the New Testament

We can draw much from the New Testament on how ONE is understood, but let me just cite a few examples. Gospel of John

The key point of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John chapter 17 was making known the name of the Father:

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”   John 17:6

In the context of this verse and the chapter, the name means the character, the will and revelation of God. Thus in v. 6, Jesus said that they kept “your word,” the same word given to Jesus from the Father as mentioned in v. 8.

Now that Jesus was about to complete His earthly ministry and depart from His disciples, He prayed for them. He prayed that they may be kept in the Father’s name so that they may be one or continue to be one.

“And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. “  John 17:11

The oneness of the disciples is bound within the Name, that is, in the character, the will and revelation or truth of God. In other words, if they are to be one with each other, they need to hold fast to the revelation and truth of whom God is, what He did and what He is doing. Therefore this oneness and continuation in oneness of the disciples is not an option that they can choose not to seek, because as the Father and the Son are one, they must also be one.

Jesus went on to pray also for those who would come after His disciples that includes us, the followers of Christ today. Jesus offered the same prayer that we may be one, and beyond that, that we may also be one with the Father and Son. Oneness is not just a horizontal but also a vertical relationship. It is essentially founded in the Oneness of the Father and Son:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

This Oneness is based on what God has given; his Name (v. 6), his Word (v. 8), and his Glory (v.  22) and it is in the very participation of these that oneness is continued. To be one with each other and with the Father and Son is to be one in his Name, one in his Word, and one in his Glory. To rephrase it - To be one with each other and the Father and Son is to be one in his character (Name), one in his truth (Word) and one in his mission (Glory). Being one means more than just being kept together visibly. Oneness or unity is not just a form. It is the sharing of what belongs to the Father and Son. Ephesians

The book of Ephesians offers further reflections on oneness. We have been made one because of the “peace” brought about by the death/broken body of Christ Himself (2:14). As our peace and chief cornerstone, the foundation of the apostles and prophets is built into the one holy temple, the dwelling place of God by the Spirit.

Hence, it is our utmost vocation to maintain, uphold and grow this ONE by all the means under our disposal (4:1-6) made possible only when we worship and are rooted and grounded first in the Triune God (3:14-21). For grace and gifts were given so that the church leadership might build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity and maturity in the faith. Then the church “will no longer be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.” Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him. (4:7-16)

It is a unity bought by the blood of Jesus. We are called to it and it cannot be created by what we might want as a commonality of what we experience in each of our cultures.

This is followed by the apostolic warning (in 4.17ff) “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity…”

We were told to put off the old self and put on the new one. We are also told to be ‘imitators of God,’ walking in love just as Chris loved us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God – a love which is holy, sacrificial and redemptive (5:1).

The rest of chapter 5 lists out the ethical demands (vv 3-8). Being in the light in the Lord now, we need to walk as children of light, to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, to awake if we are sleeping (spiritually insensitive) and also to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (5:15-17)

For all these, we need the whole armour of God, especially the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, that we may stand firm, praying at all times in the Spirit. To this end, we need to keep alert with all perseverance, praying for all the saints that words be given for us boldly proclaim the mystery of the Gospel. Paul saw himself as an “ambassador in chains,” perhaps we can say that he is bound to proclaim the truth. It will be a costly ministry (6:10-20).

This form of spiritual unity may sound strange to modern ears which prefer the rational safety of visible forms of canon laws, ecclesiastical language, communiqués and commission reports (all enhanced by the use of the Web). These tools may have their uses but the heart and strength of being ONE surely lies in our common and shared Trinitarian life and Mission. It is to this nature of the Oneness that we need to continue to commit ourselves too. It is because we are one that we need to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (4:3)

There are numerous other examples in the New Testament. We need reminding. The plain message of Scriptures needs to be heard afresh if we are to understand and keep this unity. In doing so, we reach deeper into the roots of the Anglican Church, which if we are severed from, no counsel from the “Instruments of Unity”[18] can save the day for the Communion. The Church is under authority – the authority of His revealed Word – and it is from this authority that she speaks likewise to the world. This is how the Church both finds her identity and testifying mission to the uniqueness of God.

This is an Anglican gathering and a talk like this will not be complete without reflection on how our Communion has historically understood the call to be ONE. In doing so, given the recent crises, some will expect this paper to address the question of unity in a way which will help the Communion to resolve her crises and in the eyes of some, the “present impasse.” I will leave this to the wider conference and post-conference work. Here, I will just list briefly how the Communion has understood the nature of being One, as a reminder to us in the South-South to remain faithful to our call for we too will face (if not already), the pressure to be unfaithful to our inherited tradition in times such as this. 4.  Basis Of Oneness In The Anglican Communion i.  Anglican call to Unity

The concern for unity with God and with the members of the one Body of Christ is as old as the Church itself and for centuries, Anglicans have embraced this call by praying this deliberately inclusive prayer:

“…[that] all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life.”

This prayer notably combines a love of truth, a concern for unity and a readiness to recognise and live the righteous life. The unity of the Church, the communion of all its members with one another, and the radical holiness to which we are called, are rooted in the Trinitarian life, character and purposes of our One God.[19] Unity with the Holy Trinity and with one another is the icon that signifies, serves and invites God’s beloved humanity to believe in the incarnate Son and experience His healing love. Therefore, every Lambeth Conference has had a deep concern for unity; both the unity of the Church and the unity of the human community, at the heart of its agenda.

The Anglican Communion finds its unity in a variety of ways; in particular, the dynamics of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral encapsulates the fundamental features that unite us. With the primacy of Scripture as the constant factor, we are bound together by the Gospel sacraments and historically, through the Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal, Creeds & Councils, 39 articles of religion, and the historic episcopate. These traditions handed-down are the authoritative historical standards for how the authority and sufficiency of Scripture ought to be doctrinally applied. It is from this given foundation that the Communion appoints four Instruments of Unity, who along with the synodical life of the Church, functions as the community of interpreters. ii. Primacy of Scripture

Although authority in the Anglican way is diffused among the various aspects of the life of the Communion, Scripture has always been recognised as Anglicanism’s supreme authority.[20] The Bible is at the centre of Anglican belief and life, embodied and exemplified by the fact that the reading and singing of Scripture is the basis of our worship. Therefore, Scripture has to be the locus and the means which energises the Church for its mission and sustaining it in its unity.[21] iii. Scripture, Tradition & Reason

The authority of tradition does not merely refer to an appeal to the past, but rather, interprets our current practices under the authority of Scripture - which always has to be read afresh in the Church. Any theological development should also be seriously scrutinised especially if it contradicts all previous generation’s plain understanding of Scripture or the established lines of interpretation.[22] The tradition of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” means that any innovation has to be justified as a legitimate development of tradition under Scripture.

An appeal to Anglican tradition also means an appeal for a Consensus Fidelium or “reception.” This constitutes the ultimate check that a new declaration is in harmony with the faith as it had been received.[23] Our readings and interpretation of Scripture cannot be confined to our own setting alone. Instead, one of the ways in which we discern the limits of appropriate in-culturation is by our rendering account to one another, across traditio-cultural boundaries, for the gospel we proclaim and live by, and the teachings we offer.[24]

Scripture, tradition and reason are the sources we have utilised in the development and understanding of the faith once delivered. It is within the interplay and the creative tension of these three elements of our inheritance, that Anglicans discern God’s revelation. Together, they safeguard the teachings, practices and integrity of the Church and in doing so, maintain her oneness within the Body of Christ and her iconic witness[25] to the world. iv. Boundaries of Unity

Anglican Communion is koinonia built upon our shared Anglican inheritance (‘Anglican’) and our worldwide fellowship as God’s children (‘communion’). We have a responsibility, not only to our contemporaries within the Communion, but to those with whom we share in the Communion of the Saints.[26] Moral values bear strongly upon our ecumenical relationships, both with the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches on the one hand, and with New Churches and Independent Christian Groups on the other.[27] Within the larger community, our integrity to Scripture and biblical ethics is vital in the sustaining of Christian unity.

While each Province is autonomous, the kind of autonomy does not mean unlimited freedom but ‘freedom-in-relation’, so it is subject to limits generated by the commitments of Communion.[28] We are obliged to recognise that some issues do affect the larger family and we ought to have regard for the common good of our worldwide Communion and the church universal.[29] Koinonia in our Communion, therefore, sets itself up as the fundamental limit to autonomy. Anglican comprehensiveness means we all celebrate diversity; the question is what sorts of diversity are appropriate - hence capable of local expression without damaging wider unity - and what sorts are inappropriate. Even in diversity, there are limits. In the life of the Christian churches, these limits are defined by Scriptural truths and charity. The Lambeth Conference of 1920 puts it this way:

“…the Churches represented in [the Communion] are indeed independent, but dependent with the Christian freedom which recognises the restraints of truth and love. They are not free to deny the truth. They are not free to ignore the fellowship.”[30]

“Fellowship at any price” has to be rejected A church which abandons the truth abandons itself. Through our Communion, “our faith must be stronger, not weaker, our judgement should be clearer, not obscurer, and our ability to draw distinctions must be truly critical, not uncritical; this must be the basis of our efforts for unity.”[31]

Unity via Anglican comprehensiveness and the historically developed “middle way” seeks to be inclusive, that much is true. However, the notion of inclusion within the Anglican identity has always had definite limits and boundaries that are clearly drawn.

The “middle way” had cut a broad path in the sixteenth century, finding its boundaries and limitations through Scripture, the Creeds, and a reverence for history. Whilst the historic “middle way” continues to be a cornerstone of our Anglican self-definition, it would be a terrible injustice to invoke this great tradition to embrace comprehensiveness, diversity or inclusion at the expense of Scriptural truths and traditions.[32]

Periods of strife and disunity in our shared history have reflected dimly upon the high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus. On this side of heaven, the Bride of Christ, encased in her fallen-humanity, will continue in her pilgrimage towards her eschatological perfection - perfect Oneness with God and with her fellow sojourners. Here, the Church will continue to device ways to promote and preserve unity for God’s sake, for our sake and for the sake of the world. This unity is self-defining and reflects the Name, the Word and the Glory of God. The Communion which Anglicanism seeks to find in the midst of the present crisis (and all future ones) must be one defined by our faithfulness to Scriptural truths, call to testify to the uniqueness of our Christian faith and ecclesial integrity amidst diversity.

I end this section with a quote from the Windsor Report:

“The unity of the church, the communion of all its members with one another and the radical holiness to which all Christ’s people are called, are thus rooted in the Trinitarian life and purposes of the one God. They are designed not for their own sake, but to serve and to signify God’s mission to the world, that mission whereby God brings to men and women, to human societies and to the whole world, real signs and foretastes of that healing love which will one day put all things to rights…. It assumes likewise, that this unity and communion are meaningless unless they issue in the holiness of life, worked out in several practical contexts, through which the church indicates to the world that a new way of being human, over against corrupt and dehumanising patterns of life, has been launched upon the world. In other words, unity, communion and holiness all belong together.”[33] 5.  Implications

Here, within our discussion on being ONE, a few implications can be proposed:

i. Observing the boundaries: We need to resolve and purpose to pursue unity and mission within the boundaries of our Faith once delivered, received, guarded, taught and made tradition. It is within these boundaries that there is true freedom to pursue issues of missions in culture, which we in the South have been facing all along in our multi-faith and secular societies.

ii. Ethic and Holiness: Some areas of ethics and holiness spring from the core of our faith, and if no longer upheld, will change radically the nature of our faith and identity, especially those which call into question long cherished and catholically accepted traditions of Faith and Order. The Church in the South, amidst the complex challenges of our cultures, needs to remain true to the witness of the Church (communion of saints) if her ONE calling and witness is to be lived out. We face the challenges of mission in pluralistic societies including the danger of ‘syncretism,’ recasting our Gospel message in a way incompatible with our faith and tradition, or moral laxity in both recognition and lifestyle given the influence of Western-style materialism and techno-progress in our societies which have weak Christian influence and foundations.

iii. Need for discipline: Commitment to this tradition means that we take the steps necessary to protect it. Fellowship at any cost cannot be accepted, especially on compromises which endanger the very basis of our communion with our Lord. Whether at the local or wider level, disciplinary actions (administered pastorally) are necessary as a witness to the integrity of the church. To those who have departed from the historic tradition and its ensuing discipline, they do well to be honest and leave the Church. It is not for us to shape the Christian tradition “into our image.”

iv. Faithfulness of the few: As unity cannot be pursued at the expense of truth and our inherited tradition, it might mean at times that the true church is a “remnant.” It is “the few” who often speak with prophetic witness. This prophetic witness often requires courage to be faithful – not innovation – as Oliver Donavan reminds us:

“In taking up a posture of faithfulness before otherwise total apostasy, the believer accepts the task of the church in the world, and so continues the transmission of the church, mediating it and purifying it. Obedience to Christ requires this reflective discernment, the inward appropriation of the heart, “apart from” the supportive consolations of the visible community. Through the faithful individual, then, the church obeys the command, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). St. Paul could write of “divisions” (haireseis) necessary for “the genuine” (dokimoi) to become evident (1 Cor. 11:19). That there should be times of testing in which Christians are divided against Christians, and in which the question of where true Christianity lies is thrown wholly upon the reflective individual to discern, serves the final disclosure of the church itself, which has its deepest continuity in a line of faithful apostolic transmission of belief from the heart, not in any other type of institutional succession. Such events do not bring the church to an end.”[34]

In our “smaller” and globally networked world today, the word “remnant” takes on a new meaning beyond numerical size to the question of influence, wealth and control of communication centres. If true unity can only be built around “the few” or “weaker” part of the church, so be it. In this sense, the faithful in the Communion need to find our strength not in numbers, political strength, wealth or influence, but in faithfulness to the faith once received.

v. Moral authority: While there are difficult issues surrounding issues of enforceable discipline and “excommunication,” given the nature of Anglican polity, those who claim to be faithful to the tradition need to direct and speak with moral authority. In a Church with her Oneness built on her spiritual entity, koinonia and shared Trinitarian faith, moral leadership will be needed, quite apart from canon laws and institutional authority. Often such responses need to be immediate. Church leaders are called to offer moral teaching to the Christian communities. If the Church cannot act firmly, our credibility, moral leadership and our mission will be called into question.

vi.  Embracing the Call that “All may be one”: The Anglican Church always regards itself as part of the Holy Catholic Church.  We see ourselves as the bridge (via media) to the greater whole. We need to positively embrace this call for mission within the Body, and thus, the world, while avoiding the pitfalls that come with what this term might mean. More reflection is needed in this area in terms of our role vis-à-vis other parts of the wider Body of Christ, may it be independent evangelical fellowships, Orthodox or the Roman Catholic community. Anglicans might find that they are more able to ‘walk together’ with some from outside our communion through our shared orthodoxy. The examples are too numerous to mention but they are experienced richly within our local communities.[35] In the face of a common foe in secularism, Christians need to stand firm together and to this end, Anglicans everywhere can play significant role.

vii. Dealing with the root of the problems threatening Anglican Oneness: Some trends on the ground have prevailed for too long and unchecked; it may be time for some positive action to redress this for the sake of the Church and the generations to come. In particular, we refer to the way our inherited Christian faith is being revised and reconstructed in many parts of the Communion. This is a complex issue and needs to be dealt with carefully, but some steps need to be taken to arrest the trend within some parts of the Communion, where secular and “progressive“ thinking patterns and presuppositions dominate to the point where faithful allegiance to the “faith once received” or any allusion to “orthodoxy” is increasingly being sidelined. The recent crisis related to sexuality issues is just a symptom of a deeply buried fault-line which exists within our Communion. The systematic efforts to revise the tradition of the Church needs to be recognise for what it is. Embracing them in pseudo-Christian language will only create a Trojan Horse scenario: of imploding the Church from within. Changes have penetrated some parts of our Church so deeply and for so long, that any meaningful communion and mission together have become almost impossible. Some parts of the Church have changed beyond recognition - to the point where the common witness with the People of God immemorial needs to be questioned.

viii. Rediscovering of Orthodoxy: We recommend the trends in some parts of the Body, calling for us to rediscover Orthodoxy[36]. This quote from Thomas C. Oden, one of her advocates, describing his journey from “the idolisation of the new” is worth noting:

“The need to create was replaced by the call to listen. I realized that I must listen intently, actively, without reservation. Listen in such a way that my whole life depended upon hearing. Listen in such a way that I could see telescopically beyond my modern myopia, to break through the walls of my modern prison, and actually hear voices from the past with different assumptions entirely about the world and time and human culture. Only then in my forties did I begin to become a theologian. Up to that time I had been teaching theology without ever having sufficiently met the patristic mentors who could teach me theology.”[37]

In a sense, it has been the Anglican mission from the very onset during the Reformation to “rediscover orthodoxy”; to pay greater attention to the teachings, experience and leadership of the early fathers to guide us through the complexity of our contemporary challenges. While this may lead to the risk of idealizing our past, it is this deeply held Anglican tradition to “listen rather than create,” which we need to adhere to. Only then, will we be on a surer footing to address the need to listen to Scripture afresh for our world today. This may well be our Via Media in seeking for true reconciliation within the wider Christian family. But to do so, as an Anglican family, we need to stay faithful to our own calling. More exploration needs to be done by the Communion in this direction.

ix.Strengthening our Unity through Mission and Worship together: We also recommend that we continue to seek unity and strengthen our “bonds of affection” through mission and worship. Remembering that we are a sojourning community with a mission calling will give a different perspective on the nature of unity, and in fact, effecting it. We ask that the Anglicans remain faithful to the call of the church and experience unity through mission together. Millions still wait for the Gospel message to be heard and seen. We need to work together to both be and bring the Gospel to them. As for worship, that has always been a precious part of our heritage. Some precious experiences of unity are only found through praying and worshipping together. In this Conference, there will be liturgies and songs from different cultures. Worship should be at the heart of this Conference.

x. A time for Anglican “Renewal”: While there are those who see the recent crises as signs of a ‘break-up,” there are many others who see it as a sign of an Anglican Renewal of her faith and mission within the wider Christendom and the world. This call for faithfulness to our tradition received; whether it is in worship, doctrine or holiness or our lifestyle. We ask that Anglicans, who share this vision, to renew their commitment to it. It will need more work, clearer catechisms to be written, a closer look at how theological education is done, deeper theological reflections, a coming together of concerned and similarly gifted Anglicans (theological, pastoral, youth, women, those in mercy ministries), a new appreciation of the fide fidelium (faith of the faithful), a renewal of how life and mission is shared in the Communion – beyond the ecclesiastical “externals”, a recovery of the Gospel mission to the multitudes still outside the Church[38] and more.

This paper harbours no illusion that it can convince parts of our communion which stands in disagreement with some of the deepest fundamentals of our Anglican faith. We can only call Anglicans who have chosen to remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ through the Faith and Tradition as received, to stand together. May this ONE church fulfil her call within the wider Body of Christ and in the world we serve.

We remind ourselves that it is God and the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit which have called, grown and protected the church up till now. It will be ours to submit and follow. ————————————————————————- Footnotes [1]  Resolution 9 [2]  Resolution 9-31 [3]  In this connection, the “notes” of the church form the patristic age down to today have often been expounded along institutional lines. [4] For example, within the Anglican Communion: Hong Kong (1998), South East Asia (1996), Korea (1992), Philippines (1990), Church of North India (1970), Church of South India (1947). Some churches, for example, Taiwan is still part of EUCSA; and some, noticeably Indonesia and nations in Indochina still do not have their own national church structures. See Nicolas Standaert ed. Handbook of Christianity in China, Volume One: 635-1800, Leiden, Brill, 2001. pp 1-42; Peter Brown, “Christianity in Asia,” in The Rise of Western Christendom. Triumph and Diversity AD 200-1000 Oxford, Blackwell, 1996. pp 167-183. [5]  Leviticus 11:45 [6]  Exodus 19:5-6 [7]  Exodus 24:3 [8]  Numbers 10:25-28 [9]  Deuteronomy 8:1-3 [10]  Deuteronomy 8:19 [11]  Deuteronomy 12:4-7 and 12:13-14 [12]  Joshua 21:43-45 [13]  Joshua 22:16 [14]  Joshua 22:18 [15]  Joshua 22:12 [16]  1 Kings 11:33 [17]  1 Kings 12:25-33 [18]  The Windsor Report (henceforth, “TWR”), para 98 [19]  TWR, para 3 [20]  Accordingly, the 1998 Conference affirmed the authority of Holy Scriptures, stating that “our creator God, transcendent as well as immanent, communicates with us authoritatively through the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; and that in agreement with the Lambeth Quadrilateral, and in solidarity with the Lambeth Conference of 1888, affirms that these Holy Scriptures contain `all things necessary to salvation,’ and are for Anglicans the `rule and ultimate standard’ of faith and practice.” [21]  The emphasis on Scripture grew not least from the insistence of the early Anglican reformers on the importance of the Bible and the Fathers over and against what they saw as illegitimate mediaeval developments; it was part of their appeal to ancient undivided Christian faith and life. TWR para 53 [22]  For example: “Here lies the boundary of a Christian Church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” [Wolfhart Pannenberg, Christianity Today, November 11, 1996, as quoted in ‘True Union in the Body?’, a Paper commissioned by the MostReverend Drexel Wellington Gomez, p. 45] [23]  TWR, para 68 [24]  TWR, para 67 [25] The church is always a ‘mixed society,’ as St Augustine reminds us in his teaching on Permixta Ecclesia. However, the divine nature which the church witnesses to ‘iconically” in her teaching and direction should never be compromised, in so much as they bear witness to the nature of a Holy God. [26]  TWR, para. 47 [27]  We have acknowledged the concern expressed by those who warn us to maintain the traditional biblical teaching on matters of human sexuality as affirmed by the Lambeth Conference of 1978 (resolution 10). [28]  See fuller discussion on ‘autonomy’ in TWR, para 72ff [29]  TWR, para. 80 [30] Lambeth Conference 1920, SPCK (1920), Encyclical Letter, p. 14. [31] Hans Kung, “The Church is One” in The Church, Kent, Search Press, 1986. p. 289 [32]  Historically, Anglicans have identified themselves as a Reforming movement within the Western Catholic Church. Anglicans have differed on the extent of both their understanding of Anglicanism’s catholicity and on what in the Medieval Church needed reforming. Nonetheless, Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals, and even historic Broad Church Anglicans were united in a commitment to the priority of Scripture as interpreted by the first few centuries, to worship using the forms of the Book of Common Prayer, and to the historic episcopacy. Cheryl H. White, The Historic Via Media: The Boundaries of Anglican Identity, [url=, ], [/url]; March 27, 2004 [33]  TWR, para 3 [34]  Oliver Donavan, The Ways of Judgment: the Bampton Lectures 2003, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2005, p 318. [35]  The trend of city-wide inter-denominational missions will be one example, along with the phenomenal “ecumenical” impact of programmes like the Alpha Course. [36]  As explained in the essay by George F. Woodliff, “Rediscovering Christian Orthodoxy in Episcopal Anglicanism,” [url=, ], [/url]; March 17, 2004. [37]  Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life: Systematic Theology, San Francisco, HarperCollins, pp 219 [38]  Often this will need deeper missiological reflection and understanding of other faiths and cultures

2 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Tommy Butler Says:

    Good article

  2. mccabe Says:

    As a member of the church in the USA, I totally agree with this statement made in the above address:

    “Whether at the local or wider level, disciplinary actions (administered pastorally) are necessary as a witness to the integrity of the church. To those who have departed from the historic tradition and its ensuing discipline, they do well to be honest and leave the Church. It is not for us to shape the Christian tradition “into our image.””

    It is time for the American church to discipline any Bishop or cleric that fails to conform to the rules established by the our General Convention. They should resign or be removed from office. They are breaking the oaths and vows made at thier consecration. They willfully harm the Body of Christ by causing division in the discipline of the American church. The origin of the word warlock is ‘oath breaker’ and I wish to see all Warlocks calling themselves Bishops removed from office.