The Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter, 20 April 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter, 20 April 2010

The text of the video address played at the Encounter this morning (Tues).

Greetings to you all, in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour.

You are meeting in this most precious season of the Christian year – the Easter season when we give thanks for the new creation revealed and made real for us in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  And we meet also praying in preparation for Pentecost for the renewed gift of the Holy Spirit in which alone we come fully alive to God and to one another in Jesus Christ.

I wish you every blessing in your meeting and I’m delighted that it’s happening at this particular moment, not only in the Christian year, but in the life of our Communion.  I’m very sorry indeed that it’s not been possible for me to be with you physically.  But I know that my greetings and best wishes will have been brought to you by our friends from the United Kingdom who are joining you on this occasion. 

I want to comment on one or two things that relate to your agenda, and indeed to the agenda that we share as Anglicans in our worldwide fellowship. 

The text of the Anglican Covenant has now been available for discussion for several months.  As you know it’s the fruit of long, careful, prayerful discussion; the fruit of a sustained attempt on the part of so many people throughout our Communion to determine not only what it is that binds us together in terms of our faith, the authority we accord to scripture and tradition, but also what binds us humanly and specifically to one another in our fellowship, in our Communion – what it is that makes us one body, one community, able to speak to the world in the name of Christ.

The text of the [Anglican] Covenant is a whole. It is something which lays out the foundations of our faith, the language that we share, and the hopes that we share, but it also—we hope and pray—sets out a path for the future, a path of mutual attention, mutual respect, the kind ofobedience to one another that the New Testament proposes for us, but so much in the Christian tradition also suggests – the careful listening to one another’s needs, and discernment of what we can say together, that is part not only in the life of the Church from time immemorial, but that has also been an important part of the life of many religious communities in the Benedictine tradition in which that mutual listening and obedience to one another has been so crucial.  So one of my prayers for your meeting in these days is that you will discover something about thatmutual obedience, the covenantwith one another that comes out of our grateful acceptance of the covenant God makes with us in the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Covenant, as many people have said, is an extraordinarily rich word.  In your discussions during these days you’ll have had many opportunities to think about the richness of that word in Scripture and in the theological tradition.  But as I reflected on it myself, one of the texts that I looked to was the association that St Paul makes inRomans 9.4 betweenadoption¸ glory, andcovenant.  He’s speaking there of the Jewish people: ‘from them’, he says (v.5), ‘comes the Messiah’, the Lord, the Incarnate God.  In their life they have discovered adoption as children of God, the revelation of the glory of God, and the covenant reality which holds them to God and to one another.  And I would like to think that as we Anglicans together reflect on covenant, we think also about adoption and about glory. 

As Anglicans we, like all other Christians, understand our lives in Christ as being brought into that glorious liberty which belongs to the children of God – the liberty from self and sin, the liberty to pray and to praise without hindrance; to stand where Christ stands; to call God ‘Abba! Father!’ (Mark 14.36,Romans 8.15,Galatians 4.6), to speak with his voice and to breathe in his Spirit.  We are adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.  And in that being drawn into the adoptive relationship with the Father, what happens isglory – the glory that in St John’s gospel Jesus assures he will give to his disciples because they have come to sharehis relation with God the Father (John 17.10).

So, to the world we show a new pattern of human life reconciled with the Father, free in the household of the Father to come to him with our prayer, with our praise, our petition, whenever we need and whenever we wish, confident of his reconciling and forgiving love.  We show to the world that model of reconciled, forgiven life, and of bold and intimate prayer.  And in doing so, theglory of God is reflected in us:  the glory that Christ has with the Father before all time and to all eternity, now made real in the faces and the lives of ordinary people like you and me. 

That new life is made real in us, and that glory is shown in us, because God has made a covenant with us – has promised in Jesus Christ to be with us when we turn to him, has promised that his merciful, forgiving, renewing strength will always be there for us, that his Spirit is never exhausted in re-creating us.  It’s the covenant that makes us aware of our new status as the adopted sons and daughters of God, the covenant that is the foundation of glory being shown in us.  And therefore it’s God’s covenant with us that is the basis of ourmission, our confident readiness to share with the whole needy world the promise of beingadopted as sons and daughters, the promise ofglory.  And as so much in Scripture hints, as we rediscover again and again that covenant that God has made with us, so we rediscover the covenant that binds us to one another.  We share in that status of sons and daughters.  We see glory in each other’s faces.  And in our unity and our commitment to one another we show that God not only has a purpose for individuals, but that God has a purpose for the human family.

So when, as an Anglican Communion we seek to bind ourselves in covenant, we’re not simply making a contract, we’re not simply trying to solve problems. We’re trying to find a way of grounding ourmission in a new way, in the recognition of that inter-weaving of adoption and glory that all Christians share. 

So as you discuss the Covenant—and as the Covenant is discussed in your Provinces—I hope that that larger dimension will always be in people’s minds.  I was particularly pleased to see the ways in which the titles of the various bible studies and lectures during your meeting reflected that sense that we need to go deeper into the idea of covenant.  Few things could be more important for us.  So, in all those discussions and reflections I wish you every blessing, and I look forward with great eagerness to hearing what you have discovered in your thinking and praying together.

But of course we are reflecting on the need for a covenant in the light of confusion, brokenness and tension within our Anglican family – a brokenness and a tension that has been made still more acute by recent decisions in some of our Provinces.  In all your minds there will be questions around the election and consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles .  All of us share the concern that in this decision and action the Episcopal Church has deepened the divide between itself and the rest of the Anglican family.  And as I speak to you now, I am in discussion with a number of people around the world about what consequences might follow from that decision, and how we express the sense that most Anglicans will want to express, that this decision cannot speak for our common mind. 

But I hope also in your thinking about this and in your reacting to it, you’ll bear in mind that there are no quick solutions for the wounds of the Body of Christ.  It is the work of the Spirit that heals the Body of Christ, not the plans or the statements of any group, or any person, or any instrument of communion.  Naturally we seek to minimize the damage, to heal the hurts, to strengthen our mission, to make sure that it goes forward with integrity and conviction.  Naturally, there are decisions that have to be taken.  But at the same time we mustall—as indeed your own covering notes suggest for your conference—we mustall share in a sense of repentance and willingness to be renewed by the Spirit. 

So while the tensions and the crises of our Anglican Communion will of course be in your minds as they are in mine, I know from what you have written, what you have communicated about your plans and hopes for this conference, that you will allow the Holy Spirit to lift your eyes to that broader horizon of God’s purpose for us as Anglicans, for us as Christians, and indeed for us as human beings. 

Adoption and glory: these are the treasures given to us in the very earthenware vessels of our discipleship with its varying failings and confusions.  And yet God has promised to be faithful. And it’s his faithfulness that we celebrate at this Easter season, and as we wait for the seal of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

May your prayers and your thoughts be part of a new Pentecost for the Anglican Communion, which will bind us in communion more deeply than ever, make us more faithful, effective and imaginative witnesses to God’s truth to the ends of the earth.

May God the Father bless you all, through the risen Christ, showering upon you the power of his Holy Spirit.

+  Rowan Cantuar:


© Rowan Williams 2010

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