Before Hurricane Ike disrupted our lives on this island on the Texas Gulf Coast, it had been my intention to offer a few thoughts on the Lambeth Conference, which took place on another island on the other side of the Atlantic. Now that things have calmed down a bit, I am taking the time to draw attention to some hopeful signs that have emerged from the conference.
In his concluding address to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams emphasized the need for a covenant as called for in the Windsor Report. The most recent draft of the proposed covenant is posted here. While many are wary of the elements of the covenant that might create more bureaucracy, hierarchy, or some sort of foreign control, the covenant that is emerging has many very strong points that commend it.
One of the strongest points is Section 2: "The Life We Share With Others: Our Anglican Vocation." In this section, each Church in the Communion is called to affirm that communion is a gift from God, the ongoing mission work of the Communion, and that there is an ecumenical dimension to our mission work. Then, each Church is called to commit itself to the missionary role of the Communion. Here is the text of that commitment:
2.2 In recognition of these affirmations,each Church of the Communion commits itself:
(2.2.1) to answer God’s call to evangelisation and to share in his healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken, hurting and fallen world, and, with mutual accountability, to share our God-given spiritual and material resources in this task.
(2.2.2.a) to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God;
(2.2.2.b) to teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
(2.2.2.c) to respond to human need by loving service;
(2.2.2.d) to seek to transform unjust structures of society; and
(2.2.2.e) to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.
I believe this is a wonderful summary. The only things I would change would be to remove "seek to" and "strive to" from the last two points. As Yoda said, "There is no try, only do." Let's agree to "transform unjust structures of society" and to "safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth." In matters that important, why leave ourselves any wiggle room? We should be willing to be as accountable in the last two missionary tasks as in the first three!
To move our focus as Anglicans from endless, divisive debates on issues toward involvement in Christ's mission would indeed bring healing.
This is not to say that we should simply set aside any issues that divide us. Nor is it to disregard the need for accountability for our actions. Walking together and watching over one another in love involves engagement with ideas and responsible behavior, always respecting those who journey with us.
Our ongoing attempts to understand one another with our diverse viewpoints on issues should not distract us from Christ's mission. We can and should continue to have respectful dialog as we seek the truth. In that way, we help one another grow toward maturity in our faith. In that dialog we must remember that many idealogical issues tend to regard people as objects, thereby marginalizing or rejecting them. That in itself is harmful to communion because we are the Body of Christ. St. Paul reminds us that one member cannot say to another, "I have no need of you" because that harms the entire body. It seems to me that staying faithfully focused on our common mission, as articulated so well in the Covenant, is one way to avoid that pitfall. Our missionary work can hold us together and define us when we are tempted to permit an issue to be thrust upon us and threaten to disrupt our oneness in Christ.
I invite your comments.