A Reflection on the Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury, England, January 11-15, 2016
by FRED HILTZ, ARCHBISHOP AND PRIMATE on JANUARY 19, 2016
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”
(1 Corinthians 12:27)
Throughout the meeting of the Primates last week, I thought much about St. Paul’s teaching about the Church being the Body of Christ in the world. It is the image at the very heart of Anglican ecclesiology. It informs the manner of our relationships in the Church local, national and global. In 165 countries we are 85 million people proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in more than 1000 languages. We are a family of autonomous Churches that understand ourselves to be “Formed by Scripture, Shaped by Worship, Ordered for Communion, and Directed by God’s Mission”. We are bound together by the long held principle of “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ” articulated at the great Anglican Congress of 1963 in Toronto.
While for the most part this principle inspires our common work and witness, there are times when our capacity to abide by it is deeply challenging given the very diverse political, cultural, social and missional contexts in which we live. While being ordered for communion, we recognize that in the face of deep difference of theological conviction over certain matters of faith and doctrine the bonds of affection between us can be strained, sometimes sadly so, to the point of people speaking of a state of impaired communion.
For me to have entertained any thought of accepting consequences for our own Church would have been an overstepping of my authority. To do so would have been a betrayal of my office as President of The General Synod. I was not and am not prepared to take any action that would pre-empt the outcome of our deliberations at General Synod in July. As the report “This Holy Estate” declares, “It is for the General Synod to decide the matter” in accord with the jurisdiction given it regarding “the definition of doctrine in harmony with the Solemn Declaration”. (The Declaration of Principles, 6. Jurisdiction of The General Synod. I believe in the synodical process and by the ministry entrusted to me, I am obliged to uphold it. (To be continued)