Posted on Anglican Ink [pdf]
16 March 2016
Your Graces, dear brothers in Christ
As we enter Passiontide, with less than two weeks until Easter, I wanted to write to wish you all a celebration of Holy Week and the day of Resurrection that is all-consuming in its joy and power. Uniquely, we proclaim a saviour who has overcome death, having lived fully through every experience and temptation of life, and having himself died.
Our great enemy, who tells us that all things end in pointlessness, is defeated by the empty tomb, and with all Christians around the world, we should celebrate without limit.
On Easter day, at Canterbury Cathedral, full of the memories of our Meeting in January, I shall be praying for you and rejoicing in your fellowship in the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Since that Meeting, there have been numerous developments. First, we should be aware of the great rejoicing and thankfulness that the outcome of the Meeting gave to many Christians around the world. We have all received numerous comments of thankfulness that the Anglican Communion, deeply divided in many areas, managed in the part of its leadership which is the Primates’ Meeting, to vote unanimously, amongst those present, to walk together. As you will remember, at that crucial moment, we undertook to seek personally to ensure that what we voted, was put into practise.
Since that time, as I undertook to you, I have followed through by changing the representation of those bodies where I have the ability to make a decision, so as to put into effect the agreement we reached amongst ourselves.
We must, of course, remember that as in the early Church, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, there is never an end to these issues. So long as the Church is made up of human beings, it will be made up of sinners. In consequence, we will take decisions and say things that are inappropriate or wrong. The strength of the East African revival was not that it produced sinless people but that it taught sinners to walk in the light. That meant that they were to confess their sins, repent and acknowledge them.
The issues which have divided us over so many years still exist, and will resurface again at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Lusaka. We are called as Primates to work closely with the ACC, as they are called to work with us. For example, Resolution 52 of the Lambeth Conference 1988 said: “This Conference requests the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council to give urgent attention to implementing the hope expressed at Lambeth 1978 (and as confirmed by recent provincial responses) that both bodies would work in the very closest contact.”
At Lambeth 1998, Resolution III point 6, as well as affirming “the enhanced responsibility here in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” of the Primates’ Meeting, also said that the responsibility of the Primates’ Meeting “should be exercised in sensitive consultation with the relevant provinces and with the ACC or in cases of emergency the Executive of the ACC, and that while not interfering with the juridical authority of the provinces, the exercise of these responsibilities by the Primates’ Meeting should carry moral authority calling for ready acceptance through the Communion”.
There are numerous other examples indicating that we should work closely together.
In all cases, back as far as 1857, it is well recognised that there is no single body within the Anglican Communion that has juridical authority over individual provinces. We are autonomous but interdependent.
For these reasons, I hope and pray that every province that is able will be present in Lusaka. The decisions we took in January can only have effect if they gain general ownership amongst the Communion, taking in laity, priests and bishops. Even if a province is not able to be present, I urge you to pray fervently for the outcome of the ACC. We will need to elect a new Chairman, and such a position should be someone, who, speaking the truth in love, seeks to unite the Communion in truth-filled service to Jesus Christ, and not to uphold any particular group at the expense of the Common Good, so long as we are within acceptable limits of diversity.
The ACC is the only body in which laity and clergy, other than bishops, are represented, and is thus of a special importance. It will discuss many matters, including those that we raised in January at Canterbury. These will include our evangelism and witness, the impact of climate change, our response to the great global refugee crisis, our support for those caught in conflict, and above all persecution.
Only those who are present will be able to make their voice heard and their votes effective. I therefore urge you to make every effort to join us in Lusaka, so that, in the presence of the risen Christ, we may continue our often painful, but ever hopeful journey in his service.
This brings my love, respect and commitment to service in the name of Christ our peace, Christ our saviour and Christ our truth.
+ Justin Cantaur
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury