As we think through the significance of the meeting of Primates in Canterbury, we come to the key subject of repentance.
The issues before us have doctrinal and political aspects. But, finally, they are spiritual and that is why repentance matters.
The original tragic division in the Anglican Communion was the responsibility of certain North American Anglicans. They have been invited back into communion with those who severed relationships.
But this is not simply a matter of apology without change.
The need is repentance, with the hope of reconciliation and restoration.
Gentle but firm
In Canterbury, an overwhelming number of Primates agreed that the endorsement of same sex marriage by The Episcopal Church (TEC) should be challenged and the consequences for continued fellowship be set out.
The Primates deliberately chose the greatest offence (redefining marriage), the greatest offenders (TEC) and the mildest rebuke (three years suspension from some activities).
The Primates were virtually united in this gentle approach ”“ gentle but firm. The most outrageous offence against biblical truth was singled out, and a mild set of consequences outlined. It left The Episcopal Church with nowhere to hide. No one can say that this is vindictive or punitive.
It is a symbolic, gentle invitation to return home.
There are risks in the gentle but firm course chosen by the Primates.
First, it may be that those in Canada and Scotland, not to mention England who agree with such things as the blessing of same sex unions may think that they have now escaped censure and are free to proceed.
But Lambeth 1.10 still stands, as does the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration and of course the Holy Scriptures. Let not those who have breached the word in other ways now take comfort, as though they have been somehow endorsed. Rather let them, too, consider turning again to the Lord.