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Anglican Identity in An Age of Polarization

October 17, 2016

Thank you very much indeed. Please sit down. When Bishop Michael said that “when Archbishops speak, we have to obey,” I wish that were so in the Church of England. Actually, a funny thing happened about a year ago when my wife and I were visiting a school near Lambert, and my chaplain was going in ahead – in fact he was about 20 yards ahead carrying my robes, and he was rather disconcerted when a little child said, “has God arrived yet, Sir?” And I’m sure Grey and my colleague then said, must have said something like, “well, God is already here, but the Archbishop is late as usual.” Anyway, sorry to be a little late this morning. Before I begin my lecture, my address, I want to express my appreciation for this invitation. It’s lovely to be with you at the Anglican Institute and I know you’ve been tackling the theme of The Practice of Anglicanism. I want to express my appreciation of all that Bishop Michael Marshall has done over the years. His vision in setting up the Anglican Institute and the fine work it has done within the Episcopal Church of the United States. And you may know that a couple of years ago he phoned me out of the blue, when I was Bishop of Bath and Wells, and after the conversation an idea emerged, the idea of inviting Michael back to the UK on occasion, we’re not taking him away from you forever, to do exactly the kind of work he’s been doing over here – that is promoting vigorous, vibrant, historic Christianity. And he and Canon Michael Green are doing a wonderful job under the aegis of Springboard in developing mission and strategy, and giving back to England once again an excitement for evangelism and serving our Lord Christ. So thank you Michael, very much indeed for all you’re doing and I hope you’re feeling stretched and fulfilled in all that.

 

I’m going to speak now on Anglican identity in an age of polarization. Anglican identity in an age of polarization. Anglicanism, so our critics say, is intent on self-destruction. It’s lost any sense of direction. In England, such alarmist reflections are regrettably all too commonplace and ill researched. One dangerous habit of our generation is to assume that the problems and difficulties that we face are uniquely our own, and nothing could be further from the truth. The privilege of being an Anglican is to be able to look at issues through the lens of a broader historical perspective. I was reminded of this afresh when I was rereading recently David Newcomb’s stimulating book, The Parting of Friends. And in it, he examines the contrasting fortunes of the Wilburforce family and Henry Manning. And the parallels with our own time are quite astonishing. The dawn of the nineteenth century seemed to show the Church of England in very good heart. Evangelical revival that invigorated the church and enlivened its life, enriched social action, effective leadership like that of William Wilburforce was strong in church and nation. Missionary work was burgeoning, and such was Charles Simian’s confidence that, in 1824, towards the end of his life, he could write: “glorious times are fast approaching.” And William Wilburforce was in agreement. “I’m not among croakers,” he said, “I think real religion is spreading.” But within a decade the optimism was gone. Now, what lead to its collapse? Well, what lead to its collapse was a cluster of concerns which shattered Anglican identity, producing despair and confusion. On the one hand, British society seemed to be on the brink of breakdown, violence, and a discontented spirit. Samuel Wilburforce, writing to his brother Robert, about 1830, mourned, “There is a spirit of discontent. A mad restlessness poured out upon the land which is to work for our overthrow as a nation.” What was he talking about? Well, the consequences of a reform bill seemed to lead directly to the overthrow of secured government. The bail for (???) forays of savage and desperate laborers smashing their way through the middle and upper class homes, robbing and terrorizing, was one aspect of a mood that a terrifying age was about to dawn. And they only had to look across the channel to see in France the destruction that revolution could cause. “The world has gone mad” was James Steven’s conclusion. And, on the other hand, church affairs seemed little better. Old certainties appeared so much more fragile, disturbing questions were affecting the minds of the young. Liberalism was feared, not so much for the questions it asked, as for the affect it had on people’s lives and faith. And to quote Samuel Wilburforce again, “as for modern liberalism,” he said, “I abhor it, it’s the devil’s creed.” Heard that around before? It was girded, you see, because it signaled, so people thought, the triumph of reason over revelation. Man over God. The world over the church. And then what of the church itself? In England, despite the growth of Methodism and increased freedom given to Roman Catholics, there was still only one church to be reckoned with in terms of power and influence. Then as some looked at the Church of England, they shuddered. It seemed particularly ill-equipped to deal with the problems and challenges it faced. It appeared too worldly to be a prophetic church. Too earth bound to be moved by the wind of the Holy Spirit. And the interest of too many bishops and clergy were bound up with the power of the establishment. It was all so deeply polarized. The Evangelical party had supplied most of the spiritual leadership at the beginning of the century. But now, as the eighteen thirties dawned, it’s greatest leaders had gone or were departing. William Wilburforce, Charles Simian, John Vin, and many others. And significantly many of these leaders were lay people like those of the Cathum (SP??) sect that created The Church Missionary Society. They were men and women deeply marked by a transforming gospel which had social and political consequences for them. Whether in campaigning against the slave trade or in founding The Church Missionary Society. But people of their stature had not seceded them. Church life, like that of a wider society was marked by deep pessimism and fear. Two young evangelicals were to express this in hymns that we still sing today. First, John Henry Newman captured the mood perfectly in his famous hymn, Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom. And, it’s a mistake to read the words as if he’s about to leave for Rome. Written in 1833, it lacks, or rather reflects the lack, of confidence within the church in an age of deep uncertainly. And another evangelical, H. F. Light, also described the uncertainty within and without in Abide With Me. And sung every year in our cup final to Wimble Stadium. And the line, “change and decay in all around I see,” is the key to understanding the hymn and it’s no accident that he followed it with the plea and the prayer, “O though who changes not, abide with me.” And the confidence expressed by the decade just gone will collapse. But not without significance, but the revival occasioned by the Oxford movement was soon to follow in its wake.

 

Now let me leave the 1830’s at that particular moment. The parallels with our day are all too obvious, aren’t they? Many perceive a similar pattern of a world in crisis and a faith under attack. In both our churches at the present time, the Church of England and the Episcopal, fail those who believe that things have gone too far, and that our fundamental faith and identity has been abandoned. Debate on the ordination of women to the priesthood, homosexuality, the nature of theological truth, combined with the church’s diminished stature and status in the eyes of the world accord some to cry, “all is lost.” Well, to them, I reply that these things, far from being signs of destruction, are, instead, clues that we reflect Anglicanism at its best and richest. Differences are a sign of health and need not necessarily lead to narcissism or alienation. So, like Michael, Anglicanism in an Age of Polarization was evoked from the mission statement of the Anglican Institute. You stand for recovering Anglican identity for a world-wide mission. And the statement is sturdy and clear that any statement which starts with recovering, assumes that we have lost our identity. And I can understand why many of us feel that that is happening, but let me investigate that thinking more fully.

 

An individual who is constantly preoccupied with his or her own identity is likely to be in a very bad way. The vast majority of us know who we are, and we do not, on waking up in the morning, have to reach for our passports or our family albums to discover our identity. Similarly, a healthy church does not need to keep on examining her identity. Rather, beginning from a sufficient level of confidence and security, she can leave those questions in the background and get on with her real vocation, the service of Almighty God. However, when we talk about Anglican identity, we’re not talking about an individual or a single church, but a very complex grouping containing thirty-three interdependent churches and well over seventy million people. What does identity mean for us? Perhaps helpful analogies can be drawn with big businesses. Many multinational companies find it useful to draw up a mission statement to define who they are and what they exist to do. Their purposes and their aspirations are plainly stated for those inside and outside the company to read. And if we were asked to point to the salient features of Anglicanism within the variety of Christian tradition, its mission statement, if you like, what do we immediately claim for ourselves? And in the remainder of this lecture I shall point to three aspects which I believe are central to our being and our life. The first two we share to a large degree with other Christian traditions. But I believe that the third element is especially our own. 

 

First: Anglican identity finds its focus in a coherent doctrinal integrity. In the book which I’ve enjoyed reading which I think was produced a few months ago, Reclaiming Faith, which, as you know, is a collection of essays on the Episcopal Church and the Baltimore declaration, one of the essayists quotes Norman Pittenger, who observed of the Episcopal Church that it is the rubious church in Christendom. The writer quotes Pittenger with approval, but points to the danger of assuming that Anglicanism makes room for everyone. And this is a timely warning. For we are, in fact, a communion which takes doctrine seriously. We are not a pragmatic church simply concerned with a broadly secular agenda. Let no one be in any doubt about that. In the Church of England, at every institution of a priest, at every consecration of a Bishop, at every confirmation of an Archbishop, the following words are proclaimed and we have to state: “The Church of England is part of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and sets forth in the Catholic creeds which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Lead by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formulas, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. They are strong words, and I believe that they are paralleled by similar utterances in the ordinals and the prayer books of your own church. So much then for the nonsense that Anglicans can believe anything they like as long as it is not too certain. Our church is birthed historically in those events which shake the Christian faith – the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Spirit. They remain the bedrock of Anglicanism, combined with the tolerance, fair-mindedness and generosity that have marked our way of doing theology. But now there are a number of ways in which this aspect of our identity comes under attack. Some deny that there is an historic revelation which is final and definitive. How can we, they argue, claim that Christianity is superior to other ways in which God has revealed himself? Well, I understand the anxieties behind such a question. I appreciate deeply the integrity of other faiths and I have no doubt that churches have much to learn from other faiths. I’m also concerned that Christian leaders should have the most positive and harmonious relationships with leaders of other faith communities. But we would be untrue to ourselves, and interestingly, we gain little respect from those of other religions if we cease to maintain that the Christian revelation is decisive and definitive for all humankind. Such proclamation, of course, must be made with the utmost humility and courtesy and gentleness, but we depart from our roots if we seek implicitly or explicitly to deny it. 

 

Others fleeing from that kind of relativism seek safety in some kind of unthinking fundamentalism. And I’m not arguing for such a retreat. Indeed, let me suggest there are two fundamentalisms that we must avoid, and the first fundamentalism is the one we are used to – the fundamentalism of the Bible where Christ is confused with the Words of Scripture. Now Scripture, in my theology, is sacramental and if it points to Christ, the Word with a capital “W,” maintained as high a doctrine of Holy Scripture as you possibly can do so, so long as your doctrine of Christ is higher. And within the church, the Bible stands as the enduring foundational document of the church and our primary source of Christian revelation. It is, however, not the source above or beyond human inquiry, research or critical analysis, but a repository of faith and doctrine that demands an interaction with all these. We stand on the scripture with humility, regarding it very highly, for Christ’s sake. But it’s only part of the church’s rich resources promoting its doctrine, not its only source of authority. That is a clear Anglican principle. Well known Donald Soaper, the Methodist leader says this, “The Bible is a marvelous servant, but an intolerable master.” 

 

Now another fundamentalism confuses the church itself with God’s revelation, and although our church has never developed a doctrine of ecclesiastical infallibility, there are some Anglicans who want to take us in that direction. They say that the church has been given such authority and knowledge that there should be no deviation whatsoever from her revered faith. And this, too, must be questioned. Certainly, we must hand on what we have received. The faith of the church enshrined in Bible and the Creeds are central to the deposit of faith. However, the church cannot claim an authority that belongs to it as by rights. Like the individuals who make up its membership, the church is fallible and impeccable, and, to apply Luther’s great phrase to the church, it too like any one of us here in this hall this morning is “simal eustus et picatoral.” (???) We are one at the same time righteous and sinful. The church is, and Vatican, too, argued a pilgrim people journeying through strange and dangerous lands, yet always aware, as St. Paul puts it so wonderfully in 2 Corinthians 4, that “it possesses the treasurers of highest and his gospel in pots of clay.” In order to retain our identity, we must avoid the traps of fundamentalism and relativism alike. And such a task is a demanding one, one that challenges afresh each individual and each generation. It’s sometimes said, you’ve heard it said of Anglicans, that we don’t know what we believe. Steven York (SP?) once wrote, “to be a bad Anglican is the easiest thing in the world. The amount of effort required in minimum Anglican conformity is so infinitesimal that it’s hardly to be measured.” But he went on to say this in the same breath, “but to be a good Anglican is an exceedingly taxing business.” He is so right about that. And we must take this intellectual and personal challenge to heart in every part of our churches. Our theological seminaries in your country and in my country must consider if they have fulfilled their mission in training; if they’re not supplying our parishes and our dioceses with men and women who not only love God with all their hearts, and that’s the basis of it all, isn’t it, but with their minds as well. And those in ministry must be convinced of the realities of what they are called to proclaim and to be skilled in using their knowledge to build up people to mature faith in Christ. But all this, of course, is too important a task to be left to the clergy alone. Our dioceses must put greater priority on lay training, on equipping women and men with the tools to make us all effective Christian leaders. Now, I’m well aware of the danger of relying on courses and training programs to rid us of our problems. It’s all too easy, isn’t it, to point the finger at some of the excesses of the well marketed packages of the televangelists. But you know I want to say that this is no excuse for opting out of teaching and training activities altogether. I’ve heard it said something like this, “far better, people have said, to be a confused apologetic Episcopalian than a raving fundamentalist whose certainties stop him from facing life’s problems.” And that, simply you know, is not good enough. That book I read some years ago, Why Conservative Churches are Growing is a reproach to many of us in our churches. It shows the growth of congregations which take teaching, nurture, and fellowship seriously. Of course, we must avoid the slick methods of programmed learning and the shepherding techniques that mark out some extreme Protestant groups, but at the same time, we must pay attention, careful attention, to the needs in our society for intelligent preaching which contain that the circumstances about God that lie at the heart of our faith. And I believe that your church, as well as my church, has so much to share with other churches in our communion. 

 

My second point is this: that Anglican identity is focused in the sharing of mission in a world-wide communion. From a number of view points, our Anglican family is held together by apparently fragile ties. We comprise some thirty-four autonomous provinces acknowledging the spiritual authority of the See of Canterbury as premus (SP?) and toparus(SP). And it’s all too simplistic, isn’t it, to dismiss this out-of-hand as a confusion and not a communion. But, from the perspective of the many journeys I now make through the Anglican communion, this is certainly not so. There is an unmistakable identity which binds us together. Whether we are Papuans, Japanese, Koreans, English, American, Brazilians, or whatever, there is a family likeness. No one could easily mistake us for Roman Catholics on the one hand, with, of course, some exceptions, or with Baptists or Methodists on the other hand, again, with some exceptions. Because the Anglican church in Papua, New Guinea looks different, smells different, and sounds different from the Church of England or even the Episcopal Church of the United States. And yet when the family meets, for wherever we come from, we know we belong together. What then are the actors which create this sense of community. First, there is the way we worship ________ as the tag puts it, “let’s around thee, let’s curdinde(SP?).” That the way of praying is the way of believing. That’s particularly characteristic of Anglicans. We’ve allowed our worship, the Prayer Book, to shape the way we have formulated our theology. Our liturgy is so strikingly similar in form and content, rich in scripture, and in the things and the tangibles of the ancient church. We are sacramentally ordered churches similar to Rome, but different. There are also charismatic churches who will make preaching and teaching an essential part of our life, who are quite different from other Protestant churches. And second, there is our ministry and priesthood. Incarnation is the pattern of our form of ministerial priesthood. And I see it in the way it’s worked out in so many Anglican churches throughout the world, seeking to witness to Christ in prophetic and fearless ministry, standing alongside the poor, the helpless, the marginalized and the oppressed. I think of Kenya, of South Africa and of Mozambique, to name but a few, where bishops, clergy, lay people of our churches there have exercised quite remarkable and sacrificial ministries. I think also, and I want to say this, I think also of the formidable record of your own church and courageous stand on issues of human rights and human dignity. I want to pay tribute this morning to your Presiding Bishop, Ed Browning, for his outstanding support of the churches of the Middle East in standing alongside Bishop Samir Kafeete (SP?). That’s a remarkable witness. Now some see a polarization between evangelism and mission. I know in your meetings you’ve already covered this, and forgive me if I’m treading on other people’s areas here. There are those who dismiss those involved in Christian social action as somehow betraying their calling to preach Christ and to make disciples. I believe that that complaint is unwarranted. Our God is an evangelizing God. His nature is to love and to reach out. His love knows no limits and does not differentiate between preaching and living. Between saving souls and a ministry to the whole person. A faith which does not issue in action and concern for the whole of life is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

In his wonderful book, Transforming Missions, David Bausch, the South African, quotes: ________(?) with approval, and the quote is this, “evangelization is mission, but mission is not merely evangelization.” And Bausch goes on to say that, “mission denotes the total task God has set the church for the salvation of the world, but is always related to a specific context of evil, despair and lostness.” In healthy churches, in your country and my country, and in other parts of the world as well, in healthy churches and dynamic between mission and evangelism is never lost, and it is not lost in our communion. And this year I’ve seen it set forth so splendidly in Tanzania that Eileen visited just a few months ago, where the church of the province there is active in social welfare, in development, in education, in standing up for those marginalized, dealing with issues of freedom and justice. And yet they have not forgotten the imperative to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and they are doing it with a wholeness that is impressive and enviable. And that story can be replicated with stories from so many other parts of the communion and from your church and mine as well. 

 

And then, thirdly, Anglican identity finds its focus in a generous diversity. And I believe that here, maybe I’m like the first two areas I’ve looked at. We have something that is distinctive to Anglicanism among the different Christian traditions. That’s something I want to argue now, that we do not lose or sacrifice. Organizationally, we have expressed this in varied sources of decision-making and the authority that has evolved over the years. Bishops, clergy, synagogues, church councils each have their part to play, and frequently one will stand against the domination of another. Haven’t you found that in church life? But the origins of our generous diversity lie deeper than our organizational structures. They are a product of our conflicts and multifaceted history. Both historical and theological forces have shaped our identity. First in England and subsequently throughout the world. We are a ruley (SP?) church. And within the perimeters of the doctrinal of integrity I spoke about firmly earlier, let us rejoice in that ruliness and two key words come to mind: Catholicity and comprehensiveness, and both of these are vital in explaining the origins of our distinctive generous diversity.

 

Take the first word, Catholicity. Catholicity is not a word that can be cloned by only one tradition within the churches. It belongs to us all. It is one of the marks of the church that speaks inclusively of all the baptized within our understanding of the church. It was used, as you know, first by St. Ignacious at Antioch at the beginning of the second century, and the expression “Catho-lays,” (SP?) spoke of the reaching out of the inclusiveness as distinct from the exclusiveness of the Gnostic Christian sects that were springing up at the time, because those claim that they had the fullness of truth, and Ignacious was arguing against that. I believe that the Anglican communion can rightly claim to be both Catholic and reformed. At the English reaffirmation, the Church of England denied that it was only a church. It remained the same Church of Jesus Christ that had existed previously. She was, and the reformers asserted the Catholic church now reformed in the likeness of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. And our communion continues to understand itself in exactly the same way. It is on that, however, I want to suggest this morning an understanding that we and many other churches find very hard to fulfill. What we often find difficult is to accept that there are real differences between Christians, while still believing that we are equally part of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. For all of us there is the temptation to pay mere lip service to our second key word, comprehensiveness. While at the same time secretly believing that only my tradition and my group have any right to be called Episcopalian or Anglican, and it’s time to become what we really are, comprehensive and Catholic. The Anglican claim is that we are a broad church and that there is room in our fellowship for a great variety of traditions, for the traditionalists, for the evangelicals, for the Anglo-Catholics, for the liberals, for the charismatics. Indeed, if I may confess, that along my own pilgrimage each of those traditions have influenced and shaped me to such a degree that I find I cannot be bound by any one of them. I’m grateful to each and I rejoice that our church includes them all.

 

Danger threatens when a particular tradition becomes all important to a person’s understanding of their ecclesiastical identity. The moment that I say I am an evangelical or I am a Catholic, first and foremost, and then I’m an Episcopalian second, is the moment I’ve exchanged true Catholicity and comprehensiveness for sectarianism. Let me take you back to the crux of David Newcomb’s book, The Parting of Friends, I’ve already mentioned that even the political (?) party was unable to capitalize upon its strength when powerful Godly leaders like John Ven, William Wilburforce, and Charles Simian left the stage – what happened, what really happened? Why didn’t they capitalize on it? You know what happened? The younger evangelicals lost sight of the doctrine of the church. They drifted into an apocalyptic emotional Christianity and regarded membership of their party as more important than belonging to the church. And the older generation looked on with dismay. Charles Smide (SP?), commenting later on what he perceived to be the lack of structure and discipline among evangelicals of the time, said, “although the kingdom of God is indeed taken by force, it is never held by undiscipline.” And John Ven, a firm evangelical, if ever there was one, said in astonishment, “I really don’t know what to call myself except a Church of England man, for indeed I think the Church of England in her liturgy articles and homilies speaks more in unison with the scriptures than any systematic writer I know.” I think if he’d lived in this country today I’m sure he would have been happy to use the term Episcopal in that definition. The challenge is to offer our varying traditions to the church of which we are a part. We are first Christians, then we’re Anglicans, and then, only after that, evangelicals, or Catholics, or whatever particular label we want to put on ourselves. And to place our tradition before our eclesiological identity is to put the cart before the horse. We were not baptized into a tradition, but into a church. A tradition doesn’t save us or offer sacraments of salvation. It is time that we learned that the church is by its very nature Catholic and evangelical, and liberal, and traditional and charismatic, and all those labels which have such potential to divide and so much to offer if they became less exclusive. Retaining the diversity inherent in comprehensiveness causes us to face some formidable questions together in the body of Christ. Questions that can so easily move from the profitable sphere of difference into the potentially destructive realm of division. In both our churches we have faced, and are facing, problems relating to the ordination of women to the priesthood, and you may have observed from afar our way of responding in England. It may seem rather quaint to you in the way we have been handling it, but since the vote last November we have wrestled with the issue of division and disunity, it’s been very difficult at times. Some of the people are making heavy weather of it, but I think that is part of the price of caring for one another. The hours we have spent in consultation in the House of Bishops have ensured a high degree of agreement over pastoral plans. It resulted, as I said, in a united House of Bishops, firm in the resolve to stay together and to manage a church where those opposed to and those in favor of the ordination of women to the priesthood both have honorable places. And that, maybe, is one small example of what it is to struggle to be comprehensive. We still have a great deal to go, but it is my hope that the majority of the priests and congregations in England will hold to being part of a comprehensive and Catholic church and act accordingly.

 

Or again, questions are being raised in the general area of sexuality, and homosexuality in particular. Just two weeks ago in London, Eileen and I met up with a group that included many homosexuals. I joined them for half an afternoon on a course, and I felt their pain when they questioned me as head of a church, which, in their view, did not accept them as people. I was stirred by the force of their despair and their anger. And I was reminded of the image that we are projecting as a church by the way we seem to be rejecting them as people. And I tried to help them see the difficulties that I personally have with their theological arguments and their lifestyle. And this was hard because I then saw my own position as a rationale of rejection. And I believe that your church has much to offer other churches, both within and outside the communion from your own experiences, the problems you faced but also your experience of wrestling constructively with such issues. Both the ordination of women to the priesthood and debates about sexuality raise questions concerning the nature of theological truth. And I’ve already argued that central to our identity is a coherent doctrinal integrity. But where does theological debate stand in all this? How can we hold within the family and our churches those who struggle to understand and believe? And that is something we must address if we are to be true to our identity. As churches rooted in the modern world, we must seek to live with the tensions and to welcome those who hang on by their fingertips to a faith they are struggling to believe in. And we are not a communion that forces other people out simply because they cannot utter the same formulas of those that we hold. On the contrary, Anglicanism has always given space to others, listening to their questions and expressing, as well, the generosity which lies at the heart of our faith. This I want to suggest spins from our understanding of the awesome richness and mystery of God’s truth which defies our most complex expression and our most advanced theologies. There is a great deal of insight and _________? description of our comprehension for truth and the journeying that that involves. You may have come across this poem, and it goes like this, “Our highest truths are but half truths. Think not to settle down forever in any truth. Make use of it as a tent in which to pass a summer’s night, but build no house in it or it will be your tomb. When you have an inkling of its insufficiency and begin to describe (?) a dim counter-truth, looming up beyond, then weep not, but give thanks, it’s the Lord’s voice whispering, ‘take up thy bed and walk.’”

 

Other polarizations within our communion include those relating to language, national church expectations, worship and its humanism. Healthy differences all too quickly become destructive disputes and then settle down into the polarized entrenched actionalism which excludes others. And from there we find ourselves on a steep decline into confrontation, adopting adversarial postures, issuing tracts, books which promote our point of view and assembling conferences to marshal our forces. “My brothers,” says St. Paul, “you have not learned Christ, or so learned Christ.” And the real challenge facing a church which prides itself on its inclusivism, its Catholicity, and its comprehensiveness is to put this into practice and to rise above destructive kinds of controlancy (SP?) with deep respect and love for one another. You remember that Christ’s words, “the world will know that we are his disciples through our love for one another,” and that’s to be heeded in this and each generation. We must never rest content while we fail so blatantly to fulfill them. Anglican identity – and at the end of your marvelous conference when you’ve thought a lot about the practice of Anglicanism, I decided I would choose this particular theme to send you on your way convinced that there is such a thing and wanting to promote it, I focused my attention on three areas where I see that identity expressed. Indoctrinal coherence, in the sharing of mission, and especially in generous diversity. As this address comes to a close, I certainly do not want anyone to conclude that I’m complacent about the challenges facing our communion today. We must direct our attention to the urgent task of sharing faith with others. We must speak in our appreciation of what it means to be Anglicans. We must aim to build up the life of each local congregation and aim for growth. We must move our gaze from single issue concerns and focus on Christ and His Gospel. And all this can be done if our confidence and our faith and trust is in God. Do you remember that marvelous quip of G. K. Chesterton, he said this, “five times in Christian history the church had gone to the dogs, and each time it is the dog that has died.” And it’s in these three marks of Anglicanism that I trace the contours of our identity. And as I do so, I’m perfectly at ease with our unity as a communion. I do not wake up at night wondering who I am and neither do I worry a great deal about this growing family that we call the Anglican communion. God is at work among us and I rejoice in that. Several times in this lecture I have used the word generosity. For me it is a word that takes us very close to the heart of God and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. St. John knew all about that when he wrote those awe inspiring words, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” The God we worship is the generous God who pours upon us his blessings and his love and he calls upon each one of us to imitate him. I don’t know if you know that marvelous novel by Morris West, the one in which he talks about the Pope being renewed, and you may remember that one about Pope Leo, who has a heart bypass operation. And that’s a wonderful metaphor, if ever there is one for the church, and this is what the hero says as he thinks about the church and all its possibilities, he writes these words and as I read them it seemed to sum up all that I want for your church and my church, he says this: “I have been afraid. I’ve been afraid to let the wound of the spirit flow freely through the house of God. We’ve become garrison men, holding the ramparts of a crumbling citadel, afraid to scull out and to confront the world which bypasses us on the pilgrim road. I’m being asked to explore boldly the mysteries of a new time by the light of an ancient truth, confident that the light will not fail.” And that generous God would take us on to the victory that he has for us, for the church, for this communion, in human societies. Generosity tends to come to the top of the agenda only when people or institutions feel at ease with themselves, secure in their identity, confident, able to look outwards rather than inwards. May that be true of each one of us individually and that the churches of our communion, too, as we engage together in God’s world-wide mission.

 

God bless you all in whatever mission and ministry is yours. Amen.

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