The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, at the end of their fifth meeting May 22 to 25, said they have come to realize that reconciliation is “far beyond agreeing to disagree” but is in fact about seeking “not only to tolerate but to understand.”
The consultation, which gathered six bishops from Canada, two from the U.S. and 15 from various countries in Africa, met in Coventry, England, at the invitation of Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s director of reconciliation.
Established shortly after the 2008 Lambeth gathering of bishops, the dialogue aims to help heal divisions over issues around human sexuality within the Anglican Communion.
Part of the meeting took place at Coventry Cathedral, one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation, where bishops spent a day of “prayer, teaching and conversation” with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Meeting at the cathedral, which is also known as St. Michael’s Cathedral, had been “providential,” said the bishops in a very hopeful and upbeat, six-page statement titled “A Testimony of Our Journey to Reconciliation.”
“In our diversity, cultural, racial, geographic, and indeed theological, we are convinced that what binds us together is greater and stronger than what divides. It is that we love one another as God has first loved us,” they said.
The consultation began by praying the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation within the medieval walls of the cathedral, which had been destroyed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II, and it ended with worship in the modern cathedral. The bishops noted that in their worship they were “drawn mysteriously into the risen life of Christ in Glory,” which was depicted on a tapestry hung on the cathedral’s east wall.
“The tapestry held for us a clue to the journey on which we have been embarked over these years together. The hands of Christ are raised in a manner that at first seems to invoke a blessing,” they said. “Upon closer examination, however, the hands are not blessing but are instead holding a glass that faintly hides the face of Christ leaving it somewhat less bright than the greens of the tapestry background. It is a brilliant expression of what we all know to be spiritually true. ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face’ ” (1 Cor. 13:12a).
The cathedral’s massive statue of St. Michael, triumphant over a chained Satan, also made them realize, said the bishops, that “the reconciliation we seek…is not something to be accomplished by us but is rather something already accomplished by God and in which we learn to participate over time.”
Reconciliation remains foundational to Anglican identity and experience, said the bishops. “We have come to see the challenges of our present life as being less a failure of our life together than an opportunity to live out the truth of what we have been called to be.”
The bishops pledged to become “bridge-builders, understanding that Anglicanism has an eschatological vocation that is urgent, irrevocable and irreplaceable…” They also asked forgiveness “for our failures, past and present, and as a sign of our repentance, we recommit ourselves to our foundational call as reconcilers.”
The bishops acknowledged that the journey to reconciliation “takes courage…when the way is difficult and the path ahead [is] uncertain.” But, they said, “the knowledge that perfect love casts out fear fills us with determination to persevere.”
They also underscored their relationships as brothers and sisters in the family of God and professed their love for each other. “We do not make this claim lightly. We are aware of its costs,” they said, adding that it requires patience and kindness.
The Anglican Communion is a family and a family of churches, they added. “It is not a church itself. There is as much we have in common as Anglicans, which is evidenced in mutuality in mission, but we remain independent and diverse provinces.”
In their statement, the bishops expressed their commitment to meet again, to take their testimonies back to their dioceses, to learn more about on another’s contexts, to encourage similar conversations with others, to pray for one another and to take their conversations “deeper and wider using the biblical and theological resources at our disposal.”
The participants were:
- The Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander-Diocese of Edmonton, Canada
- The Rt. Rev. Johannes Angela-Diocese of Bondo, Kenya
- The Rt. Rev. Michael Bird-Diocese of Niagara, Canada
- The Most Rev. Albert Chama-Primate of the Province of Central Africa, Zambia
- The Rt. Rev. John Chapman-Diocese of Ottawa, Canada
- The Most Rev. Jacob Chimeledya-Primate of the Province of Tanzania, Tanzania
- The Rt. Rev. Garth Counsell-Diocese of Cape Town, South Africa
- The Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon-Diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria
- The Rt. Rev. Michael Ingham-Diocese of New Westminster (retired), Canada
- The Most Rev. Colin Johnson-Dioceses of Toronto and of Moosonee, and Metropolitan of Ontario, Canada
- The Rt. Rev. Julius Kalu-Diocese of Mombasa, Kenya
- The Rt. Rev. Evans Mukasa Kisekka-Diocese of Luwero, Uganda
- The Rt. Rev. Cyril Kobina Ben Smith-Diocese of Mampong, Ghana
- The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald-National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, Canada
- The Rt. Rev. Sixbert Macumi-Diocese of Buye, Burundi
- The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi-Primate of the Province of Burundi, Burundi
- The Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill-Diocese of Colorado, U.S.A.
- The Rt. Rev. Michael Oulton-Diocese of Ontario, Canada
- The Rt. Rev. Anthony Poggo-Diocese of Kajo Keji, South Sudan
- The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo-Primate of the Province of West Africa, Ghana
- The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls-Chief Operating Officer, The Episcopal Church
- The Rt. Rev. Mensha Torto-Diocese of Accra, Ghana
- The Rt. Rev. Joseph Wasonga-Diocese of Maseno West, Kenya
- The Rt. Rev. Joel Waweru-Diocese of Nairobi, Kenya
Staff included: The Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa, Africa Relations Officer, Anglican Church of Canada; and Dr. Andrea Mann, director of global relations, Anglican Church of Canada