A Call for Prayer by Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
The Meeting of the Primates and Moderators
The Churches of The Anglican Communion
At the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the primates and moderators of the Churches of the Anglican Communion will meet in Canterbury from January 11 to 16. We last met for a formal gathering five years ago in Dublin. There we took some time to consider the nature of the authority of The Primates’ Meeting and we emerged from those conversations expressing the hope that our meetings be “a primary forum for the strengthening of the mutual life of the provinces, and be respected by individual primates and the provinces they lead as an instrument through which new developments may be honestly addressed”.
In March 2013, all the primates gathered for the seating of Justin Welby as the Archbishop of Canterbury. At that time we met informally to hear of his hopes for the Communion and the priorities he had set for his own ministry namely evangelism, reconciliation and the nurturing of communities of men and women bound together by a commonly held Rule of Life.
In the last couple of years, Archbishop Justin has made a personal and pastoral visit to each of the primates and moderators, making an effort to learn something of the context in which we endeavour to faithfully carry out the ministries entrusted to us. Having completed that round of visits he has discerned that the time is right to call us together, to take counsel for the life and vitality of the Communion in its witness to God’s mission in the world.
It is anticipated that our work in Canterbury will begin with a day of fasting and prayer in the Cathedral to ready ourselves for entering our conversations with minds and hearts open to the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit’s leading. I expect Archbishop Justin will endeavour in his opening remarks to set a tone for our gathering – who we are, what we are called to be for the Communion, and how we fulfill that vocation together.
Much of our time will be devoted to a number of matters of concern within the Church and the world identified by the primates themselves.
Within the Communion the matter of the blessing of same sex marriages continues to be controversial. Recent developments within The Episcopal Church in the United States, and conversations of varying depth and extent within a number of other Churches in the Communion including our own, are having a significant impact on our relationships.
The primates need to address openly and honestly the tensions in our common life. We need to confess any and all “…uncharitable thoughts towards our neighbours and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us” (Litany of Penitence for Ash Wednesday, p 284, Book of Alternative Services).
We need to hear afresh St. Paul’s appeal to be reconciled in Christ and to devote ourselves to that work however hard it may be, and however long it may take. We need to be eager in renewing the bonds of affection that draw us together in mission. We need to refresh ourselves in those things that have always held us together, including the historic Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888) and the more recent Signposts on a Common Journey reminding us that we are a people “Formed by Scripture, Shaped by Worship, Ordered for Communion, and Directed by God’s mission” (produced in 2007 by Theological Education in the Anglican Communion).
At the request of Archbishop Justin, the primates will be engaged in conversations about the Instruments of Communion – The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lambeth Conference, The Primates’ Meeting, and The Anglican Consultative Council – and how they both severally and collectively serve the unity and witness of the Communion. I pray that in our conversations we will not be overwhelmed by the rhetoric of some who think all is so fragile. But rather, I hope that we will be overjoyed by the multiple expressions of the vitality of the Communion and its commitment to God’s mission through which many networks, commissions, dialogues, alliances and companion diocese relationships enable us to faithfully live out The Marks of Mission.
There will be discussion about the timing and format of the next Lambeth Conference. We will hear of the plans for the meeting of The Anglican Consultative Council in April in Zambia gathered under the theme “Intentional Discipleship in a World of Differences”.
Turning our attention to matters of global concern, we will consider the Sustainable Development Goals; Religious Extremism and Violence; Inter-faith Relations particularly Christian and Muslim; and Climate Justice.
I am delighted that Archbishop Justin has invited Jean Vanier to join us later in the week. He will be reflecting with us on the nature of servant leadership through the lens of John’s Gospel, and how we give ourselves to that task day by day. In anticipation of his word among us, I am re-reading his book entitled The Scandal of Service in which he takes us into the significance of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. As ever before I am struck by his words,
…of course Jesus is asking us above all to have a certain attitude toward others. It is not just a question of washing feet…Jesus is asking us to live and act constantly with a humble and loving heart in regard to others…As he washes their feet, Jesus is telling them “You must live as I have lived, as a poor person, and as a beloved of the Father. Do not seek honours or privileges; seek only to serve others gently and humbly, to be an instrument of my love and my word (p. 46).
There will be an official communiqué from the meeting and, upon returning home, I shall commit to writing some further reflections of my own.
However you pray for this meeting – in the Daily Offices; at the Eucharist; in vigils with intercessions of special intent; in lighting candles for the Churches of the Communion and praying that they be as lights in the world, reflecting the love and peace of Christ – however you pray, know dear friends, of my deep gratitude.
January 7, 2016
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