Alleluia! Christ is risen! We are risen! Alleluia!
Dear People of God
I wish you a blessed and joyful Easter! Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken away the sins of the world – by his death he has destroyed death, and by his rising he has restored us to eternal life. And so we are delivered from the bondage of sin and the fear of death, into the glorious liberty of the Children of God. Alleluia, indeed!
May God our Father, who, by his Spirit, raised his Son from death, grant us grace to walk with him in his risen life. May we all be people who demonstrate what it is to receive the redemptive power of the resurrection, working within every aspect of our lives. To show in practice God’s on-going work of healing and wholeness, of shaping us in increasing Christ-likeness, is one of the most effective ways of sharing the gospel with the world around. All of us, as individuals, and in our church communities, should be places where the risen Christ is seen to be alive, so others may encounter him. It is not enough for us to preach the resurrection to others – we should also enjoy the fullness of all that Christ has won for us in our own lives and relationships!
We also pray for the fullness of the resurrection to be experienced throughout our world – in Syria, and across the Middle East; and in Mali, in Sudan and South Sudan, in Zimbabwe, and in all the troubled places of our continent. We pray for this also in every country of our Province, especially in situations of material poverty and all other forms of impoverishment (for example, in the provision of education, health services, water and sanitation), where there is injustice and unfairness (including in political structures and/or their implementation), and wherever truth (such as through media freedom) and abundant life are constrained instead of being encouraged to flourish.
Renewed life and hope are God’s ‘theme tune’ for life within our congregations, our churches, our dioceses – calling us joyfully and confidently onwards, through whatever challenges we face. Renewed life and hope are also God’s desire and promise to the world-wide Anglican Communion.
As you may know, the Church of England has voted not to adopt the Anglican Covenant that has been sent to all the Member Churches of the Communion for consideration. This does not mean that the Covenant lapses. Nor does not mean an end to the fundamental underlying questions which the Covenant is intended to address. We still need to ask ourselves: who do we believe ourselves called to be by God, and what does it mean to speak of an Anglican ‘Communion’ – rather than, say, a ‘Federation’ or other form of association. A ‘Communion’ is so much more – a true family of churches, within the body of Christ, as so many of us have experienced, for example, through exchanges with link Dioceses. We feel a closeness through recognising our ‘family resemblance’, even when we are from very different parts of the world, and the frequently used language of ‘bonds of affection’ resonates clearly.
But how can we order our international institutional life, and the relationships between Provinces, in ways that reflect this experience, and our theological understanding of the unity with diversity that is found in belonging together as members of the body of Christ, as Scripture describes? Provinces have always been legally independent (reflecting their separate Constitutions and Canons); while the ‘Instruments of Communion’ have only been advisory, rightly respecting Provinces’ status under canon law. But such legal independence can allow, and even promote comfortableness with, a separateness that has not always been sufficiently balanced by more organic and spiritual interrelationships. We have wrestled over decades with how to get this balance right, for example, in commitments to ‘Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ’ made at the 1963 Toronto Congress. The Communion said then ‘our unity in Christ, expressed in our full communion, is the most profound bond among us, in all our political and racial and cultural diversity’, and therefore ‘our need is … to understand how God has led us, through the sometimes painful history of our time, to see the gifts of freedom and communion in their great terms, and to live up to them.’ The Congress warned ‘if we are not responsible stewards of what Christ has given us, we will lose even what we have.’
My great concern is that the poor handling of disagreements on human sexuality is evidence that we have not learnt the lessons of that time, and have not been ‘responsible’. We have been content to drift apart in our Provinces, on the basis of legal separateness, so that when differences arose we had lost our ability to connect and work through them in love together. If we are serious about living as a global ‘Communion’, we must address this. I still believe that the Covenant offers us an excellent framework for doing so, if we are prepared to work for it to achieve its full potential. Perhaps some of us must take a lead in exploring how it can reach its promise, on behalf of others who are unable to take that step at present. Seven Provinces have already affirmed the Covenant, and we took the first step to do so at the last Provincial Synod. I very much hope we shall ratify this decision next year.
Yet we should not do so lightly, but in full awareness that we are committing ourselves to live in mutual interdependence – even as we uphold non-interference in one another’s affairs. I have written more about the Covenant in two long letters which you can read on line at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/01/necessary-covenant.html and http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/03/anglican-covenant-letter-to-archbishop.html. I know some dioceses have discussed the Covenant. If you have not, please do take time to look at it, and do forward any comments you have to the Provincial Executive Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, I hope you have seen my tribute to Dr Rowan Williams, who stands down at the end of the year. We have been inordinately privileged to have had such an able theologian and deeply spiritual thinker, as Archbishop of Canterbury. (See http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/03/archbishoip-of-canterbury.html). The Anglican Communion Office is inviting all Anglicans around the world to share their view on the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, through their website at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/abc/comments.cfm. Most of all please pray for all involved in the appointment process.
Yours in the Service of Christ, crucified and raised for our redemption,
+Thabo Cape Town