Friday, 29 August 2008

Why Disagreement in the Anglican Church doesn't mean Division

It was difficult for ordinary folk following the press coverage of the Lambeth Conference - where Anglican bishops from all over the world meet every 10 years - to get the full picture of what happened there because the press coverage tended to concentrate on the disagreements between the bishops.

So the Bishop of Reading, the Rt. Revd Stephen Cottrell, decided to write an article in the Reading Evening Post to clarify the position. He wrote -

"For most of us the church means the local church and its relevance by the impact and influence it has on our community. But we Christians also need to take account of the global and universal nature of our faith. Therfore it does matter that the Christian faith proclaimed in one bit of the worldis recognisably the same in another. Not to mention continuous with the faith that has been received from previous generations.

"Problems start to emerge when the questions we face in one part of the world prompt conclusions that other parts of the world cannot understand or support. In a rapidly changing world questions of gender and sexuality have created such uncertainty and sometimes disagreement among different parts of the worldwide Anglican church. But though these disgreements have been quite public, there is no doubt that these tensions can be found in all churches and probably in other religions as well. We are all challenged by the questions our different cultures pose; and sometimes we are led to differing responses.

"But let me tell you some good news. The bishops of the Anglican Communion didn't agree with each other. No surprises there! Neither did we agree to differ. For many, the issues are too important for this. But we have agreed to keep on talking; to take better account of the way our actions affect each other; to keep seeking consensus; and to strive for a unity that is honest about difference and diversity and where its legitimate limits lie.

"Painful though this is, I dare to believe it is a message for the world where we too easily assume that disagreement can only mean division."

That IS good news and I dare to believe that God's Holy Spirit will watch over all the bishops as they seek consensus until they reach their goal of unity.

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