Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Archbishop Williams: Moratoria, Listening Process Both Essential

During a 40-minute presentation to participants at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 5, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams linked the continuation of the listening process with the continuation of a three-fold moratoria on same-sex blessings, the consecration of homosexual persons to the episcopate, and cross-border incursions by bishops.

Without such a commitment [to listening] “we’re not going to move forward at all in mutual understanding,” and without the moratoria, “it’s unlikely the listening process will go anywhere,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Williams’ remarks came as he explained the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group’s final report. The 22-page document was commissioned to recommend ways in which the Anglican Communion could maintain unity amid a diversity of understanding about human sexuality and theology.

Archbishop Williams said there “may or may not be a lasting division” in the Communion, “but before we do say goodbye to each other in the Communion, we owe it to the Lord of the church to have those conversations and to undertake that effort at listening to one another and taking one another seriously in the gospel.”

During a short question-and-answer session at the conclusion of the archbishop’s address, the Rt. Rev. Ikechi Nwosu, Bishop of Umuahia in the Church of the Province of Nigeria, asked Archbishop Williams to set a time limit on the listening process which he described as endless. Eventually, he said, some decisions would have to be made.

Archbishop Williams refused to set “a possible cut-off point,” noting Jesus’ answer to Peter when he asked how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him.

“The deep business of whether or not we separate structurally, whether or not some local divisions intensify, we are still called to what is implied in that exchange between Jesus and Peter,” Archbishop Williams said. “Even if we are separated by any number of canonical and theological determinations – even if we flew apart as a Communion in chaos and disruption, which God forbid – sooner or later … we would have to hear the voice of Christ say” there’s your brother, there’s your sister, there’s a long journey for you to go and start reconciliation.”

ACC members are spending May 4-6 in sessions that are at times open to the public and at other times closed while they consider the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group and the proposed Anglican Covenant. An open “decision-making” plenary session on the covenant and the continuation group’s work is scheduled for May 8.

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