Archbishop Robin Eames has recentily given three very important lectures, two at Virginia Theological Seminary and one, the 2005 Pitt Lecture, at
He is careful to say that he is speaking only as an individual in his opinions in these lectures. His words carry considerable importance however because he is an individual of rather extraordinary experience and a theologian capable of great nuance and considerable gentleness.
Wordsmiths of all stripes were quick to pick up on this or that bit of his presentations, making of the scraps such hopeful or damning commentaries as they might. But almost no one seems to have looked at the “charge” he laid out for the Anglican Communion if it is to continue.
Perhaps we need to recall the plea of the Windsor Report for generosity and charity towards steps taken to meet the requests of the Report. Let us under God find it in our hearts no matter what our individual views on the issues may be to adopt that generosity and charity in these days. (para. 156)”
As concerns the plea for generosity and charity, the Archbishop clearly voiced concerns about several efforts in “the Global South” that seem to contribute to the disintegration of the bonds of affection that hold among the members Churches of the Communion. He said,
“The global south has produced alternative suggestions to how Anglicanism could be organised among those the world terms ‘conservative opinion’. The depth of feeling among conservative Anglicanism is beyond denial. From a position of dismissing
“What all this amounts to is a question which I would again submit lies close to the heart of Anglican understanding or the lack of it : who or what speaks for a Province? What statement contains the authoritative voice of an
These two quotes from the second lecture at
Generosity and charity are not the images of encounter that come to mind when one reads the comments of the Archbishop of Nigeria and others involved in this effort to “realign” the Communion. Certainly the “bonds of affection” so widely viewed as the real basis for the Anglican Communion are here sadly lacking. Archbishop Eames is right to say that the notion of the bonds of affection slides easily into being a slogan. But behind that notion is an idea of koinonia that is deeper than ecclesial and organizational relations.
All the hard work done by those in the Communion to build networks of trust and common action, all the companion diocese relations, all the work to make the notion of mutual responsibility and interdependence in Christ a reality, and more recently the covenants between emerging new provinces and their province of origin, has been based on the notion that intentional fellowship is at the heart of the Anglican Communion’s vocation. I wrote in THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE, “The vocation of the Anglican Communion is to be a force for greater koinonia, for overcoming the fragmentation of life in a vision of the whole people of God, in a time when fragmentation is what seems to be the rule of the day.” (Chapter 5).
Archbishop Eames spoke to the concern for the bonds of affection (such bonds being primarily a matter of generosity and charity) in his lecture at
The matter of being rather than doing is the core of the issue. The matter of who we are for one another (not what do we do and how do we justify what we do) gives a starting place for negotiation and dialogue. The quality of such dialogue is considerably enhanced if we hold each other in mutual regard.
Following General Convention 2003 I wrote the Archbishop of Canterbury, knowing that he was working towards a Primate’s meeting within a few weeks. I did not know at the time that he would be meeting with members of what would become the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. In that letter I said,
“I do believe the Anglican Communion has a purpose and a vocation and that it will contribute its part to the ongoing life of the Christian community in the world. When it dies, as it inevitably will, or successors in the faith will hopefully look back and find us to be ancestors they can admire and cherish….
In the Anglican context I understand Koinonia to concern a “community of mutuality.” In this sense koinonia is not simply fellowship, but fellowship committed to mutual regard.
It is mutual regard that lies at the core of the Anglican Communion – not structure, not appeal to authority, not even the coherence of communion wide agreement on specifics of interpretation of doctrine. Mutual regard holds us together and to the extent that we exhibit such regard it reflects our vocation to test this possibility as a future way for the greater Christian community.
When mutual regard does not hold I suspect the relevance of the Anglican Communion will dissipate and be replaced here and there by less edifying desires for a pure Church – purer than
I am sure the letter got lost in the trickle up to his office and he never saw it. I am equally sure that Archbishop Eames never saw the letter. It was, after all, from a person of no particular consequence.
It is wonderful to see however that Archbishop Eames has said so well and so clearly what I believed would be the case two and a half years ago. At this point we are presented with strident agencies wanting a world church claiming to be THE Church. We are at the point of destroying the one elementary principle of our strange and wonderful Communion, namely our commitment to being FOR one another more that doing TO one another.
Koinonia, a community of mutual regard, is messy. Archbishop Eames is right to point to the messy start for our project in mutual regard – colonialism was a hard way to start. We are messy, and so much of what we are is without power and so much of who we are in the world is with limited authority as this world counts it.
Anglicans have mostly tried to be for one another, no matter the differences in how we work out our tasks in location. We need to take one another seriously, with real mutual regard, and with generosity and charity.
I commend the lectures of Archbishop Eames. They are primary tools for further understanding the value and life of the Windsor Report, itself a recommendation for the reestablishment of mutual regard.
It is my hope that General Convention 2006 will consider a resolution that the next Lambeth Conference give considerable attention to a reexamination of the idea of