Archbishop Eames on Reconciliation

Lord Eames gave the St George's Windsor Lecture on May 26, 2009. It is a thoughtful reflection and timely in terms of the chaotic situation in the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. I have thought to include the whole thing here, but would rather you read it HERE if you wish. It is not too long, but worth a read and re-read.

George Conger gives a useful summary of the lecture HERE.

Here are several quotations, rich for the mining:

"What is known as ‘The Windsor Report' - as I have said a recognition that we did much of our work within these walls of St Georges' - sought to produce a road map for greater understanding of the divisions within Anglicanism. Much of that division centred on and stemmed from questions of sexuality, but my experience at that time and since has left me with little doubt that behind the headlines of the main agenda there were significant questions to be asked to do with authority, power and influence. Certainly there were sharp divisions over the question of a practising gay bishop, division that represented contrasting interpretation of Scripture and the understanding of Tradition – but whatever lies ahead for Anglicanism I am convinced that reconciliation must take account of what I have termed those other agendas."

We have had very little in the way of conversations and work about "authority, power and influence." Certainly those concerns have been present and the attitudes about them used effectively by various parties. But not much has been done where people sat down and talked about THAT.

"What in fact emerged was a Report which contained sign-posts, laying out the possible routes to greater understanding of each others arguments. Anglicanism has moved on since Windsor. Now the talk is about a Covenant, about parallel jurisdictions. Inclusiveness is compared to diversity with sections of that world family finding strength in alliances of fellow-travellers who maintain their differences of approach to Tradition and interpretation of Scripture through new ideas of authority or 'bonds of affection' - but with little evidence of the cohesiveness of those early years of the Communion. So was Windsor an attempt not at total reconciliation of the irreconcilable but an encouragement to understand more of others' approaches and deeply held faith convictions? Does that represent something of importance about reconciliation? Has it more to do with understanding others than it has to do with producing some sort of stereotype? Is that the core purpose of a process called 'reconciliation'?"

I think Archbishop Eames overreaches here. He too believed that the Windsor Report got taken too quickly as the "mind of the Communion." The report was a report, not an enforceable set of demands. But the question at the end is most interesting, "Has it (the Windsor Report) more to do with understanding others than it has to do with producing some sort of stereotype?"

"The truth is this: we cannot legislate for reconciliation. People cannot embrace reconciliation through law alone. Legislation can put in place the bricks which can ultimately make reconciliation possible either by outlawing those actions or attitudes which mitigate against a reconciled community or by encouraging policies and attitudes which help people of different traditions to understand each other better. But there is, I suggest, inherent danger in assuming a stroke of the political pen solves all problems."

This points interestingly to the Anglican Covenant problem. IF the AC is viewed as legislation for reconciliation, then it is doomed. If it is rather a basis for people who disagree to know the areas of their agreement, the character of their differences in understanding, etc, perhaps the AC becomes a way for us all to understand each other better.

"There is little doubt in my mind as to the vital need to understand afresh the role and potential of dialogue in the process of reconciliation."

Dialogue is of course lacking when there is a refusal to "walk together" with people who believe differently and act on those beliefs.

"In the entire process of dialogue so essential to defining tensions and thereby increasing contact and understanding the inevitable dilemma comes to the fore."

The dilemma is the stark problem that reconciliation requires walking with, talking with, being with, people with whom we strongly disagree. Archbishop Eames is clear that reconciliation can not happen unless there is dialogue with our adversaries as well as our friends.

The Archbishop closed with a fascinating reference,

"What did the ancient Rwandan proverb say?: ‘To go fast, walk alone. To go far, walk together.’"

Given the Global South insistence that Amos 3:3 meant that we could not walk together unless we were agreed (in agreement) this proverb suggests a reason for walking together because we want to, and it suggests that those who are interested in walking faster and therefore alone, may not get that far. This sticks it to both the realignment and the progressive communities: everyone gets equal criticism. But it does not mean that walking together is walking in agreement, but rather in dialogue working toward reconciliation.

But of course that does not serve the realignment crowd very well, for there was never any interest in talking to those of us who, in their eyes, fell away from the truth. And there is the pit of the problem: Reconciliation is only possible if we want it.

And for the progressives the problem is that reconciliation is sometimes viewed as a delaying tactic and finally a way of exhausting the progressive efforts. If progressives believe there are matters of justice at stake, then justice delayed is justice denied. Reconciliation cannot be just dialogue. It is dialogue in the heat of struggle. And again, such dialogue is hard to come by and reconciliation is possible only if we want it.

Read the whole thing. It is much better than these mutterings.


  1. At the heart of the problem was the desire of some Episcopalians to force TEC to change directions or, perhaps more to be desired, to have TEC replaced as the US member church in the WWAC. The alliance with African bishopes was based,to be sure, upon shared convictions about human sexuality, but I am not convinced that bishops in Africa would have made this a communion-breaking issue if not for the urging of concervative Episcopalians.

    At this point I think reconciliation is impossible because the former Episcopalians are already moving as fast as they can down the road they chose, perhaps even prior to 2003.

  2. ‘To go fast, walk alone. To go far, walk together.’

    What if we add, 'To get anywhere, walk.'


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