[Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande] I am happy to share a few reflections with you concerning the recent press release following the meeting of the Anglican Communion’s Primates. Mind you even having read all the major news releases this morning I am aware that the primary source document – the resolution agreed to by the majority of primates – has yet to be released from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby. What has been released by the press is that a majority of the Primates asked that the Episcopal Church, for a period of three years, (ENS) “no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
While this may sound like only terrible news to some there is a silver lining. The leadership of the Primates who are represented in the global south (GAFCON and I thank God that they and the leadership of ACNA were invited and attended) added that: “This action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning.” BBC News reporter Caroline Wyatt reflected: “the careful wording of the resolution agreed by the majority of the Primates ensured there was no mention of the words “sanction” or “punishment.”
There was a move by a few Primates to ask the Episcopal Church to voluntarily remove itself from the Communion but the majority voted that down. There is no schism in the Anglican Church. We are merely at yet another important junction. The Primates stated “this agreement acknowledges the significant difference that remains,” but “the Primates agreed how they would walk together in the grace and love of Christ.” This is good news we need to embrace as our journey of discerning the Church’s doctrine, disciple and worship continues.
It is intriguing to me that this meeting took place at the beginning of Pope Francis’ 2016 “Jubilee Year of Mercy,” weeks before the solemn penitential season of Lent, and as the nations confront the violent and deadly actions of ISIS to rid the world of infidels. In his recently released book, God’s Name is Mercy, Pope Francis says, “I can say that the centrality of mercy, which for me is Jesus’ most important message, has slowly evolved over the years in my work as a priest.”
I believe in the grace of God’s mercy. I believe that Life in Christ Jesus, the love of God and love for our neighbor, and the ongoing revelation of truth overcome every obstacle. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry appealed to the Primates prior to the vote. “For so many who are committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love, this decision will bring real pain.”
The birth of new life and change is always painful yet durable for those committed to Christ Crucified/Christ Risen. This pain will dissipate in time for the entire communion. The GAFCON leadership is wise. This statement, which has merely introduced yet another pause for continued dialogue, study and reflection for the both Global North and South, is a time of opportunity and must not be seen as an end, but another beginning.
At every new juncture of a process there comes new voices, new perspectives, differing perspectives and God-centered interpretation. Our Anglican heritage and insistence on a comprehensive inclusion of Scripture, Tradition and Reason in discerning all church doctrine, polity and teaching goes on. Ecclesiastes 3:7 reminds us that there is a “a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak…”
The church’s journey continues and as history demonstrates silenced voices speak loudly. So we Episcopalians remain faithful. We embrace mercy, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, mutual respect and mutual love for one another. Jesus is one with every one of us. God’s will be done.
I have been asked if I am very concerned about this unexpected outcome at Canterbury. My response is “No.” I am more concerned about the elderly homeless man I met the other day in Santa Fe who was hungry, cold and friendless. I am more concerned about gun violence, trafficking of women and children, the high rate of teen suicide in New Mexico, international terrorists, drug addiction, family violence, discrimination, criminalization and exclusion of people based on race, religious creed and sexual orientation. I am more concerned about the forgotten poor, political and economic refugees, abandoned elderly, the sick, those in prison, unjust wages for workers and fair health care for all in our Country. Church disagreements? This too will pass.
Keep the faith, follow Jesus, pray for one another and carry on!
+Michael L. Vono
Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande