'There are no quick solutions,' Canterbury says in video message to Global South meeting

April 20, 2010

Saying "there are no quick solutions for the wounds of the body of Christ," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has sent a video greeting to the participants attending the Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter, meeting April 19-23 in Singapore.

Williams uses his video message "to emphasize that it is the work of God's Spirit that can heal the tensions within the Anglican family," a report from the Anglican Communion News Service says. "Williams was speaking specifically to two items on the meeting's agenda: challenges for the church's mission and the Anglican Communion covenant, which he described as a new way of 'grounding our mission.'"

The Anglican covenant is a set of principles intended to bind the Anglican Communion in light of recent disagreements over human sexuality issues and theological interpretation. The covenant is currently in its final draft and has been sent to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration.

In his message, Williams said that the Anglican Communion had been reflecting on the need for a covenant "in the light of confusion, brokenness and tension within our Anglican family -- brokenness and a tension that has been made still more acute by recent decisions in some of our provinces."

One of those decisions is the election and planned consecration of the Rev. Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian priest, as a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles. When Glasspool is consecrated on May 15, she will become the second openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion.

"All of us share the concern that in this decision and action the Episcopal Church has deepened the divide between itself and the rest of the Anglican family," said Williams in his video message. "And as I speak to you now, I am in discussion with a number of people around the world about what consequences might follow from that decision, and how we express the sense that most Anglicans will want to express, that this decision cannot speak for our common mind."

Williams said he hoped that the meeting participants, "in your thinking about this and in your reacting to it," would "bear in mind that there are no quick solutions for the wounds of the Body of Christ. It is the work of the Spirit that heals the Body of Christ, not the plans or the statements of any group, or any person, or any instrument of communion. Naturally we seek to minimize the damage, to heal the hurts, to strengthen our mission, to make sure that it goes forward with integrity and conviction. Naturally, there are decisions that have to be taken. But at the same time we must all...share in a sense of repentance and willingness to be renewed by the Spirit."

About 130 primates, bishops, clergy, senior lay leaders, associates and observers were expected to participate in the meeting, but a few have been stranded or delayed after an ash cloud from Iceland's erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano grounded flights across Europe.

Among those participating in the meeting are church leaders from Africa, Asia and the Southern Cone, as well as some conservative Episcopal Church bishops and leaders of breakaway groups such as the Anglican Church in North America.

The theme of the encounter is: "The Gospel of Jesus Christ -- Covenant for the People; Light for the Nations," and the mission statement is: "To Recover, Reform, Revitalise and Restore Ourselves as Anglican Covenantal Community for Mission and Ministry in Jesus Christ."

The four key objectives of the encounter are:

• To enable the covenanting Global South provinces and others to be a communion-accountable member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church;
• To develop communion nature network, structures and processes to further our recovered mission and ministry;
• To develop and represent with other ecumenical bodies to strengthen the common mission and ministry for the global church of Christ; and
• To identify and nurture new generation to carry on the vocation of the Global South.

Williams said in his video message: "While the tensions and the crises of our Anglican Communion will of course be in your minds as they are in mine, I know from what you have written, what you have communicated about your plans and hopes for this conference, that you will allow the Holy Spirit to lift your eyes to that broader horizon of God's purpose for us as Anglicans, for us as Christians, and indeed for us as human beings."