It is difficult to find a crystal-clear definition of the platypus that is the Anglican Communion. Certainly, one aspect is expressed by “The status of full communion means that all rites conducted in one church are recognised by the other.” (Wikipedia: Anglican Communion).
At Friday’s meeting of the Anglican Primates (16 Feb 2007), seven Anglican primates decided they could not receive communion with the others. They are Abp. Peter Akinola, Abp John Chew, Abp. Benjamin Nzimbi, Abp Justice Akrofi, Abp. Henry Orombi, Abp. Gregory Venables, and Abp. Emmanuel Kolini.
They write: “We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the Church has been torn further. It is a consequence of the decision taken by our provinces to declare that our relationship with The Episcopal Church is either broken or severely impaired.
Scripture teaches that before coming to sit with one another at the Lord’s Table we must be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29) We have made repeated calls for repentance by The Episcopal Church and its leadership with no success. We continue to pray for a change of heart.
We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding, “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith” (Book of Common Prayer) http://www.anglican-nig.org/GSPrimates_in_Tanzania.htm
Jim Naughton, canon for communications at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. commented: “Imagine if every believer, everywhere insisted on knowing the views of every other worshipper in a church on all the hot-button issues of our time before they would agree to go to Eucharist,” Naughton said. “When you don’t attend a Eucharist because you disagree with the views of the people who are attending with you, you make it seem that the Eucharist is about you. It is not about you. It is about God.”
In 2005 more than a dozen archbishops would not attend daily Eucharist at their meeting in Ireland because of the presence of TEC Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
There are many points worthy of reflection:
If the Anglican primates cannot all receive communion together, in what sense is there an Anglican Communion left?
Is the eucharist more God’s cause of our unity, or more our (human) sign of our unity?
Is the blood of Christ given for the the forgiveness of sins – or do we need to be forgiven prior to having access to Christ’s blood?
If we had to have all agreeing and all morally pure prior to receiving communion together – where could one go to celebrate eucharist?
Too often we think of divisions between Christians as being between denominations – vertical lines, if you will: Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, … These divisions are often tied up with our inheritance from Christendom: property, trusts, invested money,… Maybe more real is, using the lines model, divisions between Christians as being horizontal lines: liberal, conservative, charismatic, contemplative, liturgical, justice-centred, environmentalist,… Those with an interest in contemplative spirituality find each other and support each other whatever their denominational background – and often now in cyber-communities. And the same is true for other interest groupings. And some of these horizontal divisions, at Anglican Primates’ Meetings are obviously over-riding the vertical one of denomination. The horizontal is stronger.
But to have individuals hermetically sealed in these horizontal bands is also an over-simplification in our post-modern, post-Christian, Christian-deli-spirituality world. Individuals might be liberal on one issue, conservative in another, be driven by a personal contemplative life, with strong liturgical expression, and strong commitment to justice. In ordinary gatherings of Christians, often neither horizontal or vertical line divisions feature. At their best Christian communities and individuals draw from the wealth and positive features of all the different streams of the Christian tradition.
In a world starving for the good news of Christ – where Christians agree on the major points of Jesus’ life and message for the world, can we allow the disagreement about how best to love homosexual persons (let’s at least agree that the issue is one of love for them), can we allow that disagreement to become so dominant as to distract from the sharing of the love of God with which we have been entrusted? In my experience, as this continues, I do not currently hear a lot: “See how these Christians love one another.”
And Christ eats with all – that is what troubled the religious types most – and ultimately led to his execution.
- Pray for Anglican Primates Meeting
- Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
- Christian unity?
- Communion Means Communion
- What Denomination You Are