Sole purpose

Like the pilgrims of old, we’re heading for Canterbury.  We have the tent with us in case we have a Sentamu moment which calls for an act of witness – or if the Anglican Communion’s failure to uphold heterosexual marriage by putting us all in single rooms just becomes too much.

Meanwhile, we’ve all received – or I have anyway – an attitude survey purporting to be on behalf of the Times.  I spent some time looking at it and pondering whether it was ‘for real’ or not.  I shan’t be completing it.  I was reminded of Peter Ustinov’s response when asked on entry to the USA, ‘Do you intend to subvert the Constitution of the United States of America?’  To which he claimed to have replied, ‘Sole Purpose of Visit’.  The questions include, ‘Has the Church done enough to help the people of Zimbabwe?’ and ‘Are liberals taking control of the Church of England?’

I really see very little point in exercises which seem to want to ‘line up’ participants on either side of a series of complex and interwoven issues.  I’ve been appreciating some of the articles by George Pitcher of the Daily Telegraph – particularly this one which describes Archbishop Rowan Williams’ approach to the leadership challenges which face him.  For me it comes down to this.  You can line people up on either side of various issues.  But what really matters is the spirituality of the task which faces us.  That task is not primarily to hold the Anglican Communion together.  Rather it is to deal with people and issues – to work out how and to what extent we can with integrity and faithfulness deal with diversity.  And through it all runs what I think is one of the great challenges of any leadership in the church – that of holding deep personal conviction while enabling the whole church to live, move and find unity in Christ.

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