I have been reflecting on what the Primates Meeting next week means for me. It’s the second one which I have attended. It will clearly not be an easy meeting – but it is important that all Primates will be present. This is my thinking at present:
‘I am personally deeply committed to the Anglican Communion. Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church see the Communion as interwoven with the history of their church and as an important part of their creative and outward-facing engagement with the world church.
The Anglican Communion is a noble attempt to build and sustain a global church community without centralised authority or a single teaching magisterium. Such a community needs to be highly relational and collegial. It must embody humility. It must exercise a very high level of relational self-discipline if it is successfully to cohere. And of course our aspiration must be that it will do much more than cohere – that it will in that deliberate flexibility of organisational structure better express a visible unity in Christ, however great its contextual diversity.
I have been privileged to travel within the Communion in recent years. What is remarkable about that experience is to discover the extraordinary levels of commonality in the life of Provinces – commonality of worship, of commitment to justice and the needs of the poor, of culture, of belonging and of the balance between authority which is democratically-rooted and authority which comes through spiritual and ecclesiastical office. On many levels, the Anglican Communion is very much alive. Companionship Relationships between dioceses across the world strengthen our knowledge of one another and build unity in Christ. We are a world missional church. Our Anglican Networks enable us to address the greatest issues of our times. We attempt to live the gospel of reconciliation.
Yet our relationships and our unity are constantly stressed by the issues around human sexuality. Some see this primarily as an inter-provincial challenge. But these difficulties are experienced within our provinces as much as between our provinces. We in Scotland continue to explore what it means to be faithful to scripture and to live in a rapidly-changing society where attitudes to human sexuality have undergone a revolution in a generation or less. If we reach the point where we are unable to recognise one another as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, we are in great difficulty.
I hope that we as Primates will grow together in our meeting next week. I believe that we need more engagement with one another and not less. We must strive for a deeper relating in which we can explore together the future to which God calls us. We need also to find words in which we can discuss some painful realities which underlie the sharpness of our differences about human sexuality questions. I refer in particular to very different ways in which authority and leadership are exercised in different parts of the Communion. More painfully for all of us, I believe that we need to address the legacy of colonialism which, even if not explicit, is still a major factor in determining the way in which we relate to one another.
At our meeting in Dublin in 2011, we committed ourselves to ‘walking together’. As we approach this Primates Meeting, we pray for Archbishop Justin and all who will support us as we meet together. I pray not so much for immediate answers which will solve our problems. Rather I pray for a deepening of our life together as disciples – and for respect and relationship within which we can together seek the future to which God calls us.’