The always wise Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has just given a long speech, well worth reading, on the nature and purpose (and current state) of the Anglican Communion. Read it here.
I will post some pithy excerpts a bit later for those of you who don't have time to link to the full speech.
And... here we go.
The conclusion of the speech is the most eloquent part.
But the rest, which has good historical detail, is worth a look.
I am an eternal optimist – and not because I am retiring soon and leaving this behind, but because Jesus has risen, and in him we have the victory, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church!
When we look back on the history of the Church, it has always been assailed with divisions to be overcome. The unity of Christ's people is one of the prime targets of the devil, who does not want the world to look at us and say 'See how these Christians love one another!' The devil's purposes are far better served when people look at us and see us fighting and quarrelling, and doing so in ways that fail to reflect the spirit of charity, tolerance and gracious magnanimity that has always characterised the best of Anglicanism!.
So whether it was the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, or the precise understanding of the Eucharist, or the various models of salvation, or slavery, or usury, or contraception, or women's ordination – or even questions over vestments, and whether, and how high, to raise up the bread and wine with the words of consecration – well, God is bigger! And the unity that he grants us is a gift of grace that can overcome all manner of human disagreement.
In March, we hosted the International Anglican Communion's TEAM conference – Towards Effective Anglican Mission. I continue to hear stories about how the experience of participants was that our common life of mission and ministry in Christ bridges our disagreements. It was also evident that human sexuality is not the prime concern for most Christians in their life of faith.
Of course, some may leave the Communion as a result of our current problems. But we must not take ourselves too seriously. As Joost de Blank once said 'God works his purposes out, despite the confusion of our minds.'
I suspect that future generations will see this as something of a storm in a teacup, and certainly not as central to the Christian life.
For the centre of Christian life is Jesus Christ. As I said at the TEAM conference, God's eternal Word did not come as a philosophical concept, nor as a political programme. Nor was the Word made text. But the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
It is not where we stand on this or that particular issue which is definitive for our salvation – nor even our understanding of this or that passage of Scripture. What matters is our relationship with Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us on the cross, and who was raised to new life, so that we too might find new life in him.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
[Emphases mine. No word here on his position on salvation and people who are not Christian, but that, I assume, is another speech.]