Reconciliation is emerging as the great theme of Archbishop Justin Welby's tenure as ABC. He is making waves as he goes about this. A recent wave has been the appointment of an ACNA clergyman, Tory Baucum as one of six 'Canterbury Preachers.' One ripple on the beach is this exchange at the CofE GS this week. But if that perturbed 'Communion watchers' who view any positivity towards ACNA as a surf patroller views a shark's fin moving towards swimmers at the beach, note the alarm with which other watchers are reacting towards a Welby wave this week. That wave is a press release celebrating Oxford University awarding an honorary DD to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. 'What was Justin Welby Thinking?' is one of the kinder responses. I am grateful that ++Justin celebrates things about her leadership which can be celebrated. At least he didn't say she was a notable theologian ...
What about the dots to be joined up? Astute observers have noted that across the Atlantic, as TEC's Executive Council does some work on budgets, some new money to fund Communion conversations is being proposed, with a specific signal from ++KJS that this is 'in recognition of greatly improved relations with the Communion.'
So, there we have the big picture of ++Justin's reconciliation vision for the Communion as the dots are drawn up. In one word, 'inclusion.' ACNA gets a crumb from the table. TEC remains seated at the table. Absent members (whether choosing to stay away for the time being, or kept away by local trauma as in South Sudan) will be visited (recall the flying trip to GAFCON).
Incidentally, ++Justin's presidential address to his GS is worth the read, whether in a word cloud there or full transcript here.
To cite one thing only, but connected with reconciliation, here is ++Welby taking on his critics:
"The Church of England is not tidy, nor efficiently hierarchical. There are no popes, but there is a College of Bishops and there are Synods and collections and lobbies and groups and pressure and struggle. When it works well it works because love overcomes fear. When it works badly it is because fear overcomes love. The resources for more fear lie within us and the resources for more love lie within God and are readily available to all those who in repentance and humility stretch out and seek them. With Jesus every imperative rests on an indicative, every command springs from a promise. Do not fear.
Already I can hear the arguments being pushed back at me, about compromise, about the wishy-washiness of reconciliation, to quote something I read recently. But this sort of love, and the reconciliation between differing groups that it demands and implies, is not comfortable and soft and wishy-washy. Facilitated conversations may be a clumsy phrase, but it has at its heart a search for good disagreement. It is exceptionally hard edged, extraordinarily demanding and likely to lead in parts of the world around us to profound unpopularity or dismissal.
This sort of gracious reconciliation means that we have to create safe space within ourselves to disagree, as we began to do last summer at the Synod in York, and as we need to do over the issues arising out of our discussions on sexuality, not because the outcome is predetermined to be a wishy-washy one, but because the very process is a proclamation of the Gospel of unconditionally loving God who gives Himself for our sin and failure. It is incarnational in the best sense and leads to the need to bear our cross in the way we are commanded. "