Saturday, February 7, 2009

Say after me, 'There are limits to diversity'

If you have a bit of time to spare, read The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury (published February 2009).

Its been influential on the outcomes of the Primates Alexandrian meeting and a number of things catch my eye. One is its reiteration of a much overlooked point about 'diversity' within Anglicanism: there are limits to diversity; 'diversity' is not a slogan justifying anything Anglicans think, say or do.

"52. To be a communion, as opposed to a federation or association, is fundamentally to acknowledge that the fellowship of Churches is not a human construct; it is the gracious gift of God. Churches are enabled to live in communion because they recognise one another as truly an expression of the One Church of Jesus Christ. If mutual recognition of faithful discipleship, the preaching of the Word of God or the ordered administration of the Sacraments is threatened, then the entire foundation of the Communion is undermined. This is why although Anglicans remain committed to a generous accommodation of diversity, there must ultimately be some limit to the extent of the diversity which can be embraced. This limit is the point where the fellowship of Churches can no longer recognise in one of its members the faithfulness to Christ which flows from communion with the Father, in the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. If the recognition of one another as Churches is to be sustained, it implies a level of mutual accountability in the handling of the life of each Church.

53. The question of the limits of diversity becomes acute when major differences arise in the life of the communion of the Churches which concern the faith, order or moral life of the Communion. It is then that Anglicans need a common understanding of how together, in communion, they can, guided by the Spirit, discern and decide together. What are the sources that need to be brought to bear on any issue? What are the structures through which discernment takes place? What is the nature of their authority to guide discernment, to speak the mind of the Communion and even to request restraint while open reception takes place and the Churches of the Communion come to discover the mind of Christ for them?"

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