Not One In View, But One In Heart (#Primates 2016)

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has delivered a fine address to open what many expect to be a contentious meeting of Anglican Primates (Archbishops) meeting this week in England. After an honest recounting of the successes and failures of the Anglican Communion throughout its history and the practical reasons for the Communion to find a way to stay together in mission in spite of our many differences, Welby’s main point can be summarized perhaps in this one sentence, “There has never been a time when the church was one in view, but it has often been one in heart.”

I believe that is profoundly true and so important for us to model in our time. At its best, the church can be a sign, an icon of just how it is possible for love to bind us together even when we disagree strongly on important matters. Welby also says, “The idea is often put forward that truth and unity are in conflict, or in tension. That is not true. Disunity presents to the world an untrue image of Jesus Christ. Lack of truth corrodes and destroys unity.”

I disagree partly with this. I believe that truth and unity can indeed be, and often are, in tension. But they need not ultimately be a matter of conflict. It is only when we stay together, in dialogue, in communion, in mutuality that we can find our way to a deeper unity precisely as we learn from each other and “bear with one another in love.” When we walk away from one another we lose the opportunity to forge a greater and deeper unity based on the truth we can discover together.

Let us hope that the leaders of the various Provinces of our Anglican Communion can find a way to model that way of being together this week. Not just for the sake of the church. But for the sake of the world.

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