The document that came from the recent meeting of Anglican Primates in Northern Ireland has been read and discussed very widely. But one paragraph has barely been mentioned by any commentator, inside the Church or outside. The Primates repeated and underlined their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals defined by the United Nations including the hope to reduce poverty and hunger by a half before 2015. They also renewed their commitments in respect of HIV/AIDS education and prevention, noting too the need for similar work to get rapidly underway in dealing with the spiralling threats of TB and malaria.
It should not need saying, but it must be said: our Christian faith is a faith in the rising of Jesus Christ from the tomb in his glorified body; and so it is about leading lives that take the life of the body seriously. The words for salvation and health cannot be distinguished in most languages, and this should remind us that faith in Christ has to be bound up with care for suffering bodies as well as suffering souls.
Only Christ can make us whole in every aspect of our lives. But we can show the world something of the nature of that comprehensive hope in Christ as we put our energies to work for healing. First we have to begin to learn what it is for each one of us to receive healing: quietly and thankfully, we must let our wounds be exposed to the physician and allow his life to sink into our lives. And then we must act as if we believed we had truly received authority to heal in all sorts of different ways.
One of the least known features of the life of the Anglican Church over the last twenty years has been the dramatic revival of the ministry of healing as a routine part of the life of thousands of congregations. But it is the same hope for healing that is shown when we also look at how we can put our resources at the disposal of programmes to combat disease and poverty.
This is not an additional extra - the boring bit of a message in which all the excitement is generated by church politics. It should really shock us that a document like the Primates communique has been read as if it were only intended to be about our internal struggles. It means that we have not been heard to speak about the Resurrection. This Easter, let us, as Paul tells us in Colossians 3, try to live as if we had truly been raised with Christ - clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and showing all these things in our priorities for action to heal suffering bodies.
© Rowan Williams 2005