(Photo: Global South Anglican Online)
As the Anglican Communion continues to deal with divisions and tension within the global body, the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded leaders on Tuesday that there are no quick solutions for the wounds.
"It is the work of the Spirit that heals the Body of Christ, not the plans or the statements of any group, or any person, or any instrument of communion," Dr. Rowan Williams said in a video address to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter.
Dozens of conservative Anglican leaders opened a five-day conference Monday in Singapore. Participants intend to build on the vision of the "One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ" as they confront the brokenness of the 77 million-member body.
They are there to discuss the Anglican Covenant – a document aimed at preventing a split in the Anglican Communion.
"Initially, it was felt that a comprehensive Anglican covenant would help heal the wounds and restore confidence in our relationships within the Anglican family, as it would provide for accountability," said retired Archbishop of Nigeria the Most Rev. Peter Akinola in his opening address Monday.
"But as things stand today in the Communion, this Encounter gathered here in Singapore needs to assure itself if the proposed covenant offers any such hope."
"More importantly," he added, "has the real problem that tore the fabric of the Communion been addressed? Can the Covenant address the problem?"
Akinola, chairman of the Global South Primates Steering Committee, contended that signing the Anglican Covenant would not stop The Episcopal Church "from pursuing its own agenda."
He also lamented the hesitancy to exercise discipline against The Episcopal Church.
"We are God's Covenant to the world, yes, but we are divided," he said. "We lack discipline. We lack the courage to call 'a spade a spade.' Our obedience to God is selective."
"I am troubled, I am sad in fact I am confused."
Nevertheless, his desire is for "a genuine healing" of the church, he said.
And Anglican churches cannot continue focusing on the internal crisis and neglect their mission of making Christ known, Akinola added.
Global South leaders are seeking to find a way forward during their meeting this week.
The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – caused uproar in 2003 when it consecrated its first openly gay bishop. Last summer, Episcopal leaders further passed resolutions opening the ordination process to all baptized members, which would include practicing homosexuals, and calling for the development of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships.
Despite calls by Anglican leaders worldwide to practice gracious restraint in regards to the ordination of partnered gays, The Episcopal Church most recently approved the ordination of an openly lesbian bishop in Los Angeles.
Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, acknowledged in his brief message that recent decisions by The Episcopal Church in the U.S. have made the brokenness and tension that are present even more acute.
"All of us share the concern that in this decision and action The Episcopal Church has deepened the divide between itself and the rest of the Anglican family," said Williams, who is currently discussing what consequences should follow the controversial decision.
But amid the crises, Williams urged Global South Anglicans to "allow the Holy Spirit to lift your eyes to that broader horizon of God’s purpose for us as Anglicans, for us as Christians, and indeed for us as human beings.
"[W]e must all share in a sense of repentance and willingness to be renewed by the Spirit."