know about With Lambeth Call on Reconciliation, bishops agree to foster restorative justice in their churches – Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service – Canterbury, England] The Anglican bishops assumed the Lambeth call for reconciliation on August 2, uniting in a message of justice and healing for those who have been oppressed. Just before its session on the more controversial Call to Human Dignity, the Call to Reconciliation focused on the church’s broader work to rectify unjust social systems and less on addressing factions within the Anglican Communion.
The call encourages provinces to address, in their own way, the wounds caused by racism, sexism and other abuses of power. He specifically cites the Episcopal Church’s anti-racism work as an example for other provinces to follow.
The bishops did not vote during the session, but there was a general sense of agreement on the call’s message, said Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, who was on the call’s drafting group. Instead, they shared stories of how reconciliation has been in their dioceses and countries.
“We’re actually sharing our lives in a meaningful way, as bishops, with one another, rather than some kind of exercise in political platitudes or disembodied votes,” Douglas told Episcopal News Service. “What we were trying to do was model in our process what we were talking about in our content. Because if we talk about reconciliation, the last thing we want to do is build winners and losers.”
Much of the day’s discussion focused on the theological basis of reconciliation. True reconciliation, Anglican leaders said, can take myriad forms, but must incorporate the same fundamental concepts.
“Reconciliation has elements of truth, it has elements of restoration, it has elements of reparation,” Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said at the morning press conference. “And I hope that as we discuss, as bishops, we will keep them in balance so that we don’t degenerate into retaliation.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, underscored the call’s statement that “for God’s reconciliation to be fully realized, there must be both justice and accountability.” wrote the book on reconciliation – in the morning Bible exposition session. exposing about “challenging” language in 1 Peter which seems to condone slavery and the subjugation of women, Welby said the church must expose and dismantle unjust power systems like colonialism, racism and sexism, power structures with which the churches have become intertwined during centuries.
Welby and others cited sexism in particular, and the disenfranchisement and violence it often spawns, as an oppressive power structure that the church has not paid enough attention to.
“We’re good at condemning some of these things, but we don’t do it uniformly. Wives and slaves are explicitly compared in 1 Peter. And yet we have a lot of confidence in condemning slavery, but less confidence in condemning the systems that keep women, girls and wives in situations of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation,” Welby said. “We do say that slavery is something that Christians should reject in contemporary contexts, but the patriarchal system has not yet been discarded and left behind in the same way.”
Mothers’ Union Worldwide President Sheran Harper echoed Welby’s call in plenary.
“Women and families are often powerful forces for reconciliation around the world,” Harper said. “And let me say at the same time that women and families suffer most in times of division and conflict, and also on the long road to reconciliation. Women and girls always seem to be on the front lines of the harshest and most violent circumstances.”
Archbishop Carlos Matsinhe – primate of the Anglican Communion newest diocese, the Anglican Church of Mozambique and Angola – testified about the impact of those violent circumstances in Africa and the need to address the power imbalances that have contributed to them. Angola and Mozambique are particularly affected by colonialism; both were Portuguese colonies for centuries until 1975.
“The slave trade has had a very painful impact on Africans,” Matsinhe said through a translator. “Racism, disdain, continue to this day in many ways. … We also have military conflicts in independent countries. Some of these military conflicts turned into civil wars, where some external groups, representing countries where there is Anglicanism, influenced African countries and still fuel these military conflicts”.
Bishop Te Kitohi Wiremu Pikaahu of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia proposed an exercise to illustrate the importance of trust in the reconciliation process. He invited the bishops to exchange their pectoral crosses – or some other valuable object – with the person next to them, to be returned at the end of the plenary.
Reconciliation, he said, “requires trust. It requires us to be optimistic in our intention. … I want to highlight the fact of giving something of value, knowing that it will return it to you.”
As with other calls, the call to reconciliation encourages provinces and dioceses to take certain steps, using methods relevant to their unique contexts. The appeal specifically praises the Episcopal Church’s anti-racism work, citing it as a model for other provinces to follow.
“Inspired by the work of many Anglican churches in truth-telling, reckoning and racial healing,” reads the most recent draft of the call, “we invite each province to an exercise in self-examination and reflection, respectfully listening to the experiences of those who have historically they have been and continue to be marginalized in their contexts and in their church.”
The call asks that each province “commit to a reconciliation resource of their choice for the 2025 Gathering of Primates, to share stories of that experience and to listen to groups that have been historically marginalized.” Each of the Anglican Communion Instruments You are also asked to do a “similar listening and self-examination exercise”.
The call also asks Welby to “renew and refresh the conversation with the Churches in Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda, seeking a fulfilling life together as an Anglican family of churches.” The primates of those three Anglican provinces are boycotting this Lambeth Conference because of his objection to other Anglican provinces’ approaches to sexuality. He asks Welby and the Anglican Communion Standing Committee to report on their progress at the 2023 Anglican Consultative Council meeting.
Douglas said there were different reactions to some of those specific items, but they weren’t put to yes or no votes, “so we can have a substantial set of answers, rather than [pressing] buttons or quietly nodding or yelling. I mean, that doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. And then we had a moment of prayer at the end, where we stood in prayer, offering these conversations to God and to each other.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected]