Bishop of Truro tells Catholic Synod on the family not to fear change

Church of England’s Bishop Tim Thornton urged Catholics to emulate Anglicans in finding a mean between doctrine and pastoral care

The Bishop of Truro urged the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church not to fear change. However, he noted the Anglican Communion had not changed its fundamental teaching on the nature of Christian marriage and family. The Rt. Rev. Tim Thornton offered an Anglican perspective on the conference theme of “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world,” to the bishops gathered from 4-25 Oct 2015 in the Synod Hall in the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican. The “Synod on the Family” has witnessed clashes between liberal and conservative factions over the church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage. Progressives are seeking to change the church’s discipline on allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist. Conservatives have argued that this would constitute a change in doctrine and is unacceptable to the Catholic faith. On the morning of 16 Oct 2015 Bishop Thorton was one of a number of fraternal delegates from non-Catholic churches to offer an “intervention” or address. He presented the greetings of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who “wanted me to tell you that the Anglican Communion sees the family as foundational to and in our society and hasn’t changed its understanding of traditional marriage. Within the Anglican Communion we share the same issues as you do and many of the conversations and interventions I have heard here are identical or similar to conversations with my fellow bishops within the Communion.” The “first part of the Instrumentum Laboris”, the synod working document was “too focussed on the negative aspects of family life. There is much joy in families and family life and much to celebrate,” he said. “A key part of families is that they change. Whenever you’re privileged to be a part of a family in its journey as a pastor you’re seeing a snapshot, a moment in time which has both a history and a future. We see a glimpse and don’t always fully understand, nor should we be given the privilege of being with the family throughout its journey,” he said, adding: “Change is a key part of the Christian faith. It’s at the heart of who we are and what we believe. Just look around this Hall and see all the change that’s taking place all the time. Every day we’re called to be converted to Christ, turn away from sin and turn to God. Every day we open ourselves to the possibility of transformation. That’s why all Christians are full of joy and hope every day.” The “biggest problem that faces” the Church of England “ is that we, as Christians, appear irrelevant to many people. We appear dull, boring and lacking in any sense of joy or hope.” The church should be prepared to change and grow as it walks alongside “families as they change, grow and mature..” He concluded his remarks by noting: “If we are joyful, mature Christian disciples we will not be afraid or over anxious about the changes which are happening to each one of us as well as to families all around the world.”

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