Anglican bishops from across the world have rededicated themselves to the goal of uniting all churches in order to better share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Bishops meeting at the Lambeth Conference, taking place in Canterbury, issued a Call committing to “an urgent search for the full visible unity of the Church” .
It came as the Roman Catholic Church’s lead on ecumenical affairs, Cardinal Kurt Koch, told the conference that, despite decades of progress in bringing Christians of different traditions together, the existing divisions now constitute an “emergency” for the global Church.
Bishops gave their assent to the Lambeth Call on Christian Unity [link] following a plenary session and discussions in groups about relationships between different Christian denominations.
Speaking before the meeting, the Venerable Will Adam, the Anglican Communion’s former Director of Unity, Faith and Order, explained that Anglicans had never claimed to be “The whole Church” but rather “a part of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
“Unity is something for which Jesus prayed, and which the Bible teaches us is important – integral even – to the life of the Church,” he said.
“When the Church is divided, the body of Christ is wounded.”
Archbishop Ian Ernest, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See, who chaired a plenary session, detailed the history of moves towards closer unity between churches over recent decades.
In a message delivered in his absence by Fr Anthony Currer, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, said there was now an urgent need for Christians to come together.
He said: “This ecumenical emergency implies that a sincere and thus common ecumenical witness to Jesus Christ in the present world is only possible when the Christian churches overcome their divisions and can live in unity in reconciled diversity.
“Ecumenism and mission belong inseparably together since that is the only way in which God´s Church really is for God’s World.”
Bishop Marinez Bassotto, Bishop of Amazonia in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, described an “Ecumenical Caravan” of support and aid which had been organised by churches and social movements in response to violence faced by the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous people in western Brazil who have been marginalised and displaced by aggressive agribusiness.
The Caravan visited villages which had been attacked, sharing food, holding public events and arranging press conferences to make the situation more widely known. She underlined the importance for churches to be as one for the Kingdom of God to be revealed, and asked delegates, as a global family, to make such crimes visible.
Archbishop Nikitas, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Thyatira and Great Britain and the Revd Dr David Wells, of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, also addressed delegates, before General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Revd Anne Burghardt said that as a Lutheran she was “not afraid of pluralism or postmodernism.”
“When the churches place Christ at the centre of their theological reflections and search for unity, and this centre is surrounded by concentric circles, through which churches start to move towards Christ, the centre,” she said.
“The churches obviously don’t only get closer to Christ but they also get closer to one another”