“Not Conformed… but Transformed”
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
As a part of a delegation led by the Archbishop of our Province, Ng Moon Hing, and our Bishop Rennis Ponniah, we were deeply involved in the Anglican Conference, the Seventh Global South Conference at Cairo, Egypt (8-11th October). Delegates from at least 18 Provinces were represented and we reflected on the theme “Not Conformed…but transformed” based on Romans 12:1-2
When dioceses in the Provinces disagree on some fundamentals of the faith or are exploring fresh approaches, there are processes for the issues to be discussed or resolved. However, what processes are there to guide how Provinces related to each other at the Communion level?
Before 2003, the Communion thought we had sufficient processes and mutual trust to manage disagreements. The unilateral consecration of a bishop in same-sex relationship went ahead in 2003, in spite of commitments to a common discipline which were debated and voted on at Lambeth 1998. When the consecration was announced beforehand, pleas from Anglican leaders all over the world for restraint were ignored.
At the surface level, this may seem to be just about the issue of homosexuality. Far deeper than that, it is also about more fundamental issues about the place of Scripture, tradition and what holds our Church together. And Western hegemony has also shaped the attitudes of some Western Anglican leaders towards their "Third World" counterparts.
The issues are of course complex. But it is a fact that the vast majority of Anglicans - both in the West and round the world - do believe that the faith of the Anglican Church should be upheld, and our Church life together does matter. In a very good sense of the word, we love the Communion and we treasure the faith heritage that has been passed down to us. If aspects of our faith, morals and pastoral practices need to be changed, then there should be a proper process of listening, discussions, debate and so on. But if these processes are ignored, then those who do so have simply chosen to walk apart.
Much of Global South’s work is to seek to positively bring "healing to the fabric”, find ways to build trust again, and relational commitments that can ensure we can do mission together without such future severe disruptions. There is a silver-lining in this crisis as it has helped bring many Anglican Provinces closer together and our communion life is richer than ever.
For those interested, I recommend that you read the latest Covenant Structure which was adopted. You can go to the globalsouthanglican.org for a copy of this as well as the accompanying communique which also expresses the voice of this Conference.
One can say, the Anglican Communion is growing up in the midst of modernity and the fast emergence of new scientific, sociological and moral ideas. While this may appear novel, it has always been this way for the Church from the infancy of her earlier centuries till now.
The Biblical words of Romans 12:1,2 continue to guide us as we seek to work out our faith in our modern contexts. And even as we pause to think about the Communion, we remind ourselves that the Christian life is lived by each of us and as a local SAC family.
It is a communion - continually shaped by the appeal of St Paul - which we have between us and shared across the world.