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1 1st March 03:22
rowland croucher
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Default Anglican-Methodist covenant (covenant history order church reconciliation)


Archbishop of Canterbury's address at the signing of an Anglican-Methodist

[ACNS source: Lambeth Palace] At his first meeting with leaders of the
Jewish community in Rome, Pope John XXIII, it's said, greeted them with the
words, "I am Joseph, your brother". He was evoking one of the most poignant
moments in the Old Testament: Joseph, whose arrogance had provoked the
resentment and rejection of his brothers, is carried off into exile and
slavery, then rises to great power. He finds that this power is given to him
so that he can save the lives of his brothers when they come to him, not
knowing him, begging him for help; and at last he reveals who he is: "I am
Joseph, your brother".

The application of this to Jewish-Christian relations is perhaps not as
straightforward as the Pope's generous instincts might have suggested. But
the point we might want to think about today is how the providence of God
works in and through even our divisions. Just over two centuries ago, the
insensitivity and missionary sluggishness of the Church of England provoked
a dramatic act of protest from John Wesley; and our two families began to
grow apart. Yet in those centuries of separation, don't we have to say that
both of our church communities have been given gifts and have learned
lessons that we might not have learned or received had this never happened?
As we now take this significant step in our growing together again, we do so
not in the pretence that two hundred years have been wasted, or that we can
go back to where we were. We have all, in the intervening years, discovered
things about Christ and his Kingdom that we are now eager to share with each
other, as brothers and sisters working to overcome the distant legacy of
arrogance and resentment.

Wesley was a very reluctant protester - a loyal conservative High Churchman,
expert in the Greek Fathers and the French mystics, he was no natural rebel.
He would have been as honoured and delighted as are we all today to see Her
Majesty the Queen witnessing and praying with us on such an occasion,
marking the full involvement of the Church of England in this reconciling
moment through the participation of its Supreme Governor. Yet Wesley came to
the point where he believed that he and his followers could only be fully
obedient to Jesus Christ if they took the risk of separation. No-one can
easily pass judgement on this costly decision, and no-one is seeking to do
so; what we can be sure of is that by God's direction it bore fruit in
witness and transforming service to the Kingdom of God in this nation and
far beyond.

It is an irony that as we celebrate this new mutuality today, we also as
Anglicans face new tensions and divisions, with those on both sides of our
current troubles believing that obedience calls them to a risky break with
what we have thought of as orthodoxy and good order. But perhaps this
celebration is timely after all in God's purpose. It is a reminder that when
we can no longer see how to hold together, God will still teach us in our
separateness; and one day we shall be led, in both thankfulness and
repentance, to share with one another what we have learned apart; to bring
to one another a history not without its shadows and stresses, but still one
in which something quite distinctive has been learned. And if all God's
gifts are given to be shared, we have no option finally but to offer them to
each other in reconciliation.

God be thanked, then, even for our years of separation. Gifts have been
given that can never be forgotten or laid aside, because God uses every
opportunity of loving zeal and devotion to Jesus Christ to pour out his
abundance. Thanks to our brothers and sisters for the good news their
history proclaims to us; but thanks again to God for the even better news
that our growth together will bring to the Church and the world.

The Most Revd Rowan Williams
__________________________________________________ _________________
ACNSlist, published by Anglican Communion News Service, London, is
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Rowland Croucher

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