The Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States (ARC-USA) has recently reconvened for a new round of dialogue focused on reconciliation, a theme chosen for its resonance with conversations both between our churches and withinthem. Reconciliation – restored harmony and resolution of differences – begins for Christians with God’s own action on our behalf, which we are called to imitate. As St. Paul famously explains, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Cor. 5:19). To seek the forgiveness of others and forgive them in turn begins with our common turning to God in the hope and expectation of his merciful self-giving. This is the very centre of Christian love.
Of course, reconciliation bespeaks the sacrament of penance or confession. Christian forgiveness does not skip over sin or otherwise pretend that everything is alright. The freedom that we find in faith is given by God’s own breaking of the bonds of sin and death. Listen to the word of Truth: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Christians mark the hope of abundant life by the new birth of baptism: that, as we are made partakers of the death of Christ, putting off our old nature and its corruption, we may also be partakers of his resurrection.
As the Lambeth Design Group begins its preparatory work for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, Anglicans will do well to recall a final layer of reconciliation, namely, its root in the Latin word for council. To assemble, as in a council (concilium), implies by its very act a will to unity, that is, winning one another over (conciliare). Let us pray fervently, in these last days of Lent, that the whole Anglican family may summon the courage, by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection, to “go with him” and therefore with each other (see John 11:16). Let us love one another, as he loved us, to the end. Anything less will mark a fearful flight from our Lord, a betrayal.
Christopher Wells is Executive Director of the Living Church Foundation and serves as a theological consultant to the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States (ARC-USA).