7 May 2004
The Most Revd Dr Robin Eames
Thank you very much for your letter to the primates, providing some update on the work of our Commission, and drawing our attention to some important guidelines on the way in which the Communion may assist the process established by the Primates at their meeting in London last October.
Whilst your letter made some important and valuable points, to which I hope we will all give attention, I felt that the call for restraint appeared to be addressed only to those who take objection to recent developments. Surely, in this grave situation, all sides need to give space for the Commission's work.
There is no small feeling amongst conservative members of the Communion that they are being asked to show restraint whilst the liberal agenda moves ahead, with bishops in ECUSA taking action against conservative parishes; the Church of Canada proceeding to debate the blessing of same sex unions; dioceses in the Episcopal Church actually going forward with the authorisation of such rites, and the appointment of known advocates of same sex unions to senior office in the Church of England. This is only likely to create a situation where the playing field is perceived as skewed - conservative reaction is held back, whilst liberal viewpoints are allowed to claim too much territory. It creates the question in many minds, "Why should we wait, if others are not showing the same restraint?" I should be grateful therefore if some way could be found of addressing this question, and pointing out to our Communion that in the period of preparation of the work of the Lambeth Commission, restraint needs to be shown on all sides, and provocation to "precipitate action" avoided.
I look forward to our next meeting and continue to pray that we may find Christ's will for his church in our deliberations.
Sincerely in our Lord,
The Most Revd Drexel W Gomez
Archbishop of the West Indies
14 May 2004
Thank you very much for your reply to my letter to the Primates. Of course, you are quite right: in asking for the Communion to hold back from precipitate action, the Primates were asking for space for the Commission's work by all sides to this debate. I take very seriously indeed the points you make, and consideration will have to be given to events across the Communion which seem to take further controversial positions on the issue of ministry by and to homosexual persons. It makes it more difficult for conservatives on this issue to hold back from strong reaction if they are faced with what can be seen as continuing provocation. I am sure that the Commission, as far as their loyalties to their own provincial processes will allow, would join me in asking all sides to refrain from action which prejudices the status quo as it was in October 2003, and that means being prepared to hold back from advancing controversial causes until, as a Communion, we have begun to discern publicly the way in which to handle the issues which divide us, in a way which strengthens and does not damage our discipleship and witness.
I thought you might like to read what I said to my own General Synod in Armagh this week regarding the work of the Lambeth Commission. I hope you will feel reassured by these remarks to my own Church:
"Anglican Communion Problems:
We are passing through times of great challenge and heart-searching within the world Church family of which the Church of Ireland is an integral part. Recent events in parts of the Anglican Communion have produced divisions between Provinces and within Provinces and dioceses. The Consecration of an openly gay bishop in the diocese of New Hampshire in the United States and the practice of blessing same sex relationships in parts of Canada have provoked sharp exchanges in the Communion.
As you are aware the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to Chair the Lambeth Commission set up to examine ways of helping our different Provinces to address differences and divisions. I want to thank the members of our Church who have sent me messages of prayerful support for this difficult task. I am working with an extremely gifted international team and we hope to produce a Report to the Anglican Communion in the autumn. I believe our recommendations must help the world family not just with the immediate problems but with any differences which may arise in the years to come - so our task is formidable.
The Lambeth Commission is not mandated to express opinions on sexuality - but while that issue has brought divisions to the surface our diversity demands that ways are found of encouraging the highest possible level of communion and understanding between the various parts of the Anglican Communion. Differences are not new to Anglicanism. Not so long ago we faced divisions on women in the Priesthood and episcopate : we expressed different views on economic and cultural issues : we differed on when and how violent opposition to oppression was justified. The diversities in culture and outlook appear in many forms - yet the Anglican Communion has survived those diversities.
While I must be careful at this stage as Chairman of the Lambeth Commission in what I say about our work there are a few comments I would share with the General Synod of my own Church this morning.
Fundamental to the current situation is what sort of Anglican Communion do we want?
We are not bound to each other by rigid rules or regulations. We share fundamentals of belief, doctrine and practice. We subscribe to 'bonds of affection' with each other rather than seeing the Church of England or Canterbury as some sort of central curia. We bear one another's burdens and in the Church of Ireland reach out to our brothers and sisters of the global south through our excellent missionary societies.
Second, we share together in the mission of the Church which is to preach Christ crucified to the world. Sadly I feel the current controversies have the potential to damage that mission by diverting us from our main task. We may well ask - are these the sort of issues we really want to divide us or to weaken our mission to suffering humanity? Where should our priorities lie?
Third, we hold as a priority the centrality of Holy Scripture to our witness, worship and life. The fact that pilgrims on the journey of the Church can differ on the interpretation of that same Scripture has produced much of our present crisis. So we need guidance on how we interpret Scripture.
Finally, I want to make plain to this Synod and to the wider Anglican Communion that without prejudice to the final report of the Commission what the media likes to term the conservative view and the liberal view are being listened to, noted and taken fully into account. It is wrong for anyone to conclude that the Commission is listening only to one or the other. It is wrong to think that the Commission is more sympathetic to one view rather than to another. I have seen myself the pain of Anglicans who feel alienated by the actions of others within their own or other Provinces. I have seen the anxiety of those who feel alienated in their Province but want to remain in the Anglican Communion. This was presented to me in stark terms in the United States. No voice or cry is going unheard. We are meeting with some but listening to the many. The report next autumn will be as honest and as definitive a document as it is possible to present. But if we wish to maintain the Anglican Communion as a vibrant and faithful unity symbolic of the unity of Christians in Christ decisions on how we relate to each other will have to be made and we will need courage, vision and sensitivity.
Please continue to pray for the work of the Lambeth Commission."
I am grateful for your continued support on (and off) the Commission, and I am sure that you join with me in praying that God may guide us into the right way forward.
Yours very sincerely,
The Most Revd Robin Eames
Primate of all Ireland and chairman of the Lambeth Commission on Communion