This Sunday in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we pray for repentance, in line with the primates-endorsed call by the Task Group established by the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the request of the primates in 2016. In this blog, ACNS sets out the history of the Task Group’s work and explains the background to the call to prayer.
In January 2016, the primates of the Anglican Communion gathered together for the first time since 2011, for the first Primates’ Meeting called by Archbishop Justin Welby since he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
The meeting, held at Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, was called in part to address disagreements and division within the Anglican Communion. At it, the primates agreed to “walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ.”
The primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a Task Group to look at restoring relationships within the Anglican Communion. The task group, which included Anglicans from across the theological spectrum, presented its work in summary form to the October 2017 Primates’ Meeting, also in Canterbury, and its full report to the January 2020 Primates’ Meeting in Jordan.
One of its recommendations was for the fifth Sunday in Lent this year – 29 March – to be set aside as a time of prayer for repentance in the Anglican Communion.
The call to prayer is a call for the whole Anglican Communion to repent – not just particular factions of it; as Paul said in his letter to the Romans: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Describing her time on the Task Group, the Primate of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, said that she had “especially appreciated the opportunity, as colleagues in ministry, to share honestly and openly about the challenges and differences we were experiencing in our provinces in relationship to marriage and our social contexts.
“The opportunity to hear first-hand does change how we desire to respond. That led readily into a recognition that Anglicans in all circumstances could identify areas where repentance is needed in our relationships – not by pointing the finger at others in self-righteousness – but by inward reflection on our assumptions and judgements that have caused pain and hurt.”
The former Archbishop of South East Asia, the Bishop of West Malaysia, Moon Hing, said: “It pains to see the Communion going through ‘splits and dissension’. We cannot leave it without addressing the core issue ie, the sin of humankind.
“The Season of Prayers and Repentance is most appropriate to help bring us to the realisation that we must first set ourselves right with God and then only with one another. In the end of the day, no one is holier than the other, we all are sinners. We need to return to the Almighty to ‘walk before Him, and be blameless’ (Gen 17:1).
Bishop Moon Hing wrote a prayer on behalf of the Task Group for use on Sunday. This is published below, and is also available, along with other resources for the day, online at anglicancommunion.org/prayer.
The Anglican Communion: A Prayer for Repentance
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Sovereign Lord of the universe,
Creator of humankind,
we, your unfaithful children,
are truly sorry for our sins
and the lives that we have lived.
We sincerely believe and confess in our hearts
that only through the precious blood
of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary,
can we obtain your forgiveness.
We repent that:
in thought, word or deed,
we have committed serious offences against you
and our neighbours.
In laziness, despair and lust for power,
we have provoked hatred, division and hurt
within our communities.
In greed, deceit and indifference,
we have caused serious damage,
and aggravated destruction
to our refugee and migrant brothers and sisters.
In selfishness, insensitivity and bias,
we have encouraged and emboldened
those who inflict hurt, pain and sorrow
on our loved ones and families.
In the name of religion, doctrine
and even of Christ himself,
we have wounded believers and pursuers of holiness and faith.
In stubbornness, pride and arrogance,
we have caused division and strife within your church
and among your children.
Mercifully send Your Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of order and comfort,
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness;
restore in us true faith in Christ
which brings truth, peace and harmony;
and help us to walk together
with our brothers and sisters
in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to the glory of your name.