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Bishop Frederick Borsch remarks at Section Three plenary - 6 August 1998

Posted on: August 8, 1998 2:08 PM
Related Categories: Bp Borsch, Lambeth Conference 1998

Bishop Frederick Borsch
Diocese of Los Angeles
Chair of Section Three

What holds the Anglican Communion together? In the work of Section Three we found that it is much more than Wippells. Through our prayer and song, our scriptural study and the sharing of our stories of faith, and stories of pain and hope, in our theological reflection together, we sought to discern once more how, by speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in every way into the one who is the head, in Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

Though we are many, we all share in the same bread of life.

We heard stories of how faithful hearing of scripture in South Africa gave courage and steadfastness and overcame powers and false use of scripture upholding apartheid.

We heard stories of churches being burned by fundamentalists of other religions and yet of an Anglican priest and his family reaching out to help Christians of another denomination even while their own church and home were burning.

We heard of a bishop whose daughter was killed in a car bombing.

We heard of a poor diocese in South America taking up collections for disciples in Rwanda.

We heard many stories of Christians becoming richer by sharing with one another.

Often we heard of churches in struggling areas giving to others, of sharing in theological education and clergy training and putting on generous meals for each other and others.

We groaned at hearing stories of churches too ingrown on themselves, locked up in maintenance rather than mission.

We laughed as we admitted mistakes we had made, hard lessons learned in bishoping and repented of shortsightedness and sin.

A bishop from the USA told of going to Ghana and being enchanted when he saw the people-not sitting solemnly in their pews at the time of the offering-but dancing forward, singing and bringing their gifts, breaking the hold of money and anxiety's greed. And then telling of going back to the USA and trying that out on his diocesan congregation.

We stressed the significance of the ministry of all the baptised, how all are together called and authorised for ministries of worship, evangelisation, forgiveness, reconciliation, service and justice.

We discussed new developments in mutual ministry-in local ordained ministries, in team ministries of lay and clergy, in non-stipendiary and stipendiary ministries-and the training and support for them.

We upheld the development of the diaconate in a number of dioceses of the Communion.

And we discussed our roles and ministries as bishops-in changing circumstances, in different cultures.

We looked at each word of our theme Called to be a Faithful Church in a Plural World.

We reflected on a world-God's world-of such great cultural and human diversity, remembering that this has been true from the beginning of our faith-and that much of Christian dynamism-deep in the New Testament itself-has come from the challenge and opportunity to offer the Gospel of Jesus-the Good News of the liberating reign-the life, death and new life of Jesus-to many peoples and cultures.

These are also our challenge and opportunity today-in a rapidly changing world-which at other levels is being brought together by forces good and bad-McWorlding, Disneyfication, McDonaldizing, homogenised by music, media, entertainment, e-mail, video, travel, advertising, consumerism, television, individualism within mass cultures, urbanisation, changing and challenging cultures in which our young people are growing up and where we are called to offer them opportunities for prayer, worship, community, belonging, ministry and service. We are called by our very tradition to share the Gospel fully within our many contemporary cultures-within changing and sometimes hybrid cultures-where many people are also immigrants and refugees.

In a diocese like Los Angeles where many more than 100 languages are spoken and 17 million people live, we yet know that the Christian faith has also been and is critical of many aspects of culture, from caste systems and racism to prostitution, slavery, unbridled capitalism, materialism, militarism, male privilege over women and children, nationalism and over-zealous patriotism, religious, ethnic and cultural intolerance-indeed, not respecting the dignity, the value, the basic needs of very human being. Culture has been and still can be-but ought not to be-an excuse for not fully following our often counter cultural faith.

We had to look at cultures and a world-East and West, North and South-where a corrosive relativism-a questioning of any and all values-faithlessness and even cynicism, deconstruction and rootlessness-are invasive and sometimes which we are called to set forth, to proclaim, to share and to enact the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ-the logos of God-"without whom not one thing came into being" and who is "the way, the truth, and the life."

Many of these concerns, hopes, and ideas we have tried to set before you and our Communion in our Report and in our resolutions-holding up also support for marriage and family life-and reflecting on how through better dialogue and sharing-by condemning persecution and violence from any religion and calling for basic rights to freedom of worship and faith practice-we can, with others, better live and serve in one modern world. These and other matters discussed in our theological reflections and recommendations were given to us by the regional meetings around the . . . as matters of interest and urgency.

We trust that a number of our calls to ministry and service-which are on the agreed list of resolutions-will call forth as well an echo and a response from you.

As a church in a plural world with diversity in one incarnate life, we were called in our Section also to look at the work of the Eames process and Commission-which we commended-while advocating a continuing openness of process throughout our Communion.

Recognising the many ways that the Communion is linked and joined in koinonia we also commended much of the Virginia Report. Knit together by the primary role of Scripture and the Spirit-filled use of reason to interpret it in our challenging ... world, we understand that we are joined also by creeds, the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, by our valuing of the historic episcopate, by patterns of worship, by hymns, and by prayer and the communion of the saints, the witness of the heroes and heroines of our history and the sharing of the stories of our faith. Our interdependence is deepened through exchanges of friendship between our dioceses and by service to others in the name of Christ.

In this koinonia we value the four instruments of Communion. Recognising the principle of subsidiarity-that is, that most issues in church life are dealt with at local and other levels, the personal and convening role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the collegiality of the Primates, the consultants of the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council all have valued and significant subsidiary roles in our common life.

We resolved and recommended to you that-in today's world-these roles could be properly enhanced by stressing the representative role of the Primates and recognising their ability to meet more often and to consult more flexibly and also to link them into the ACC by asking them to be the episcopal members.

But we conclude where we began-in our prayer and worship and service together-and in affirming that our true communion as a church, seeking to be faithful in this plural world, is a gift of the God who is our source and destiny, our Lord Jesus and the Spirit of all life-one God-to whom we give our thanksgiving and praise now and on into the age to come.

Though we are many we all share in the same bread of life.

And so we offer to you, then, with thanks to all section members and consultants, the work of Section Three, our report, now altered a bit in several places thanks to comments and suggestions from some of you and without an addendum (also revised, will now find its way into a con-Conference liturgical report) and our resolutions.