Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has given an impassioned lecture on why his US-based Episcopal Church needs world Anglicanism, by saying: “We need each other”. The public lecture was given earlier this month at the Centre for Anglican Communion Studies at the Virginia Theological Seminary, as part of a series of events marking the centre’s 20th anniversary. And he said that without the Anglican Communion, lives would be lost.
“I am here, and you are here, and this Communion exists, regardless of the historical circumstances that gave rise to it – I know all about the British Empire and it had nothing to do with religion – regardless of the historical circumstances that human beings had in mind, God had something else in mind. This Communion exists and we are here and this Church exists because we believe that Jesus of Nazareth has shown us a way beyond the chaos to community. He has shown us the way.”
He said that “The truth is . . . we need worldwide Anglicanism because lives are at stake”, before offering an explanation.
He told his audience that after the consecration of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, tension in the Anglican Communion had reached “fever pitch”. Following the consecration, the US House of Bishops met in New Orleans with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, members of the Anglican Consultative Council and staff from the Anglican Communion Office. “I remember the Archbishop saying something that I had not heard, I had not thought of, and I have not forgotten: he said ‘we need this Communion because without it some lives will be lost.’
“This Anglican Communion is one of the largest human service delivery systems in the world, just behind the Roman Catholic Church,” he said. “There are hospitals that would not happen without it. There are schools that would not happen without it. There are medical programmes and programmes that save people’s lives. People might die without it.
“This is not a recreational cruise ship. This Communion is about the life of the world, the life of the children of God: all of us. And it matters.”
He continued: “I’ve been with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in Ghana and I have seen where Christian Anglicans and Muslims are working together and training local clergy and imams in local communities so that they can engage gender-based violence, where women are subject to extreme violence and cruelty; and where local clergy can both intervene, provide safe means, and do the kind of education with men and with women to bring the scourge of violence against women to an end.
“I have seen it. And it happens because of the Anglican Communion.
“Do you really think that the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church in Ghana would really be paying attention to each other if we were not family?
“The truth is, we are an Anglican family. We may be dysfunctional, but God help us – we are family . . . and lives are saved because of it. And children are educated because of it.”
He continued: “It is so easy for Americans to think we are the centre of the world: that we are the biggest, and that we are the best. We aren’t exceptional. All God’s children are exceptional – and that’s bigger than America.
“But there is a sense that we easily focus just on ourselves, on our life and our role in the world; and forget that there's a world out there and we are a part of it.
“And we can’t survive without that world, and that world can't survive without us. We are interconnected, tied in networks of mutuality. . . What affects one here, effects all here. We are tied together.
“And I really believe that a spiritual practice for us as Episcopalians – at least in the US – a profound spiritual practice is to learn that we are catholic church-folk: that it is not just us, that we are part of a worldwide communion and fellowship of faith, of folk who follow the way of Jesus, and they are our brothers and they are our sisters. We need that for our soul's salvation. And without that, we are lost.
“Why does the Episcopal Church need worldwide Anglicanism? The truth is, we need each other.”
The lecture was live-streamed on the internet by VTS, and is available to watch on their YouTube channel.