A reflection on the Windsor Report by Bishop David Beetge

The Rt. Rev. David Beetge, Bishop of the Diocese of the Highveld in the Province of Southern Africa was a member of the Lambeth Commission, the group that wrote the Windsor Report. He writes, in the Passiontide reflection, that the experience has never left him. Have a look:

The Windsor Report – A reflection by a member of the

Lambeth Commission

I recently attended an HIV/AIDS consultation at St George’s Windsor and memories of two meetings of Lambeth Commission came flooding back. The experience of being part of the Lambeth Commission has never left me and I have constantly thought of our report and the impact it might have on our Communion especially when reading the many comments and reviews that have been written on the Windsor Report.

Of one thing I am now even more certain. We, as Anglicans, need space and time to consider the way forward. Perhaps a time of holy waiting that is so clearly described in the second letter of Peter:

“But there is one thing, my dear friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.”

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St Ignatius of Loyola always warned against taking decisions that are a change of direction in a time of desolation. And it is true that we are in such a time where relationships between us have broken down, where suspicion has replaced trust and where we are categorizing one another in ways that are both simplistic and which fail to take into account the complexity of the situation. Within the last year I have attended both the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham and the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Porto Alegre and I have tried to listen to both the Anglican Communion and the Ecumenical Church struggle to be faithful and obedient to the Gospel of Christ in a complex world that, despite being described as a Global Village, is more complicated than we are often prepared to admit. Yet, each part of this world is trying so hard to understand what it means to be faithful to Christ in very different contexts.

As I reflect on this I realize:

• the issues facing that part of the Anglican Communion often referred to as the ‘Global South’ are highly complex. Often the Anglican Communion in these parts is being seen as adopting a fundamentalist approach to the interpretation of Scripture and our faith. This is too simplistic and inaccurate. The issues facing this part of our Communion need to be listened to and understood in a more sympathetic way than has happened up to now. Issues such as poverty, colonialism, debt, exploitation of resources, multi-faith challenges and culture are just some of the major issues facing this region. These issues need to be addressed as we find time and space to listen to the stories of the people in this part of God’s world. Facing the issues I have mentioned and others, day in and day out is a heavy burden and yet the Church in these parts has a spirituality that is vibrant and exciting and can be a gift to the Church in other parts of the world. The Anglican Church in these parts has much to offer the Anglican Communion and more ways need to be found for it to make this contribution. Let us never deny either the complexity of the situation with all its historical roots and the current challenges and the desire to be faithful to Christ.

• The issues facing the Church in other parts of the world are also demanding and challenging. From the meetings I have attended at the W.C.C. I have come to see that the issue of human sexuality is not just an issue imposed on the Anglican Communion by ECUSA and Canada but is an issue for other churches in those countries as well as in many other parts of the world e.g. Europe and Scandanavia. So it is too simplistic to see it in terms of the two provinces of ECUSA and Canada as forcing their will on the rest of the Communion. To do so is to deny the fact that this is an issue beyond those two provinces and beyond the Anglican Communion as well. The life lived in modern societies is far more complex than we often admit. Let us never deny the complexity of these societies and the desire of those churches to be faithful to Christ.

• It is too simplistic to write off one another with labels. To do so denies our unity in Christ that is a gift we receive at our Baptism despite the many differences that context, situation, history, culture and so many other factors impose upon us. Unity is never easy and it is never cheap. There are no easy answers and there are certainly no easy solutions. But I remain convinced that there can be solutions that would enable everyone to continue to follow Christ in a spirit of sacrificial love with courage and integrity. Such solutions will not be easily found. They will be a gift from God which will come from giving one another space and time to listen and to speak to one another so that that “still, small voice” would lead us into new ways and into deeper truths. No-one possesses the whole truth. We need each other so that the Holy Spirit, promised to us by Jesus, will lead us into God’s way and God’s truth.

Space and time are not part of the culture of our modern world. Our world demands instant answers, instant solutions and instant decisions. Is this not the time for us, as an Anglican Communion, to stand against the culture of our day and “to come and see” where Christ dwells in each of us?

In his book ‘Exclusion and Embrace’ Miroslav Volf writes:

“The right design and the final argument can be, must be, and will be found”, is modernity’s credo (Bauman 1993, 9). The “wisdom of the cross”, to the contrary, teaches that ultimately salvation does not come either from the “miracle” of the right design or from the “wisdom” of the final argument. We cannot and ought not dispense with “design” and “argument”. But if “design” and “argument” are not to create larger wounds than the ones they are seeking to heal, “design” and “argument” will themselves need to be healed by the “weakness” and “foolishness” of the self-giving love. This “weakness” is “stronger” than social control and this “foolishness” is “wiser” than rational thought.”

Such wisdom from the cross needs space and time. I pray that we will create such space and time to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into ways that, as yet, we might not know but into which God will lead us.



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