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Archbishop's Address at Signing of Anglican-Methodist Covenant

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  • umcornet
    November 2, 2003 Archbishop of Canterbury s Address at the Signing of an Anglican- Methodist Covenant [ACNS source: Lambeth Palace] At his first meeting with
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2003
      November 2, 2003
      Archbishop of Canterbury's Address at the Signing of an Anglican-
      Methodist Covenant

      [ACNS source: Lambeth Palace] At his first meeting with leaders of
      the Jewish community in Rome, Pope John XXIII, it's said, greeted
      them with the words, "I am Joseph, your brother". He was evoking one
      of the most poignant moments in the Old Testament: Joseph, whose
      arrogance had provoked the resentment and rejection of his brothers,
      is carried off into exile and slavery, then rises to great power. He
      finds that this power is given to him so that he can save the lives
      of his brothers when they come to him, not knowing him, begging him
      for help; and at last he reveals who he is: "I am Joseph, your

      The application of this to Jewish-Christian relations is perhaps not
      as straightforward as the Pope's generous instincts might have
      suggested. But the point we might want to think about today is how
      the providence of God works in and through even our divisions. Just
      over two centuries ago, the insensitivity and missionary sluggishness
      of the Church of England provoked a dramatic act of protest from John
      Wesley; and our two families began to grow apart. Yet in those
      centuries of separation, don't we have to say that both of our church
      communities have been given gifts and have learned lessons that we
      might not have learned or received had this never happened? As we now
      take this significant step in our growing together again, we do so
      not in the pretence that two hundred years have been wasted, or that
      we can go back to where we were. We have all, in the intervening
      years, discovered things about Christ and his Kingdom that we are now
      eager to share with each other, as brothers and sisters working to
      overcome the distant legacy of arrogance and resentment.

      Wesley was a very reluctant protester - a loyal conservative High
      Churchman, expert in the Greek Fathers and the French mystics, he was
      no natural rebel. He would have been as honoured and delighted as are
      we all today to see Her Majesty the Queen witnessing and praying with
      us on such an occasion, marking the full involvement of the Church of
      England in this reconciling moment through the participation of its
      Supreme Governor. Yet Wesley came to the point where he believed that
      he and his followers could only be fully obedient to Jesus Christ if
      they took the risk of separation. No-one can easily pass judgement on
      this costly decision, and no-one is seeking to do so; what we can be
      sure of is that by God's direction it bore fruit in witness and
      transforming service to the Kingdom of God in this nation and far

      It is an irony that as we celebrate this new mutuality today, we also
      as Anglicans face new tensions and divisions, with those on both
      sides of our current troubles believing that obedience calls them to
      a risky break with what we have thought of as orthodoxy and good
      order. But perhaps this celebration is timely after all in God's
      purpose. It is a reminder that when we can no longer see how to hold
      together, God will still teach us in our separateness; and one day we
      shall be led, in both thankfulness and repentance, to share with one
      another what we have learned apart; to bring to one another a history
      not without its shadows and stresses, but still one in which
      something quite distinctive has been learned. And if all God's gifts
      are given to be shared, we have no option finally but to offer them
      to each other in reconciliation.

      God be thanked, then, even for our years of separation. Gifts have
      been given that can never be forgotten or laid aside, because God
      uses every opportunity of loving zeal and devotion to Jesus Christ to
      pour out his abundance. Thanks to our brothers and sisters for the
      good news their history proclaims to us; but thanks again to God for
      the even better news that our growth together will bring to the
      Church and the world.

      The Most Revd Rowan Williams
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