From the Archbishop
The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop
The 18th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) which took place in February of this year in Ghana, is one of the ‘Instruments of Communion’ by which we Anglicans order our life together as autonomous provinces, forming a global fellowship of churches in 165 countries across the world.
The ACC, which meets every three years, is the only one of the Instruments of Communion to include Lay people and clergy as well as bishops. Unlike some branches of the church, we have never subscribed to the idea that bishops alone govern the Church of God, trusting that the Spirit animates the whole household of faith and reveals the Christlike God to the whole company of the baptised.
The theme of ACC 18 was the Five Marks of Mission - Today and Tomorrow. We know them well, and would do well to commit them to memory.
- To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom Tell
- To teach baptise and nurture new believers Teach
- To respond to human need by loving service Tend
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society Transform
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew and sustain the life of the earth Treasure
Listening to one another, hearing from members of commissions and networks and working groups on matters concerning each of the marks of mission, is one way Anglicans discover what unites us across all our differences – across the divisions of language and culture and history, one way we work cooperatively and prayerfully alongside each other. Whether it is developing and promoting theological and practical resources on mission and evangelism, supporting and strengthening ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, reaching out to care for churches in places of war, conflict or natural disaster, we seek to tell the good news of Jesus together, teach holy scripture, explore theology, tend those in need, address injustice, and treasure God’s creation. Sometimes this conversation is straightforward and easy, sometimes complicated and difficult, sometimes heart breaking, sometimes heart binding, and always marvellous.
At ACC 18, all of us were transformed when together we visited a slave castle on the Cape Coast. The Atlantic slave trade was an almost unimaginably brutal period in human history, and a blindly shameful period in church history. For around 200 years, millions of Africans were taken from their homes and transported to the Americas and Caribbean. The slave castle we visited was one of many such fortified structures along the West African coast, used to house human beings in inhuman conditions before they were loaded into ships bound for the so-called new world.
Everything about this slave castle was horrifying. Imprisoned in cramped quarters, with little in the way of food or water or sanitation, untold numbers died from disease and violence. One of the most chilling sights was a doorway known as the Door of No Return. Once people were marched through that door they were leaving everyone and everything behind, to be known thereafter as slaves only, people owned by other people.
One African American bishop with us at ACC 18 told us something the next day of what it meant to realise that the steps leading to the chapel went straight past an open grill under which was the men’s dungeon. Speaking of the missionary society which operated the castle and the chapel, he said, ‘It is not a gospel I recognize. It is not the good news of Jesus Christ our Saviour that the Bible proclaims, and not the gospel of the love of Christ that I committed my life to when I was 17 years old. It is not a gospel marked by God’s mercy, compassion and justice, but one that results in demonization, hatred, violence, and death’.
As we come to Holy Week and the great Fifty Days of Easter again, I cannot get out of my mind and prayer the ‘Door of No Return’ - and its familiarity in so many contexts and parts of the world. In his arrest and trial and absolute humiliation on the cross, Jesus went ahead of us into a place of no return, into the unknown, into oblivion, the annihilation of death.
And yet ... and then ... and now ... new life in Christ is ours to live into.
In his selflessness, his steadfastness, his trust, his determination to go on loving, we glimpse as nowhere else God’s mercy and truth, the wonder and strength and tenderness of God’s love, living through Christ, our hope and strength.
At ACC 18, Anglicans from all around the world were discovering together new ways to tell, teach, tend, transform and treasure, just as we do right here in celebrating the Easter mystery, stepping out into God’s new day. Alleluia! Christ is risen! And there is deep and real hope that we can be Good News as we break bread together, and welcome everyone to share the feast.