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Challenges facing the new Archbishop of Canterbury

From Anglican Ink – A letter from Dr Mouneer Anis, The Presiding Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East

Millions of people in the Anglican Communion are focusing at this time on the Enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. For us, Canterbury is of great historical significance because it was the starting point of Anglicanism.

I am among many who appreciated the contribution of Archbishop Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, during the last ten years. I am also sure that he will continue to contribute through his new post as a Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

It is our duty now to pray for Archbishop Justin as he is about to carry a heavy responsibility for the years to come and without God’s strength and grace it will be difficult, and even impossible, to cope with all of these responsibilities.

One of his responsibilities is towards the Anglican Communion which is currently suffering from impaired and broken relationships. Archbishop Justin will definitely need to accurately diagnose the reasons for these divisions in order to come up with the correct treatment. Oneof the first challenges he will face is to understand how the nature of the Anglican Communion has changed in the last decades. Statistics show that there are now more Anglicans in the “South” than in the “North.” There are also big theological gaps between the “South” and the “North.” The understanding of this new nature should help the new Archbishop to use a more collegial and participatory approach, rather than a central approach,when dealing with matters of the Communion.

In regard to the theological gap, it is indeed important that the church learn how to be relevant to the modern society where we live, but without adopting the values of the society that clearly contradict Scripture, our tradition and reason. Part of our DNA as Anglicans is a desire for unity and ecumenism. For this reason, we should not act in a way that widens the gap between us and our ecumenical partners.

With ever-increasing pressure from the society, the church needs not to be politically correct at the expense of the truth. The church resisted this from the early centuries and preferred to be faithful to the Gospel, even if this led to persecution and martyrdom. We are called to be “salt” and “light.” In other words, we are called to be distinctive. The modern societies of the “West” or “North” are pushing many issues, including same-sex marriages and civil partnerships. Should the church yield to the pressure of these societies and compromise the truth? I personally think that these issues are superficial symptoms of a much deeper illness which attempts to shake the foundation of our faith. This illness puts into question the essentials of faith like the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the doctrine of salvation. It ignores the primacy of Scripture and 2,000 years of church tradition. It is a spirit of individualism and cultural pride that ignores the fact that the whole truth is revealed to the whole church.

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