Last week, the Anglican Communion met for a weeklong summit held in Canterbury.
The most noteworthy decision that resulted from the summit was the primates’ move to sanction the Episcopal Church due to due to conflicting views on gay marriage. The three-year sanction will suspend Episcopal leaders from from international Anglican committees and from decision-making for the 85-million-member fellowship.
Archbishop Justin Welby published a brief reflection on last week’s talks Thursday, just a week after the sanction was announced, describing the summit as one of the most extraordinary weeks he's ever experienced.
Before the week began, senior leaders within the Anglican Communion were keenly aware of the high stakes at play.
Though the subject of gay marriage was expected to dominate the summit, Archbishop Welby had initially proposed that the communion become something like a loose “federation” that would allow for opposing views while maintaining unity.
Amid the talks of a potential split and threatened walkouts by participating bishops, the end result — a unified decision — was a welcome surprise for many that bolstered the overall strength of the collective church.
In his reflection published on the Lambeth Palace website, Welby said:
Last week the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in Canterbury for a week of prayer and discussion. You might well have been following the events in the media. I want to share some thoughts of my own here about what took place last week — which was without doubt one of the most extraordinary weeks I have ever experienced.
Welby credited the unified outcome to the fact “the week was completely rooted in prayer.”
“I want to thank everyone who prayed last week,” he wrote. “We felt it and we appreciated it deeply.”
He shared that the Community of St. Anselm, an international Christian youth community based at Lambeth Palace, “took up residence in Canterbury Cathedral and prayed all day every day for the Primates as we talked together.”
The primates in attendance also gathered for morning prayer, eucharist and song in the cathedral daily.
“And meanwhile thousands — perhaps millions — of Anglicans and others in the Christian family around the world prayed in churches and posted prayers on social media,” he wrote.
Discussing how the church plans to move forward, Welby said, “It's clear in Christian teaching that it's not for us to divide the body of Christ, which is the church, but also that we must seek to make decisions bearing each other in mind, taking each other seriously, loving one another despite deep differences of view”
Welby noted that committing to such a corporate understanding “is always costly” and “always painful.”
“We are a global family of churches in 165 countries, speaking over a thousand languages and living in hundreds of different cultures — how could we not wound each other as we seek to hold together amidst great diversity?”
He explained that such differences inevitably result in the occasional “wounds,” but stressed the role of repentance for aggressions that wound those “who are especially vulnerable, whether they are LGBTI people or those menaced by religiously-motivated violence, terrorism and exile.”
Welly ended his reflection by suggesting that the discussions on gay marriage and other controversial issues are far from over, stating, "There will be plenty more to say on this in the coming weeks and months."
Later this year, the Church of England will convene to discuss the issue of sexuality at its governing body general synod. Disagreements over the appointments of gay clergy are already among topics to be addressed.