(This article first appeared in the November issue of the Anglican Journal.)
On a Saturday morning in mid-September, I was seated with three other people, forming a panel at a meeting of the board of ATR (Anglican Theological Review), a quarterly publication well known for its articles, poetry and book reviews. We were invited to speak to the subject of “testing the bonds of affection” and to offer some reflections on the state of relations within and among the churches of the Anglican Communion.
While we acknowledged concerns about tensions over any number of matters and our grief over impaired relations between some churches, we noted the blessings of indaba-that manner of speaking and listening and learning from one another with far less rancour and much more patience. We heard first-hand testimony of the growth in understanding and respect among Canadian and African bishops who have been in dialogue for several years. We celebrated the many companion diocese relationships that have transcended-and in some cases transformed-relations across the Communion.
One of our panelists, Eugene Sutton, The Episcopal Church bishop of Maryland, said that he is heartened every week by what he calls that great “nevertheless” moment in the liturgy. Knowing he had grabbed our attention, he paused, and with a twinkle in his eye leaned forward and said, “You know, that moment when we all say, ‘We believe’ “:
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty…
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…
We believe in the Holy Spirit…
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church…” (The Nicene Creed)
Yes, no matter how endearing or strained our relations with one another may be, “we believe.”
This confession of faith that we make in the Nicene Creed crosses theological and cultural divides. It spans vast diversity in biblical perspective and pastoral outlook. And not only that, it unites us with all the generations of the church that have gone before us and all those who will come after us.
Like Eugene, I am heartened by this “nevertheless” moment, and I hope you are also.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.