pastoral letter from the Primates of the Anglican Communion
meeting in Gramado, Brazil
May 27, 2003
note: In their first gathering with the Most Rev. Rowan Williams,
the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the leaders of the worldwide Anglican
Communion deliberated together on a number of topics. Perhaps the
most-anticipated of these was the question of the Church's view
of unions between persons of the same gender, an issue which threatens
to divide the North American provinces from the rest of the Communion.
This letter deals in part with that issue.)
The Primates of the Anglican Communion send this pastoral letter
to all bishops, clergy and people of our churches, with the desire
that it be read or distributed at public worship on the Feast of
have called you friends." (John 15.15)
in Common Prayer and Witness
our sisters and brothers of the Anglican Communion: Greetings in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
We met as Primates of the Anglican Communion in Gramado, Southern
Brazil from 19th to 26th May 2003, at the invitation of the Igreja
Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, to bring before God our common life
as the Anglican Communion and to take counsel together on the life
of our churches. Five Primates were unable to be with us, and we
prayed especially for the Archbishop and people of the Hong Kong
Sheng Kung Hui, facing the difficulties of the SARS situation.
gathered first and foremost in a spirit of common prayer and worship,
listening for the voice of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures
and manifested in the lives of our communities. We give thanks to
God for what was shared among us - for the welcome of the Brazilian
Church; for the music and worship led by local Christians; for the
Bible studies led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams;
for the theological reflections by Dr Esther Mombo and Professor
David Ford; and for the stories of witness and Christian discipleship
from across the Anglican Communion.
particular, we listened to stories of the growth of our churches
in mission, of the creation of new dioceses and provinces and of
the fruits of discipleship. They reflect the richness of our diversity
across the globe, and the abundant resources of the Gospel to address
all people in all situations.
heard accounts of how many people, including faithful Anglicans
have faced extreme situations of natural disaster, disease, the
threat of terrorism, social unrest, war and its aftermath. We were
moved by stories of Christian witness:
- in Sudan,
where the Episcopal Church faces the huge challenge of helping
to transform a culture of war to a culture of peace;
other African nations, such as Burundi and the Congo, where despite
war, death and disease, the Anglican Church is courageously expanding
its mission in circumstances of deprivation and hardship;
- in the Holy Land, where we are saddened by the unbroken chain
of violence but encouraged by some recent signs of progress towards
a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict;
- in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the humanitarian crisis is in
many ways worse than before the recent conflicts, and where we
see a need for greater United Nations involvement in repairing
- in some island states in the Pacific, where the Anglican Church
is playing a peacemaking role in conditions of great political
instability and corruption.
thank God for the courage and wisdom that he has given in these
situations, and affirm our solidarity with all who face alienation,
persecution or injustice. We are mindful of those who live out their
Christian faith as small minorities within their societies.
give thanks for our life together in the Anglican Communion, for
the way in which churches of the Communion support one another and,
in particular, for the contribution which the Episcopal Church (USA)
continues to give to many provinces across our Communion. We send
our brotherly greetings to George and Eileen Carey, with thanksgiving
for all they achieved in their ministry among us.
rejoice in the fellowship we share with other churches and denominations,
at the same time recognising that any true ecumenical endeavour
has to be built on the mutual recognition and respect which we must
accord each other as fellow members of the Body of Christ.
take to heart the words of Dr Esther Mombo, who urged us to "talk
to each other rather than about each other". We welcomed our brother
in Christ, Rowan Williams, to his first meeting with us as Archbishop
of Canterbury. We listened to him as he shared some of the priorities
for his ministry. As reflected in the agenda of our meeting, these
education, which is facing different kinds of crisis in all provinces;
- The continuing
engagement of our churches with HIV/AIDS;
- The nature of communion itself and, in particular, how we might
be drawn together and renewed in an Anglican Gathering.
is our conviction that all Anglican Christians should be theologically
alert and sensitive to the call of God. We should all be thoughtful
and prayerful in reading and hearing the Holy Scriptures, both in
the light of the past and with an awareness of present and future
discussed what basic standards of theological education should be
provided for and expected from all members of the Church. All regions
face major challenges in this area, particularly in the provision
of resources in non-English speaking provinces, and we considered
how these should be met.
recognise that there is a distinctive Anglican approach to theological
study. This is reflected not only in the way our worship and liturgical
life express our belief, and in our attention to Scripture read
in the light of tradition, but also in our respect for exploration
education in the Anglican Communion honours each local context and,
at the same time, calls us together into communion and mutual accountability.
Therefore, though we wish to develop common standards of theological
education worldwide, we value the uniqueness of the work of the
Holy Spirit in each place.
of the Archbishop of Canterbury and, with him, convinced of this
need, we affirm and encourage the work of the Anglican Communion
Task Group on Theological Education.
pondered the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on our lives and in
our communities and provinces as we shared our experiences and sorrows.
HIV tears at the very fabric of our nations and homes. We admitted
that the "Body of Christ has AIDS".
to the teachings of the Church, we determined to engage more deeply
in challenging cultures and traditions which stifle the humanity
of women and deprive them of equal rights. We agreed that our greatest
challenge is to nurture and equip our children to protect themselves
from HIV, so that we can fulfill the vision of building a generation
is not a punishment from God, for God does not visit disease and
death upon his people: it is rather an effect of fallen creation
and our broken humanity. We were reminded at our meeting that Christ
calls us into community as friends so that we might befriend others
in his name. In that spirit, we resolved to build on what has already
been achieved and to re-commit our efforts, prayers and support
for all who are living with, and dying from, the effects of HIV/AIDS.
Shared Communion in Christ
Primates, we believe that the 38 provinces and united churches in
the Anglican Communion are irrevocably called into a special relationship
of fellowship with one another. We thank God for our common inheritance
of faith, worship and discipleship - an inheritance which has sustained
our journey as one Christian family, and in which we have been united
in our proclamation of the Gospel.
recognise that all churches, and not just Anglicans, face challenges
in applying the Gospel to their specific situations and societies.
These challenges raise questions for our traditional teaching and
understanding - questions which require of the Church a careful
process of thought and discussion in order to discover a way forward
that is true to our inheritance of faith in Christ and to our duty
as Christians to care for all people.
the Virginia Report's exhortation that we should strive for "the
highest degree of communion possible with tolerance for deeply held
differences of conviction and practice" (Report of the Inter-Anglican
Theological and Doctrinal Commission, 1997, chapter 1), we are committed
- to the recognition
that in each province there is a sincere desire to be faithful
disciples of Christ and of God's Word, in seeking to understand
how the Gospel is to be applied in our generation;
- to respect
the integrity of each other's provinces and dioceses, acknowledging
the responsibility of Christian leaders to attend to the pastoral
needs of minorities in their care;
- to work
and pray that the communion between our churches is sustained
and deepened; and to seek from God "a right judgement in all things"
(Collect of Pentecost).
take seriously the duty laid upon us by the Lambeth Conference 1998
to monitor ongoing discussion of this matter and encourage continued
study and reflection in the context of common prayer and worship.
We are grateful to the Archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez,
for taking forward our discussion on matters of sexuality by introducing
the booklet "True Union in the Body?", which fruitfully illuminated
our study. We are also grateful to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold
for drawing our attention to the Report of the Theology Committee
of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) on this issue.
We commend the study of both documents.
question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is
still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop
of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy
that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological
consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot
support the authorisation of such rites.
is distinct from the duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all
Christians to respond with love and understanding to people of all
sexual orientations. As recognised in the booklet "True Union",
it is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations
of individual pastoral care.
discussed the proposal for an Anglican Gathering of lay and ordained
people, drawn from all parts of our Communion, which could be held
in association with the next Lambeth Conference.
would be significant financial costs, but we firmly believe that
such an event would offer the Communion an important opportunity
to renew its life, witness and mission together. The Archbishop
of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has offered to welcome a Gathering
and the Lambeth Conference in Cape Town , which has the facilities
for such events. We encouraged the Archbishop of Canterbury to move
ahead with planning for the Gathering in 2008. This would be an
occasion for celebration, learning and the deepening of our communion.
been renewed in the fellowship of our meeting, we invite Anglicans
everywhere to pray with us. In his Bible studies, the Archbishop
of Canterbury spoke of the joy we have as friends of God in Christ.
"Jesus' joy is given to us", he said, "so that we might become nourishing
to one another, nurturing and feeding one another in the Body of
Christ." It is this vision of the rich blessings to be found in
the fellowship of Christ's Body that inspires us.
thanks to God for the vibrant life of the Brazilian Church; for
the diversity of the Anglican Communion, with its 75 million Christians,
witnessing in 164 countries in a thousand languages; and for the
faithful and courageous witness of Anglicans as they seek to bring
God's love into situations of hardship, danger and despair. Pray
that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Anglican Communion may
everywhere be a faithful witness to what God has done in Christ,
and to the abundant fullness of life to which he calls us.
fire of love which binds together the Father and the Son be shed
abroad in our hearts by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and renew
us in our lives and in our discipleship; and the blessing of God
Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you
and remain with you always.