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Williams’ final address to ACC focuses on future of “authority”

Williams’ final address to ACC focuses on future of “authority”

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams has given his final presidential address as Archbishop of Canterbury to the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council drawing to a close in Auckland, New Zealand. Mary Frances Schjonberg and the Anglican Communion New Service have filed reports. The ACNS report includes an audio file of the address.

Episcopal News Service also compiled this digest.

Schjonberg writes:

Looking back over his 10 years in office, Williams said, it seemed to him “that every attempt we’ve made to pin down exactly how reactive or corrective authority works in our Anglican family has run into the sand in one way or another.”

And, the communion has realized “that frustration, that discovery that it’s actually very hard to find absolutely clear sources of authority, has to do, of course, with the fact that we are a family of churches, each one of which has its own ways of reacting, correcting and setting boundaries,” he said.

Williams said the New Testament does speak about “reactive or corrective” authority, but it also offers an alternative in the authority of Jesus that astonished observers when he performed “spectacular acts of liberation.”

“The authority in question is an authority to act and to make a difference,” he said. “An authority that enables and empowers.”

The Anglican Communion News Service report includes this:

Admitting that the Instruments of Communion are ‘less than they might be’ Archbishop Williams said examples of their desire to enable included such proactive projects as the Anglican Alliance, the Bible in the Life of the Church Project, Continuing Indaba, and promoting theological education. These were, he said, attempts by the Instruments to try and change a situation by being creative.

Archbishop Williams also suggested that younger Anglicans seemed more interested in one kind of authority over another.

“If you pick up and read the book by the young Anglican leaders who were present at the mission consultation in Edinburgh two years ago, you will see something of how a younger generation sees these questions,” he said. “I believe that for the authors of that book and those whom they represent, the vision of not only Anglican, but Christian structural fellowship has a great deal more to do with enabling authority than with absolute clarity about corrective authority.”

He added, “So we stand at a very interesting and I would dare to say, in spite of everything a very promising moment in our Communion, when we are thinking again about how our Instruments of Communion assist us to be the Church…how to be the Body of Christ. That’s what the Instruments have to serve.

“In other words, the Instruments of Communion are there so that our Anglican family and Anglican faithful will show to the world that the new creation truly is new, that the Church truly is different.”


Complete address is here.

What kind of future do you foresee for the so called Instruments of Communion? How should authority be constituted in the Communion?


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Rod Gillis

“What kind of future do you foresee for the so called Instruments of Communion?”

With apologies to Monty Python, no one ever expects the instruments of Communion.

jon white

I think I’d like to see is some kind of consensus around what is the Communion for before we can begin talking about what or how it might wield authority.

Is the Communion really anything more than a vehicle for people sharing a tradition to be in dialog? Or, is it meant to be some kind or arbitration body to define what exactly Anglicanism is? Or maybe i’st a vehicle for funding ministry throughout the world?

Until there is some agreement on it’s purpose I’d rather it continue without any actual authority at all.

Jon White

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