Back to results

Conferece 2008 - Section C: Human and Social Justice

43.  God’s mission is holistic; its orientation is toward the redemption of the whole of creation[13].  For Anglicans, indeed the whole Church, the Gospel is not just the proclamation of individual redemption and renewal, but the renewal of society under the Reign of God; the ending of injustice and the restoration of right relationship with God and between human beings and between humanity and creation. We recognise that social justice issues and global relationships are very complex and powerful.

44.  The Gospel given to us by Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth demands our commitment to the poor, the marginalised, the exploited, refugees, indigenous peoples, the internally displaced and victims of war, terror and natural disaster.[14] We recognise the critical need to reaffirm, develop and strengthen our responsibility to the powerless, who have no voice.  We are saddened and challenged by the fact that it is often women and children who are powerless and marginalised in our world. We want to encourage the good work that is already happening in many Provinces, with the support of other Provinces in our Communion. We also noted the amount of good that is already happening in many Provinces. These stories need to be told, affirmed and communicated to better effect. We need to establish a new Anglican Global Relief and Development Agency, as a matter of urgency, to co-ordinate and resource our commitment to the voiceless. We urge the Churches and Provinces of the Communion to pray without ceasing.[15]

45. The Millennium Development Goals are seen as an essential framework for engaging with social justice issues across the Communion at Provincial, Diocesan and Parish level. We recognise the theological imperatives underpinning the Millennium Development Goals. We need to clarify and state those imperatives clearly and help each other to engage with and act upon them as best we can.  As part of our response to our Lord’s command to speak for the poor, the conference was unanimous in its acceptance of the invitation of Archbishop Rowan and other religious leaders, to join them in a march of witness from Whitehall to Lambeth Palace. This was an inspiring occasion, not least by the conference being addressed, in an informed, impassioned and personal speech by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown. Hellen Wangusa, the Anglican Communion’s Observer to the United Nations, was present and addressed the gathering.  In a letter presented to the Prime Minister on behalf of the bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote:  “Because our faith challenges us to eradicate poverty, and not merely reduce it, we should be all the more alarmed that ... most of these achievable targets will not be met. The cause is not lack of resources, but a lack of global political will.  When they meet in New York at the United Nations on 25th September, world leaders must find greater political commitment to addressing poverty and inequality. A timetable for achieving the MDGs by 2015 needs to be created. Our leaders need to invest in and strengthen their partnership with the Church worldwide, so that its extensive delivery network for education and health care, along side other faiths, is fully utilised in the eradication of extreme poverty."

46.  Individuals are held within the life of a family from birth to death. Anglicans affirm the place and goal of healthy family life for all, in terms of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Families are part of the family of God as well as part of a larger community. All God’s children, male and female, are equal before God and deserve to be treated equally with respect to health care, education and emotional and spiritual support. There should be no abuse of power within family life – especially in families who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. As Anglicans we are called to have a personal Rule of Life. The old saying, “The family that prays together, stays together”, can form the basis for a family rule of life that focuses the family on the centrality of Jesus Christ, with respect for each other as God’s children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Inter Anglican Family Network supports work on families around the Communion.

47.  Jesus called the children to himself, and in our time we must extend our charity to the children of the world.  Sexual exploitation in its varied expressions must not be tolerated.  We work for the day when child pornography and the commercial sexualisation of children comes to an end.  In God’s kingdom no child will serve as a soldier, or slave, or labourer, but be set free from poverty, violence and their many manifestations.

48. The spouses of the Lambeth Conference took responsibility for planning a joint day of purposeful conversation on the place of power as abuse within society as well as in the church.  Helped by addresses from Jane Williams, Jenny Plane Te Paa and Gerald West the conference considered the issues of violence and redemption located in the scriptural passage from 2 Samuel 2:13-22; the story of Tamar, the daughter of David, raped by her half brother Amnon.   A dramatic presentation by the Riding Lights Theatre Company assisted the Conference as we considered the ways in which the characters in the biblical text were involved in the abuse of power.

49. The violence meted out to women and children within the body of Christ is violence done to the body of Christ.  Violence takes many forms including physical, financial, emotional, psychological, intellectual, cultural, sexual and spiritual abuse. Women and children suffer disproportionately from the effects of abusive power.  The whole of the church and the world can be damaged by the human will to exercise power.  Jesus offers an alternative use of power.  He washes his disciples’ feet, he submits himself to Pilate’s unjust judgement, and he dies on the cross as the one through whom all things come into being, 

50. It was noted that the abuse of power is an extraordinarily complex multi-layered issue and involves the individual, the group, the community, the institution, is intensely personal, unavoidably political and has far-reaching consequences.  If clerical authority is abused or exercised without restraint, humility or respect the betrayal for all concerned is profound.  Challenged to reclaim the gospel truth of the dignity of the human person the Conference affirmed the need for special care to be taken so that power would always be life-giving.  It was acknowledged that in several diocese and provinces there is a need for training and appropriate pastoral measures to be put in place to make the church an accountable and safe place for all people. 

51. The Churches of the Anglican Communion recognise, value and celebrate the contribution that single people have made to their common life and ministry throughout the Communion’s long history and across the world. We uphold those in our midst who, irrespective of sexual orientation, feel called by God to give themselves wholly to Him, by living faithful lives as single, celibate people, either alone or with others, in monastic communities. We cherish their witness and the distinctive contribution they make to the life of the church. The sacrifices some are prepared make in the service of God’s people gives Him glory. We are delighted to have them amongst us. We give thanks for them and undertake to support them in our prayers. 

52.  The first five of the Millennium Development Goals are intended to address this vulnerability by eliminating poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. While the Lambeth Conference 1998 expressed support for the Millennium Development Goals, we do not know well enough what is happening around the Communion on achieving them. The Inter Anglican Women’s Network works through the Anglican Observer at the United Nations and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to promote Goal 3, Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.

53. We appreciate the work and witness of the Mothers’ Union and other women’s organisations within the Communion, as major implementers of the Gospel imperative to care for the poor. Their contribution to family life, education, health, pastoral care and development and relief work, is exemplary. In recognition of the importance of their work, it is imperative that we find better ways to co-ordinate and strengthen our work together for the Kingdom of God.  

54.  One of the chief aspects of Christian engagement with issues of social justice is the proclamation of reconciliation.  Reconciliation is found primarily in God’s act in Christ on the cross[16].  Because we have been reconciled to God in Christ, so we are called to bring reconciliation into the world[17].  Baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection, believers are called to embody the truth that there is nothing broken that is not repaired in Christ; no sin which cannot be redeemed by God.  In the midst of our own brokenness as a communion, we can acknowledge the need for repentance and the gift of reconciliation given to us by the sheer grace of God in Christ.

55.  Stories of experiences and situations in which reconciliation has been undertaken were shared. These included the situation in the Canadian Church in which the colonial experience in residential schools had caused great pain to indigenous peoples.  In such situations, there is need for apology, listening and healing.  Civil acts of apology and reconciliation in Aotearoa New Zealand, in Canada, and in Australia to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were noted as signs of hope.  Symbolic gestures expressing sorrow for past injustices made by the Church and by civil authorities need to be followed up by structural, social and economic policies that enhance the life of indigenous communities.  Also discussed were initiatives of reconciliation in the context of India among the Dalits (untouchables) and in the Congo where there has been extended tribal fighting.  The ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been cited for us as a focus of reconciliation, carrying the cross of Christ in collegiality with us bishops, even as there is hope for reconciliation in the current situation of conflict within the Communion.

56. Existing diocesan links and this conference have helped us understand the challenge of cultural and social issues across the Communion and how they each impinge upon our interpretation of the Gospel. These links clearly work and should be developed further, for the good of all.  Through education at every level (in the diocese, parish, theological institutions and schools), formally and informally, social justice issues should be addressed regularly and systematically.

57.  The work of education, undertaken across the Communion, through schools and universities of Anglican foundation, is an important and vital ministry and witness to Jesus Christ. Many of the world’s poor do not have access to formal education and we want to give them opportunities to realise their full potential and shape their own future. We need a development programme to assist Diocese who need help in existing institutions and help others to build, resource and staff educational institutions in more places.    
58.  As Bishops, we must model and encourage others to live out their faith in Christ in a way which demonstrates our commitment to these issues. The Bishops role in all of this is to enable communities of faith to be agents of transformation and reconciliation.  We commit ourselves to discerning and interpreting local needs in a way that leads to action, because this is being prophetic.  Taking due regard of local contexts, we commit ourselves to advocating and lobbying (government, agencies, business, ecumenical, inter-faith partners and any other appropriate agencies or bodies) on the many issues of social justice we find in our world.

  • Establishment of  a global Anglican Relief and Development Agency.
  • The Provinces of the Communion call for a day of prayer and fasting and witness on 25th September 2008 when there is a special session of the United Nations to discuss the Millennium Development Goals.


13. Romans 8.22, Ephesians 1.10, Revelation 21

14. Luke 4:16-22; Isaiah 35, 42, 56, 61; Micah 4, 6

15. I Thessalonians 5:17

16. 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 5: 6-11

17. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Additional Filters