The Windsor Report 2004
- All this points up a more general feature which ought to characterise life within the Communion: a relationship of trust. Mutual trust generates, and is in turn reinforced by, mutual responsibility. Ideally, the Communion puts its trust in each province to exercise its autonomy appropriately within our mutual fellowship. This commits each church to a fiduciary duty to honour, and not to breach, that trust. However, where trust has broken down in many areas of life in our contemporary world, it is perhaps not surprising, though it remains regrettable, that trust has been eroded in many areas of church life as well. The language of debate has become adversarial, not to say abusive; recourse has been made to secular courts of law in place of Christian forbearance and charity; undertakings have been ignored; protagonists have acted out of spite rather than the demands of proper administration, and facts have been manipulated to serve party spirit. The major cultural divisions in today's world, not least between the rich nations of western Europe and north America and the poorer nations in other parts of the world, have left their ugly mark on our ecclesial life. Likewise, the deep divide in contemporary American political life has led both to an oversimplification and a polarisation of many issues, as though 'liberal' and 'conservative' opinion were simply a pair of uncomplicated pre-packaged bundles. Despite several wonderful counter-examples, each side has increasingly come to distrust the other, and to accuse the other (not least) of using inappropriate models and methods of reading scripture and reaching decisions.
- This is the fifth unhappy circumstance (itself catastrophic in terms of our mission which, as we have seen, includes the call to model before the watching world the new mode of being human which has been unveiled in Christ) that has brought us to the present difficulty. We clearly need more mutual exploration and explanation of our theological beliefs, our understanding of the Bible, and of many aspects of our common life and witness. The Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, established following the 1998 Lambeth Conference, has made a good start, but much remains to be done. Theological commissions within provinces need to be made more conscious of, and conversant with, Communion-wide dimensions of theological discourse. In particular, we need to develop the habit, and thence the virtue, of that charity which listens intensely and with good will to widely different expressions of sincerely held Christian theology, at the levels both of method and of content. As a Communion, we need a common forum for debate, a common table to which we can bring our questions for a proper family discussion.