Which Path will we Walk?

Message from the Anglican Primate of Brazil, Maurício de Andrade, on letter announcing the Boycott by Five Anglican Primates of the 2008 Lambeth Conference

Which path will we walk?
Who will hear us?
How will we bear witness?

These days I wonder which path we will walk. At the last meeting of Anglican primates, in Tanzania, 12 primates besides me were participating at the gathering for the first time. It was an experience of patience and hope: patience, because nothing happens when we want it to and, hope, because the new primates, including one woman, indicated the possibility of taking new paths.

We were very well received by Archbishop Donald Mtetemela of Tanzania, by the provincial secretary, Canon Mwita Akiri, and by the local organizing committee. There, I saw friends I had met awhile ago, like Ian Ernst, work colleagues, and provincial secretaries such as Nathaniel Uematsu and Bernard Ntahoturi. I met other people who have become friends and joined hands in face of the challenges of walking as a Church desiring to stay on the path of unity.

I also spoke with Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone about the situation of Robinson Cavalcanti of Recife and reaffirmed to him what I have already said on other occasions, that is, that I have been trying to develop my ministry in the Anglican Communion as primate of Brazil based on three precepts: reconciliation, restoration, and renewal. And in reaffirming these principles to Archbishop Venables I told him we could follow this threefold path by establishing a conversation with Robinson Cavalcanti. He agreed with me and even committed to take the initiative of setting up a meeting with the three of us in São Paulo in July 2007. But nothing happened. I have read that Archbishop Venables will come to Brazil for a pastoral visit with Robinson Cavalcanti and his clergy. But I have received no message concerning this visit, despite the announcement published on the Web site of Cavalcanti’s diocese. When I saw Archbishop Venables in Tanzania, he told me: “our act was only to show solidarity with the situation in Recife, and it is clear to me that this is merely a temporary situation.”

In view of facts of this nature we are forced to ask: Which path will we take? Who will hear us? How will we bear witness? These are serious questions that we need to answer for the members of the Church.

This is the season of Lent, a time for seeking conversion to God in all our actions; it is a time for prayer and meditation and a time for forgiveness and reconciliation.

I think we need to take a hard look in the mirror and see what we are doing with the Anglican Communion; I think it is time to remember that we are a “communion” and not simply a “federation” of churches and that, therefore, we do not need a “pact.” What we do need is to deepen the communion beyond the search for power, domination, and control.

Who will hear us? Who can hear the message we have to proclaim, which some want to envelop in the concept of “orthodoxy,” when it is in fact the message of God through Jesus Christ, whose love reconciles us with life, and life in abundance? Our words have been words of division. Yet, in Brazil we sing: “The Word was not made to divide anyone; the Word is the bridge over which love comes and goes. The Word was not made to dominate; the destination of the Word is dialogue.” Who will hear the archbishops/primates, bishops, and priests of the Church?

We are seriously preparing ourselves in Brazil to participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference because we are certain that this is the space for unity, and we know that unity does not mean uniformity. All of us bishops in Brazil and our spouses are in prayer while we await to meet and be reunited with brothers and sisters who live challenges and in different contexts from our own, knowing that we are united in God’s mission. So we are preparing to share our lives, challenges, and experience of being a Church that lives in missionary expansion. In 1998, the Province of Brazil had seven dioceses. Today, in 2008, we have nine dioceses and one missionary district. Despite the difficulties of two schisms, one in 2002 and another in 2004, we can say “thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Sam 7:12, NRSV). We therefore desire to devote ourselves fully at the Lambeth Conference to the Bible study groups, to prayer, and to the breaking of bread (Acts 2).

How will we bear witness? Who will hear us? We are not being honest with ourselves. Could it be that we want to propose the path of disunity for the future of the Anglican Communion?

I believe The Episcopal Church of the United States has been showing all of us an example of the path to unity and reconciliation, because they have met all the requests for visits that were made and answered all the questions that were posed. They have spent time, money, and energy to meet the primates’ requests, always with generosity and openness. I think we need to keep in mind that we are Anglican. We are seeing a disregard of our richness and our ethos, that is, autonomy of the Provinces.

The Anglican Province of Brazil has already spoken out against the creation of a new covenant, because our way of being Anglican has already been defined in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. We are not nor do we want to be a mere federation of churches. We wish to continue in communion with Canterbury, a symbol of our unity, as full members of the Anglican Communion.

We intend to go to Lambeth open to dialogue, and to feel the presence of God guiding us as His people, breaking the bread that unites us in the Body of Christ, and expressing solidarity with the world in need of the Word of transformation and salvation. We therefore reaffirm our reply to the invitation of Archbishop Rowan Williams and deeply regret the boycott by five archbishops.

Brasília, February 17th 2008.

Second Sunday of Lent

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The Most Revd. Maurício Andrade

Primate of IEAB