Thursday, January 19, 2017

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Time for an Apology?

During the Week or really the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18 to 25) The Church of England is evidently going to apologize on behalf of past generations for the excesses of the English Reformation.The apology will include regrets for iconoclasm, the dissolution of the monasteries, the Catholic martyrs, etc. This statement of repentance comes as Christians commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This comment struck me as starting off in the wrong direction:

“As the Church of England prepares to celebrate the Reformation, it should also repent of the violence and brutality it sometimes committed in God’s name,” commented Rev. Andrew Atherstone, a member of the Anglican synod.

Atherstone said that aspects of the Reformation are “deeply embedded in our national psyche,” and was
[sic] the historical context for the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot, when Catholic would-be revolutionary Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament.

That seems like a strange thing to do in the midst of preparing for a statement of reconciliation--if you're apologizing or repenting for things your side has done in the past why bring up things the other side has done in the past? 

The U.K Daily Mail story quotes Anne Widdecombe, a former Anglican and former Conservative Member of Parliament: "These gestures are pointless. The Archbishop has not put anyone to death, as far as I know," she said. "Modern Christians are not responsible for what happened in the Reformation. You might as well expect the Italians to apologise for Pontius Pilate."

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a project of the World Council of Churches which developed this year's theme:

It was in the context of the Reformation Anniversary that the Council of Churches in Germany took up the work of creating the resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017. It quickly became clear that the materials for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity would need to have two accents: on the one hand, there should be a celebration of God’s love and grace, the “justification of humanity through grace alone”, reflecting the main concern of the churches marked by Martin Luther’s Reformation. On the other hand, the materials should also recognize the pain of the subsequent deep divisions which afflicted the Church, openly name the guilt, and offer an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation.

Ultimately it was Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) which provided the theme for this year, when it used the quote: “The Love of Christ Compels Us” (Paragraph 9). With this scripture (2 Cor 5:14), taken in the context of the entire fifth chapter of the second letter to the Corinthians, the German committee formulated the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017.

It will be interesting to see the statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, God bless him. He is obviously trying to respond to the second part of the theme: to "name the guilt, and offer an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation."

1 comment:

  1. Has the reformation ended or as in Constantinople it is just a re-alinement.