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Canterbury and Church of England:  Towards a Convergence of and a Commitment to Unity and Evangelism

Rt Rev Timothy Ravinder

Bishop in Coimbatore

My dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We have entered into another season of Lent with devotional presence and a penitent heart. To experience this Lenten season means to “feast at the feet of the Lord”. What a magnificent possibility!

Our visit to Canterbury and Lambeth Palace in January this year has been one of blessing and beneficial. The relationship of CSI with the Anglican Communion is unique and has been there for a very long period. Our present status comes under the heading “Churches in Communion with the Anglican Communion”.  Through this affiliation the CSI is represented by our Moderator at the Primates meeting of the Anglican Communion that was held recently in Canterbury between 11th and 15th January 2016 which occasioned much comment and even more misrepresentation but was an indication and an icon of unity.  In an effort to maintain the fraternity and fellowship of this special relationship, we have to get closer with good understanding and friendship with each other.  The Moderator, CSI, had nominated Bishop Reuben Mark and Bishop Timothy Ravinder to participate in the Conference for Bishops organized by the Anglican Communion held in Kent in Canterbury from  29th January  to 8th February 2016.

The Conference for Bishops was meticulously planned and meaningfully implemented.   The Sessions were conducted by eminent people with profound knowledge – like  the Archbishop of Canterbury, Secretary General of the Office of Anglican Communion in London, Prof. of Homiletics and Directors of Educational Institutions of higher learning. Reflections on Episcopacy was a prayerful exploration of the text from scripture most used in consecrations around the Anglican communion. Numbers 27, 15-23, Isaiah 42, 1-9, John 21, 15-17 were some of the passages.

The presence of 27 Bishops from America, Africa, Australia and Asia including the United Kingdom representing the Anglican Churches has gained momentum and measure has moved a step forward in presenting its unity to the world.   His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury in his message at Lambeth Palace recollected the incident that took place at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican where the Anglican Communion representative and the Orthodox Church representative had joined in procession up to the Altar and who… even in the end together pronounced  benediction. This inspires us for a pro-active action and a progressive growth in our maturity.  He also urged all the leaders of the Church to be the agents of reconciliation, to engage with one another in significant discussion to be a witness to the compassionate love of Jesus, particularly with those whom we are in conflict.  He reiterated that our words of love, friendship and fellowship would heal and restore broken relationships. During his Presidential address to the General Synod on 16th February, 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church of England today that evangelism is not an “optional extra”, but instead a Christian duty.

The Office of the Anglican Communion which houses different departments itself is a symbol of unity and a place of different cultures from across the world are encountered.  The quality time that was utilized at the Canterbury Cathedral, the time of prayer and praise, our participation at the Evensong and Eucharist had given all the Bishops new energy and enthusiasm to do our ministry joyfully.  The Bible Studies were not only devotional but also academic and gave us a renewed direction and a deeper commitment in our ministries.

In the light of my experiences and encounters with the sister and brother Bishops at Canterbury and Lambeth Palace, they have given us a clear direction towards unity and our commitment towards Unity, Mission and Evangelism.  There is a way forward that reveals the unity that celebrates the strength that we can bring each other; that enables us to love those who oppose us, and on the setting free those who are bound by rules which Jesus could never have imagined, and which have emerged out of a desire for power rather than the expectation of the kingdom of God. There is, in short, a way forward to experience unity.

If we bring to our Church, and to the world around, the certainty that Jesus came to set us free, and to open the way in service to each other and to Him; if our expectation in that only in foot washing, even of our enemies, is the Truth demonstrated adequately, then in beauty of relationship the grace of God will prevail. (Justin Welby)

May we prayerfully prepare in this period of lent at the feet of the Lord and asking God for His guidance and grace for greater unity and fuller fellowship.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Moderator and Officers of CSI Synod for giving me this opportunity to represent the Church of South India.