Speaking Truth to Power: The Call to Discernment and Integrity

Delegates to the USPG Triennial Consultation meet prior to Evening Prayer on the lawns of Codrington College, Wednesday 12th June, 2019.
PHOTO: USPG/Richard Bartlett

Christ was tortured to death by the State at the behest of a powerful religious elite who had mobilized popular support.

The first Christian communities formed a tiny minority religious group in the shadows of the most powerful empires of the Ancient world. Astonishingly, that Empire, came in time, to exercise worldly power in the form of Christendom, in the name of Christ.

USPG’s International Consultation, In God’s Name? The Gospel and the authority of the State, was held in Barbados, 7-14 June 2019, at the invitation of the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of the West Indies.

The communiqué (see below) from the conference demands that all churches act as consciences of humanity and be prepared to ‘speak truth to power’.

Warning of the dangers of being co-opted by the State for ‘material gain or political privilege’ the communiqué emphasizes the rule that key role that discernment plays in the life of the church, noting that there is a ‘time for dialogue’ and a ‘time for prophecy’; for words and for silence.

It also emphasizes that where churches are in a minority position, there is a particularly important role for ecumenical and interfaith partnership.

The conference heard from Anglican leaders speaking of the challenges of relating to the state from a wide variety of different contexts including the Middle East, Hong Kong and Tanzania.

This sharing and the subsequent conversation highlighted the fundamental importance of culture and context – and therefore the centrality of humility, listening and profound dialogue between members of the Anglican family.

The conference drew attention to the enduring and deep legacies of colonialism and enslavement on the development of culture – including wrestling with USPG’s own historical involvement. The consultation stressed the importance for both churches and individual Christians of being able to express confidence in their identity, if they were to be effective in mission.

It was widely acknowledged that integrity was the only guarantor of independence of word and action.

Understanding the issues involved in the relationship between Church and State is fundamental to how we are in the world and to the nature of leadership.

The International Consultation was privileged to hear keynote addresses from the Hon. Kay McConney, Barbados’ Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology and Dr Agnes Abuom, Moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and representative of the Anglican Church of Kenya.

In God’s Name? The Gospel and the Authority of the State

A communiqué on Church and State issued from the triennial International Consultation of USPG, June 7-14 2019, held in Barbados at the invitation of the Church of the Province of the West Indies with profound gratitude to the Archbishop of the province, the Most Rev’d Dr Howard Gregory and the Bishop of Barbados, The Rt Revd Michael Maxwell. The meeting took place in the context of a pattern of worship with liturgies from across the Communion and bible study reflections focused on the Nazareth manifesto, Luke 4: 14-21:

Our calling as Christians demands that churches act as the conscience of humanity; to speak truth to power and to speak out against injustice and corruption.

1. Faithful to scripture and tradition, each church needs to understand its history, culture and context. Whilst our common identity is ‘in Christ’ through baptism, Anglicans are called to interrogate and engage critically as well as creatively with the cultures of the people they serve.

2.Recognising the dangers of coercive power, we encourage churches to deepen their appreciation of their cultural identities, especially where these have been violated by colonization or where the church is in a minority, suppressed by a dominant culture.

3. To be effective in mission and engagement with the wider society, churches and individual Christians must be rooted in an incarnational understanding of the Gospel, confident in who they are, whose they are and their part in God’s mission.

4. Whilst recognising the importance of different contexts, we acknowledge as Anglicans the importance of what we hold in common and commit ourselves to learn from one another as sister churches.

5. All churches are called to be salt and light, to build broad coalitions for the common good even in difficult circumstances:
a. In those nation-states where churches are in minority positions, the Consultation notes the particular importance of working ecumenically and in close partnership with people of diverse faiths in engaging the State.
b. In those nation-states where churches are in a majority position, they should be especially mindful that they serve all people and must ensure that they are not co-opted by the State for material gain or political privilege. In addition, they have a responsibility to consider the rights and well-being of other smaller religious groups.

6. The renewal of the Church depends upon the prioritisation of engagement with young people

7. As Christians we should heed our Lord’s teachings concerning the reign of God and his example in resisting the temptations in the wilderness, to embrace earthly power. The spiritual and moral authority of the Church and its leaders rests entirely upon their integrity. It is this that guarantees independence of word and action.

8. Grounded in prayer, discernment is a central task for the church in relation to the life of the nation. There is a time for dialogue and conversation and also a time for prophecy and proclamation; a time for words and action and a time for silence (Eccl 3). Jesus taught, Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s. As a natural consequence of their calling, church leaders have a role as a moral conscience within society and a responsibility to voice their concerns when the Gospel demands.

14th June 2019

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of Us.
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