Bishop Paul has written a letter about our relationship with the Anglican Communion as we aim to walk together with all
I am writing this on my return from Ghana, where I was privileged to attend for the first time the 7th Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue. I was present together with bishops from different parts of Africa and from the United States and Canada. This meeting is one of a range of initiatives and responses that continue the “Indaba” conversations which were begun at the last Lambeth Conference. We prayed, sang, ate, discussed and laughed together as bishops of the Anglican Communion.
It is good to be in relationship with different parts of the Anglican Communion. In January this year the Primates of the Communion met and overwhelmingly agreed to “walk together” into the future. At the same meeting a number of specific “consequences” were agreed for The Episcopal Church (TEC) as a result of that church’s decisions on same-sex relationships in the US. These consequences concern the involvement of TEC in ecumenical and Communion-wide bodies. But as these consequences unfold TEC remains a member of the Anglican Communion, and our own strong and fruitful relationship with the Diocese of Virginia remains an opportunity for “walking together” as it has for many years.
Over a year ago, as part of this walking together, I asked the Suffragan bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Susan Goff, whether she would become one of our honorary assistant bishops (or “assisting bishops” as they call this sort of arrangement in TEC). She kindly accepted this invitation and, again last year, we secured the necessary permissions for her to minister here. As +Susan is an overseas bishop, these permissions do not extend to the conducting of ordinations. I remain delighted that our ministry here will be enriched by what +Susan will bring to us as a teacher, pastor and disciple. She will also be able to hear and to engage with the wide range of views in our Diocese on the way the Gospel is understood in these days.
It seems that this invitation has caused the Diocese of Akure, Nigeria, which has been another of our link dioceses, to issue a statement indicating that they no longer wish to be in a link-relationship with Liverpool. I regret this. I would prefer to walk together with Akure as well as with Virginia, within the one Communion whose life we share.
I have not yet received formal notification directly from the Bishop of Akure, but as and when I do I shall write to him expressing this regret. If our partners choose to close this door, this is a matter of sorrow for us but of course we respect their decision as free partners in a free relationship.
At one time this link was three-way and provided wonderful opportunities for sharing and mutual learning, though my colleagues tell me that five years ago, in 2011, the then Bishop of Akure formally indicated that his Diocese did not feel able to remain in such a three-way relationship.
As a result, in Bishop James’ time our Diocese was also in conversation with the Ghanaian Diocese of Kumasi, with a view to establishing a similar link with Liverpool and Virginia, built around the idea of a “triangle of hope” to counter the slave triangle of despair and darkness. While in Ghana I had further good conversations about this with the Archbishop of West Africa (who is also Bishop of Kumasi) and with the Bishop of Virginia, and I have prayerful hopes that this relationship too will bear fruit into the future.
Despite the tensions that beset us, the Anglican Communion still testifies to the love of the God who brings us together. In Liverpool I want us to play our part in this testimony of love. In the Holy Scripture we read "If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Rom 12:18). In this spirit I want to continue as far as I can to walk together with partner dioceses, to learn from them, and to engage in fruitful conversations both about the issues which divide us and the matters that bind us together.
With every blessing as ever,
Bishop Paul's letter to Bishop Simeon in the Diocese of Akure
Dear Bishop Simeon,
I am writing to you following your email to Roy Doran, indicating that the Diocese of Akure will be severing its companion link with this Diocese of Liverpool. I was very sorry indeed to hear this news. In your email you say that you are taking this action because of the invitation we have extended to Bishop Susan Goff, of the Diocese of Virginia, to become an honorary assistant bishop in this Diocese.
As you know, for many years there was a three-way link between these three dioceses. As the tensions in the Anglican Communion increased, I am told that the three-way nature of this link was terminated by your predecessor, in 2011. Since then the Diocese of Liverpool has sought to continue in separate relationships both with the Diocese of Virginia and with your own Diocese, as far as we could. It is in the context of these long relationships that we chose last year to invite Bishop Susan to engage with us and to learn with us as one of our honorary assistant bishops. You will know that the role of honorary assistant bishop carries no legal jurisdiction.
In making this invitation I wanted to extend friendship; to enrich and not to impoverish the life of our Communion. I believe that this is best done by all within the Communion remaining in relationship with one another. For the same reason I hope that in the future our own link may one day be restored, so that (in the words of the recent Primates’ meeting) we can all walk together again. But of course I respect your own decision in this matter. Please be sure that we will continue to pray for you. I hope that you too will feel able to pray for us.
The Diocese of Liverpool is part of the Province of York within the Church of England. None of our policies, or pastoral disciplines, differ from the agreed policies and disciplines of the whole of our Church. As a member of the English House of Bishops it is my personal privilege and duty to teach, practice and maintain the agreed policies and disciplines of this Church of England. I am glad to do so.
Alongside this shared discipline our Church continues to discuss matters that divide us, and you will know that at the moment the whole Church of England is engaged in conversations around sexuality, scripture and mission. I have my own views on these matters, and I am ready to share them at appropriate times so as to contribute to our conversations. But as the Church of England engages in conversation and study on this or indeed on any matter I am committed to our walking together, sustaining the policies and disciplines that the whole Church of England has agreed.
Some months ago Roy Doran and I were able to meet with one of your priests and the three of us talked and prayed together. At that meeting I expressed the hope that one day people from our two Dioceses might be able to meet and to study the holy Scriptures together. I still hope that this may happen in the future. I also gave this priest a pectoral cross, and asked him to give it to you as a token of my esteem and of our link relationship which was then in force. This pectoral cross, simply made, was the work of one of the churchwardens in my previous diocese. It bears in Greek an inscription from the Scriptures: “and they shall bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). This verse has always meant a great deal to me, as it does still. I very much hope, therefore, that as we pray for one another, we will one day by God’s grace be able once again to walk together and to bear fruit with patience.
This comes with my warm good wishes and with every blessing for the future,
In the service of Jesus Christ,
"The Anglican Communion still testifies to the love of the God who brings us together. In Liverpool I want us to play our part in this testimony of love. In the Holy Scripture we read "If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Rom 12:18). In this spirit I want to continue as far as I can to walk together with partner dioceses, to learn from them, and to engage in fruitful conversations both about the issues which divide us and the matters that bind us together."