Communion and Contestation Robert S. Heaney shares a thought on finding God and each other amidst disagreement.

Anglicanism has always been a site of contestation. The genesis of the tradition emerges amidst a set of disputes relating to power; theological and bibilical interpretation; and struggles for fuller expressions of the Gospel.

Contestation need not be a sign of dysfunction. Open to the strirings of the Holy Spirit, contestation, amidst distinct expressions of the Gospel may be a gift. Disagreement can be discernment. Disagreement can open our eyes and hearts to issues and people we might not otherwise have seen or had sympathy for. This is difficult, complicated, and, at times, painful work. The temptation to abandon discernment amidst disagreement in favour of a retreat to like-minded partyism or a fellowship of purported purity can be hard to resist.

Amidst contestation, and in sorrow that not all would attend, bishops gathered for the Lambeth Conference in 2022. The invitation to communion, wrought by the witness and work of the risen Christ, is always a call to discern the Spirit across cultural and theological difference. The call to such fellowship is the call to more fully realize what we already are. By word and sacrament we are held up by a deep solidarity that is more real than our divisions and is only ever glimpsed in moments of deep discernment. At the Lambeth Conference we glimpsed those deeper realities not in the absence of difference but because of our differences.”

About Robert Heaney

Robert S. Heaney is an Anglican scholar-priest ordained in the Church of Ireland and was a member of the Lambeth Conference Design Group. He has experience serving the church and academy internationally including long and short-term ministry in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. He is Professor of Theology and Mission at Virginia Theological Seminary, USA. He travels widely in the Communion as a teacher, researcher, and consultant. Among a number of books on theology and Anglican identity he is author of Post-Colonial Theology: Finding God and Each Other Amidst the Hate and, with William L. Sachs, The Promise of Anglicanism.

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  • This article is part of our wider ‘Being Anglican’ series, where Anglicans from around the world share what the Lambeth Call on Anglican Identity means to them, and how this theme supports the life of the Anglican Communion. Find the ‘Being Anglican’ reflections shared so far here.
  • For more information on our next webinar about Being Anglican and the Lambeth Call on Anglican Identity click here.

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