19 March 2010

Mission agencies’ diversity ‘threatening Anglican unity’ - Canon Comerford

The Church of Ireland Gazette, in this week’s edition [19 March 2010] carries the following photograph and news report on page 3:

Pictured at the ecumenical lecture in Kiltegan are (from left) Fr Joe Cantwell of Kiltegan; Canon Patrick Comerford; Archbishop Walton Empey, Empey; the rector of Kiltegan, the Revd Stella Durand; and Fr Ned Grace of Kiltegan.

Mission agencies’ diversity ‘threatening Anglican unity’ - Canon Comerford

The present “wide divergence and diversity” among mission agencies in the Anglican Communion is contributing to the divisions within the Anglican Communion itself and “threatening Anglican unity,” Canon Patrick Comerford told a recent ecumenical gathering.

“Those divisions and diversity separating the different mission agencies within the
Anglican tradition of the Church reflect the divisions within Anglicanism today and have also contributed in a large measure to creating those divisions,” he said.

Canon Comerford was delivering the annual ecumenical lecture-sermon at St Patrick’s College, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow. Director of Spiritual Formation at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Dublin, he is a former chair of the Association of Mission Societies; has worked for CMS Ireland and the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission; and is on the board of USPG Ireland and the council of USPG in Great Britain.

He went on to say that the divisions between the mission agencies and within Anglicanism “can be damaging not only for the witness and mission of one tradition within the Church but also for the witness and mission of the whole Anglican tradition – indeed, for that whole one Church, the Church Catholic.”

Canon Comerford believed the rift threatening to divide the Anglican Communion meant that, for example, African bishops and archbishops were sending missionaries and priests to North America not to convert non-Christians or to plant churches, but to win away members of the Anglican or Episcopal Church (TEC).

“True mission,” he asserted, “like true ecumenism, is more concerned with the Good News than with good statements; is more concerned with proclaiming justice than passing judgment; is more concerned with mission than with conformity; and rejoices in diversity by finding our unity in the Word of God.”

The emergence of a “shallow fundamentalism that is lacking in real spirituality and which promotes a feel-good factor but not discipleship,” he ontinued, “threatens the Church in all its expressions in various guises. It is, by nature, opposed to all ecumenism.”

Canon Comerford concluded his lecture by describing the present crisis in the Church in Ireland as “the most immediate challenge we face in ecumenism and in mission: a crisis of confidence in integrity, in morality, in the life, witness and mission of the Church.

“It is a crisis that is so deep that it is a barrier to many people ever being open again to receiving the ministry of Word and Sacrament in their lives. It is a crisis that has dealt a severe blow to the whole Church, not just to one part of the Church, and if we fail to face this crisis as partners in the Gospel and fail to walk on the road together, we will fail to allow the Church to be transformed by the risen Christ.”

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