By Thabo Makgoba
A Reading from Romans 15:7-13
7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
10 and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
11 and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
12 and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In this letter, the Apostle Paul urges unity within the church at Rome, warning against the divisions that human experience can so easily generate. Basing his advice on the teaching he has already given, he pleads for mutual understanding between those whose views and practices differ and reminds the church that God’s mercy is extended both to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Paul’s admonitions are relevant for the Anglican Communion today, where we are often too distracted by our differences to recognize the deep theological heritage that binds us together as a family of churches. Families differ, sometimes strongly, but if they are healthy they don’t allow their differences to alienate one from the other. Instead of focusing on our differences, the constituent parts of our glorious Communion should focus instead on what holds us together and on the critical issues of mission and ministry that face us in each of our varied contexts.
I have asked previously whether we, as different provinces of the Communion, are serious about bridging our differences or whether we hope that groupings which think differently from ours will just wither away and die. As Africans we aspire to organize ourselves as human beings on the basis of relationship rather than structure or legislation. Surely we are about koinonia rather than about rules which determine who is “in” and who is “out”?
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Most Rev. Dr. Thabo Makgoba is Archbishop of the Diocese of Capetown, South Africa; metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Southern Africa; and chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.
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