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"Our Father"... is it all about "us"?

The Archbishop of York has turned the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer into an opportunity to focus on ‘us’.

In his Presidential Address to General Synod, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell skipped over the fatherhood of God – concerned that it might be "problematic" for too many people - and instead focused on the word ‘our’.

He described how Jesus had lived and died and been raised to glory, “so that the barriers of separation that did exist between us”, could be broken down. There was no acknowledgement that sin has any impact on our relationship with our Heavenly Father – it seems that in the Archbishop of York’s world, God is only there to bring ‘us’ together.

And so, he proceeded to lecture the assembled Synod on the sin of disunity – not forgetting to remind us, as the Archbishops so like to do, that this was Jesus’ prayer “on the night before he died.” If only they would read the rest of the prayer. ( If he would like some help Ian Paul has put this verse in context here)

Our role, the Archbishop pronounced, is to focus on the word “our" - "and let it change the way we see ourselves and see each other, then we will also see our belonging to each other is not only non-negotiable, it is what we must prize and hold onto in all our discussions, all our decisions, and in all the issues we face. Moreover, we must always go the extra mile of finding those ways of widening the tent of our inclusion, but without letting anyone be lost.”

Talk of the prize of unity is nothing new – it is after all a favourite refrain of the Archbishop of Canterbury – but the idea that it is ‘us’ who decide who is included in God’s family (by widening the tent) and ‘us’ who ensure that no one is lost, seems once again to kick God right out of the picture. There is no need to wrestle with the doctrine of predestination and election –no place for the Good Shepherd. It is all down to ‘us’.

But his arrogance didn’t stop there. The Archbishop of York recounted a conversation he had with Cardinal Koch – who had asked him why he was in Rome talking about unity when the Anglican Communion was splitting. This might be thought to be a good question but not according to the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, who suggested that the Cardinal was misinformed. There might be “movements for change and movements that cherish unchanging practice,” he explained, but the wonder of the Anglican way is that this just “allows us flexibility within the boundaries of our bonds of communion, enabling us to walk together with our conscientiously held differences”.

Has he not read the Ash Wednesday Statement of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA)?

"Given this action by the Church of England’s General Synod, we believe it is no longer possible to continue in the way the Communion is. We do not accept the view that we can still “walk together” with the revisionist provinces as prescribed by the Anglican Communion Office and in the exploratory way proposed by IASCUFO (Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith & Order) at the recent Anglican Consultative Council (ACC)-18 meeting."

Did he miss the Kigali Commitment that was produced at Gafcon IV?

“We cannot walk together in good disagreement with those who have deliberately chosen to walk away from the faith once delivered to the saints. The people of God walk in his ways, walk in truth and walk in the light all of which require that we do not walk in Christian Fellowship with those in darkness.”

This is not the first time an Archbishop of the Church of England has knowingly misrepresented those he disagrees with. It seems that the leaders of the majority of the world’s Anglicans are not part of the ‘us’ that need to be listened to. In fact, it would appear that some of ‘us’ can be (and perhaps need to be) consistently ignored – in order to maintain the illusion of unity.

The Archbishop of York was right when he said, The Lord’s Prayer “is dangerous.” He might even be right when he said in that in we find the “heart of God” – but that is only true if go beyond the first word – and realise it is not all about ‘us’.


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Thank you Ayo Ogunseinde from Unsplash for the image above

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