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Sentamu calls for 'gracious magnanimity,' comments on Convention

By Matthew Davies
7/8/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, challenged the church to exercise "gracious magnanimity" July 8 during his presidential address at the Church of England's General Synod, meeting through July 11 at York University in England.

He also suggested that, although the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church clearly demonstrated that it is committed to mission, the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury, its response to the recommendations of the Windsor Report "fell short."

"Gracious magnanimity is the quality of the person who knows that regulations are not the last word and knows when not to apply the letter of the law," he said. "A church meeting may sit with the book of practice and procedure on the table in front of it and take every one of its decisions in strict accordance with the law of the Church; but there are times when the Christian treatment of some situation demands that the book of practice and procedure should not be regarded as the last word."

Sentamu, who attended General Convention for its entirety, noted that in spite of the hard work of the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and numerous hearings, it failed to meet the precise request of the Windsor Report. "It left too much room
for doubt," he said, "and didn't stop the rumor and impression of doing 'our own thing.'"

The Special Committee "took the recommendations of the Windsor Report seriously," he continued. "But the Convention's legislative processes -- modeled on the House of Representatives and the Senate, and acting like them -- are not fit for the purpose of engendering good conversation ... And in the end they fell short."

Sentamu said he wished that Convention had heeded the words of the Rev. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest and former Senator and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who was the keynote speaker at the Presiding Bishop's June 15 forum: "Toward a Reconciled World."

During the forum, Danforth implored Convention that sexual orientation not be the centerpiece of the Episcopal Church.

"We have a higher calling, a more central message: that God was in Christ, was in the world, reconciling the world to Himself," Danforth said. "And he has entrusted us to the ministry of reconciliation ... Shift from the divisive issue of sexuality to [the] ministry of reconciliation."

Sentamu acknowledged, however, that Convention demonstrated its commitment to mission. "A Church that takes the Millennium Development Goals seriously," he said. "Poverty, world peace, HIV/AIDS, the living wage, young people, equality for all, are at the top of the agenda."

Proclaiming his belief that holy communication is part of Holy Communion, Sentamu said, "I am driven to exasperation when Christians don't disagree well and Christianly. The Christian, as St. Paul sees it, is the person who knows that there is something beyond justice.

"As far as justice goes, there isn't one of us who deserves anything other than the condemnation of God, but [St. Paul] goes far beyond justice," he continued. "[He] lays it down that the mark of a Christian in their personal relationships with their fellow human beings must be that they know when to insist on justice and when to remember that there is something beyond justice."

Toward the end of his address, Sentamu spoke about combating terrorism and offering a vision of wholeness in a "compelling and imaginative way" so that would-be suicide bombers would come to see this as their own vision.

"A vision that would turn them from outsiders, self-excluding and deluded despisers of others, into belongers; a vision which will help them to see that those they seek to destroy are their own brothers and sisters regardless of their religious affiliations," he said. "The way to do this is by drawing a large enough circle of love which includes them and us."

The full text of Sentamu's address can be found at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_76563_ENG_HTM.htm.