Archbishop of York on being Anglican
By Archbishop John Sentamu
For me having grown up in Uganda being Anglican has always been
very important. Being Christian came first of course
- I came to faith in Christ through the witness of lay people, and
immediately became involved in the activities run by a very godly
youth leader, Canon Peter Kigozi. My faith grew there and I was
nurtured as a Christian surrounded by the liturgy, hymns, preaching
and teaching, led by a Catechist - my father.
Even then belonging to the Church gave me a keen sense of both
the local and the global. Later as a vicar in South London I knew
my responsibility was towards everyone in the parish, not just
those who came to church. But the global dimension was always
there. Church was for me a window on the wider world. The
missionaries and expatriates I knew brought with them qualities of
selfless commitment and devotion to duty which I admired and still
admire today. They introduced me to the idea of the church as a
world-wide family, in St Paul's words, 'the body of Christ', a
community of people where all need each other and where everyone is
of infinite worth in the sight of God. This has always chimed, for
me, with the wisdom of the African proverb: 'if a tiny toe is
hurting, the whole body bends low to tend it'. The worldwide Anglican
Communion is this kind of community today.
Our Anglican heritage is enriched and in many ways defined by
of Common Prayer, assembled in 1549 by Archbishop Thomas
Cranmer. The notion of 'common' worship is important to me. The
prayers of the faithful are not individualistic or self-indulgent -
they are rooted in Holy Scripture and they rely on the presence of
the Holy Spirit to make them live. The Prayer Book itself commits
the church to engaging creatively with various times, seasons, and
cultures, so it is right that people should worship in 'such a
tongue as the people understandeth.' So the wide range of Anglican
liturgies used around the world are still 'common prayer'.
Essential to Anglicanism is a sense of magnanimity/'moderation'
- a holding together, often in creative tension, of different
emphases or points of view, but always in a spirit of charity and
In our theology and lived Christian experience revelation and
reason are set side by side. Because of God's gracious invitation
for 'all sorts and conditions' of men, women and children to come
and participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in
our spirituality personal devotion and corporate expression are
equally vital. In our church structures we prize the self-governing
nature of provinces or national churches whilst at the same time
treasuring both the level of mutual accountability and support we
share, and the leadership exercised by bishops in council with
clergy and laity.
We regard it as our calling to engage both with the individual
and the corporate, and with the material and the political. As my
friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, he wondered which Bible
people were reading if they thought religion and politics didn't
mix. In fact our Anglican heritage demands of us a particular sense
of responsibility, a critical, and at times prophetic solidarity,
variously expressed in different contexts, with the political and
constitutional life of the nation in which we live. In Cranmer's
Prayer Book this is expressed in our regular prayers for Her
Majesty the Queen and all those in authority.
With the tensions facing us in the church and in the world today
we should rejoice in God's call to us, both in our diversity and in
our common life, to remember our primary responsibility 'together
to make Christ visible' in word and deed. Central to our Anglican
calling are what we call the 'five marks of mission'
which define our calling:
- To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise, and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain
the life of the earth.
Of course many other church traditions would agree with these
Distinctive about the Anglican family of churches is what is
known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888): the four
reference points of Anglicanism, namely the Holy Scriptures, the
Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, the two Sacraments of Holy Baptism and
the Holy Communion, and the historic episcopate. It would have been
good if a fifth had been included: ' lived Christlike experience in
his Body, the Church, and in his world.'
I am grateful for the Anglican family's apostolic, catholic,
evangelical, and reformed tradition which in its local and
international expressions is a spiritual home for so many people.
Families often don't eat together these days. By contrast the
Anglican family must continue to be one which gathers round the
table for conversation, for generous and attentive listening, even
at times for argument, but above all for fellowship in shared bread
and wine. In doing we seek to look in two directions at the same
time: towards God, worshipping him, and towards the world,
infecting it with his goodness.