(Vatican Radio) The first round of small language group work at the Synod of Bishops on the Family concluded on Thursday evening. Bishops, religious and lay men and women, together with delegates from other Christian Churches, spent two and a half days behind closed doors discussing the challenges facing families in different countries around the world today.
Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro in Cornwall, England is one of the 14 ‘fraternal delegates’ representing the worldwide Anglican Communion throughout the three-week meeting. He is co-chair of the English Anglican-Roman-Catholic Conversations and serves as president of the Association of Inter-Church Families. Philippa Hitchen asked him about some of the themes that have been emerging in the small group work….
Bishop Thornton says one of key things he’s hearing from his groups is the concern that the Synod document or Instrumentum Laboris, in its current form, has “a too narrowly Western perspective.”
He talks about the discussions in his group that have raised different perspectives from particular parts of the globe. He gives the example of the document’s focus on widowhood which assumes that widows are elderly, while in some parts of the globe Church leaders are facing particular problems with widows of a much younger age.
Rather than in one document, trying to describe the whole anthropological, sociological and cultural challenge, he says what is emerging is a suggestion that “what the Holy Father might want to say is to encourage each conference to do its own analysis” and bring that to the table to see what can be said together.
Bishop Thornton says in the Anglican world too “we can make the mistake of defining things through either an English or Western eye”. He speaks of experience of hearing so many different perspectives at the last Lambeth Conference and of the benefits of having dioceses in England linked with dioceses in different parts of the world….
Speaking of the tensions between those who do not want to see any changes in Church doctrine or practice and those who see a need for fresh approaches to current problems, Bishop Thornton says there are always those who have a more deductive or a more inductive way of doing theology.
He compares the Synod to the meeting of Anglican leaders from around the world that the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for in January, saying it is simply “one step in a longer process.” The key question, he stresses, is about “how willing are we to journey on with fellow Christians who have very different views”….