THE Archbishop of Canterbury joined more than 220 delegates,
including diocesan secretaries, bishops, other clerics, and members
of a number of Churches, at a three-day conference, "Faith in
Conflict", in Coventry Cathedral this week.
The organiser and host of the event, David Porter, who is Canon
Director of Reconciliation Ministry at the cathedral, has just
joined the Archbishop of Canterbury's personal staff in a part-time
post, working to heal divisions in the Anglican Communion (News,
22 February). He said this week: "Conflict frightens us because
it threatens us and goes to the heart of what we believe, who we
are, and what we believe the gospel is. . .
"The gospel is something to be defended. Anything that is
perceived to attack it, we immediately go into defensive mode, and
that means we handle conflict badly, and become conflictual in the
way that we promote the gospel rather than being people of
In a keynote address on Tuesday, the Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of
St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and Visiting Professor of
Christian Ethics at King's College, London, said: "There is no such
thing as peace, if peace is taken to mean the absence of conflict.
It is only a collection of which types of tensions, differences,
and disputes we choose to regard as significant; and the degree to
which they are harmonious, constructive, or suppressed.
"The cessation, resolution, or, more like, translation of one
conflict simply creates time and space to become aware of others.
When we regard conflict as a waste of time or energy, it is not
because conflict itself is pointless; it is because we believe this
conflict in question is distracting us from conflicts elsewhere
that are more urgent, significant, rewarding, or otherwise worthy
of our attention."
He said that Churches should learn to accept conflict as a
consequence of creation, and suggested that "difference" was like a
symphony: "Even though more than one instrument was likely to be
playing at any one time - and by no means always playing the same
notes - that is how symphonies work."
Speaking on Wednesday, the Revd Dr Jo Bailey Wells, a consultant
to the Anglican Communion's Continuing Indaba programme, said:
"Conflict is normal. There is diversity from creation, and conflict
from that diversity from the Fall.
"Conflict is normal. It is to be expected. Conflict-resilience
needs to be our goal; not a never-never land of reasoned
She said that Jeremiah, speaking to the exiles in Babylon, was
the first to make the "completely unprecedented" suggestion that
you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you "in a
volatile, uncertain world".
But she said that "something changed" when Jesus reiterated the
"What has changed is not that Christians are more disposed to
love their enemies and pray for them assiduously. With few
exceptions, we feel the same about our enemies as the Judaeans felt
about the Babylonians. What has changed is that we can no longer
say that seeking their shalom is absurd - a figment of an
overheated prophetic imagination. Now that Jesus has spoken, we
know that actively seeking shalom with our enemies is
exactly what God expects from us."
Archbishop Welby was scheduled to address the conference
yesterday in his first significant speech as Archbishop of
Chaplain appointment Archbishop Welby has
appointed the Revd Dr Jo Bailey Wells as his new chaplain,
Lambeth Palace announced on Thursday. A statement said that Dr
Bailey Wells's "primary focus will be for the spiritual life
at Lambeth Palace and for supporting the Archbishop's pastoral and
liturgical ministry". Dr Bailey Wells was most recently the
Director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at
Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. She is married to the Vicar
of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Revd Dr Sam