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New structures needed, Welby tells GAFCON Primates

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 21 Oct 2013 @ 04:44

THE Anglican Communion needs a new structure for the future, not one "for the power of some middle-aged English clergyman based in London with very little hair", the Archbishop of Canterbury said in Kenya on Sunday, on the eve of GAFCON II.

Archbishop Welby was speaking at All Saints' Cathedral, Nairobi during a 24-hour visit to the city. He delivered two sermons in the morning.

"I have thought and said for a  long time that there is a need for new structures in the Anglican Communion," he told the congregation. "The issues that divide us are at one level simple, but they are also at another level very complicated. Among many things, they tell us that we need a new way of being together as the Communion. A way that reflects the 21st century and not the old colonial pattern."

These new structures would be found through "discernment and wisdom and, above all, prayer and searching the scriptures", he suggested.  "Those who lead the Communion must have, at the heart of any structures we build, worship and mission and witness and evangelism as their aims and passion."

The Archbishop acknowledged that there were "many divisions within the Church today". As an example of favoritism within the Church, he spoke of the failure of the Church of England in the 1960s to welcome immigrants from the Caribbean. The churches set up by these immigrants were now "the strongest in the country. . . The Church of England lost the new life that they brought and that God was trying to offer us through them."

He warned that differences within the Church would "always exist", but that the way in which these were handled threatened to undermine evangelism. One of the worst moments of his ordained life had occurred on a Sunday when he opened a newspaper to see the headline: "How these Christians hate one another". The Church had "seldom obeyed the teaching of Scripture on disagreement".

There was an emphasis on Scripture in the Archbishop's sermon. He twice praised the congregation for having completed a "Bible-reading marathon" -  reading it in its entirety in the past two weeks - "such an important sense of spiritual health". There was reference too to the East African revival, when "the Bible spoke like fire and flame to the people". The Bible was "the essential thing without which the Church simply drifts apart and drifts away from God".

He warned, however, that the Bible could be "misused" by leaders. In South Africa, for example, Christian leaders had claimed that "apartheid was in the Bible." The scriptures must be read "as the whole Communion across the whole world, praying for a common vision that has its own application in each place". The more serious the crisis facing a Christian, the more seriously he or she must take the Bible, the Archbishop suggested. He recalled the night on which his life had been threatened by a militia in Africa, during which he had turned to the Bible.

The Archbishop concluded his sermon by addressing the "great areas of sin that tempt all of us" as set out one of the readings for the day (from Hebrews 13): power, sex and money. With reference to the misuse of power, he revealed: "In the last few months since becoming Archbishop, the biggest and most painful problem I have had is dealing with the victims of bullying clergy."

The passage from Hebrews reads: "Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure." The Archbishop took this opportunity to refer to his opposition to the Same Sex Couples Bill in the House of Lords (News, 7 June).

His opposition - "at great personal cost and being the object of much hatred" - was rooted in a desire to honour marriage, "not because we hate or fear anyone, whatever their sexuality". It was, he said, "not just that kind of behaviour that dishonours marriage", but also violence, adultery, and pornography. The Church must "recapture the vision of the Acts", a "Bible-centred, practically loving" vision.

The Archbishop left Kenya before the start of GAFCON. He told the congregation on Sunday morning that he was "very sad" not to be able to spend 24 weeks rather than 24 hours with them, describing the christening of Prince George on Wednesday as "not the sort of thing where you can say 'I'm sorry. I'm a bit busy.'"

Anglican Mainstream reported that he had prayed during his sermon for GAFCON: "For a clear sense of hearing what God is saying and an expression of that in showing the love of Jesus to all of us in all circumstances."

Referring to the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi (News, 27 September), the Archbishop said that he had come to "condole" with the Church in Kenya in its "great suffering". It was in Kenya, while working at a school 40 years ago this year, that he had "first found the Lord". 

Watch the Archbishop's sermon here, courtesy of Anglican Ink  http://anglicanink.com/article/gafcon-ii-archbishop-welby-addresses-gafcon

Archbishop and GAFCON leaders size each other up

by George Conger, in Nairobi

ARCHBISHOP Welby's attempts at shuttle diplomacy, holding private meetings with leading members of the Communion's liberal and conservative wings, was met with scepticism in Nairobi.

The GAFCON leaders knew that, a week earlier, the Archbishop had breakfasted in London with the former Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, the first openly partnered gay bishop.

The office of Archbishop of Canterbury could not serve as an honest broker between the factions, conservatives warned Archbishop Welby, but must stand with or against them. The issues were not political, but spiritual, one archbishop said, and thus not amenable to compromise.

Archbishop Welby's whirlwind visit to Nairobi on Sunday provided an opportunity for him to take the measure of six Primates and half-a-dozen other key leaders, including the General Secretary of GAFCON, Dr Peter Jensen, and the retired Nigerian Archbishop, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, in a private meeting at All Saints' Cathedral.

The conservatives also had an opportunity to size up Archbishop Welby. All of those questioned after the meetings expressed a personal regard for the man, but were sceptical that his office could provide a solution to the divisions within the Church if it sought to take a neutral stance.

"Archbishop Welby's statement 'The old ways are no longer appropriate, the old structures no longer work,' given on the eve of GAFCON, give us hope," Dr Jensen said. Nevertheless, the future envisioned by Archbishop Welby "began with GAFCON 2008", Dr Jensen said. "It's time for him to catch up."

 

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