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
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
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,
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
Archbishop and GAFCON
leaders size each other up
by George Conger, in
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
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'
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
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."