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Welby: God calls us to be bridge builders

27 September 2013


STRUGGLES to achieve unity in the Anglican Communion are the result of spiritual attack, which is provoked by efforts to build bridges, the Archbishop of Canterbury said last week.

Archbishop Welby was addressing the Wycliffe Toronto Congress in Canada, on Skype. Held to mark the 50th anniversary of a congress celebrating "the coming of age of Anglicanism as a global communion", the gathering was asked to explore the meaning of "mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ".

God had called Anglicans to be "bridge-builders" the Archbishop said. "And my spiritual director said some years ago to me that all ministries, all people, all Churches are attacked by the devil most in the area of their vocation and charism. And so, as the Anglicans, if we're good bridge-builders, we will find ourselves struggling with unity. So let's be realistic about that."

He also suggested that leaders needed to be realistic about the fallibility of their members. "We need to remember that all Churches around the world are sinful; there's none of us that are right. And the trouble with the Anglican Communion at the moment is we focus on one or two sins, and forget that all of us need to come in repentance and humility to the cross, and kneel before the cross and seek the forgiveness of God."

He also urged the congress to appreciate the different contexts in which the Church was operating. Although in the UK a "massive change" around sexuality was accelerating, other parts of the world were dealing with corruption, persecution, hostility, or complacency. A Church facing persecution would "behave differently from a Church where Christian faith is accepted as normal.

"Financial corruption is a major problem in many parts of the world, and inevitably, because the Church is full of people, and people are sinners, the Church is full of people who are financially corrupt. In other places it's sexual corruption, and so the Church is full of people who misbehave sexually, because the Church is full of people."

He was "optimistic" about the Communion, envisaging a future of "growth, of new disciples, of bridge-building, of reconciliation, of serving God's mission in the world".

The congress was also addressed by the Primates of Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, Nigeria, Burundi, and Kenya. The Archbishop is planning to visit every Anglican Primate during his first 18 months in office (News, 16 August).

On Friday, Primates and bishops who were representing the Anglican Global South at the conference issued a statement that included a call for a renewal of the structures of the Communion "so as to reflect the tremendous growth of the Church in last 50 years in Global South". They were "open to a fresh articulation of an Anglican Covenant".

The second Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON II) is due to meet in Nairobi next month.

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