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Welby challenges Church to model reconciliation

08 March 2013

TIM ECCLESTON

Round table: Archbishop Welby shares a meal at the "Faith in Conflict" conference in Coventry Cathedral

Round table: Archbishop Welby shares a meal at the "Faith in Conflict" conference in Coventry Cathedral

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has used his first sermon to challenge the Church to become a community of "reconciled reconcilers"; but first, he said, the Church must itself model reconciliation.

In a sermon at Coventry Cathedral on Thursday of last week, during a eucharist that marked the end of a three-day conference, Faith in Conflict (News, 1 March), Archbishop Welby said that Christians too often "seek like-mindedness", turn away from conflict, "and instead seek those with whom we can agree. The spirit of so much of our Christianity, particularly among Protestants, was to make a new frontier.

"When things don't work out with everyone, we move on to the new frontier with those who agree; and when we fall out with them, we do it again, and again, and again, and again."

Those who belonged to God belonged to each other, he said, and were "bound into a family-fellowship of being heralds of the reconciliation we have received. We had better get used to it, because it lasts for ever, and we have no choice.

"There are no walls in heaven. We cannot say 'this is my bit', and those who disagree can have another bit. It doesn't work that way."

He said that churches that were not places of both conflict and reconciliation were not merely "hindering mission and evangelism", but were failing, or failed, churches. "It has ceased to be the miracle of diversity of the grace of God breaking down walls.

"We are to be reconciled reconcilers. When that happens, we are unbelievably attractive, and distinctively prophetic - not because we agree, but because we disagree with passion, in love, and set the bar high for the world around us. We demonstrate the grace of reconciliation, and then, having set the bar high, we reach out and help people over it."

Taking inspiration from the latest Bruce Willis movie, he said: "Too often, when things get difficult, we circle the wagons and self-define ourselves as those with one mind against the rest of the world. It has a noble feeling, circling the wagon, being the small minority that's persecuted. It gives us the feeling that it is a good day to die hard: hard of heart, and hard in action."

He said that the Church had been infiltrated by society's context of fear: "We do not trust the scientists on earth science, or the politicians, or the journalists, or the bankers, or the bishops. The absence of trust renders all decision-making a matter of law, and all laws an attempt to cover every possible contingency: a complete impossibility in a world of change and journeying."

Archbishop Welby described a vision of what a Church of reconciled reconcilers could achieve, saying that the possibilities were "more than we can imagine".

"Reconciliation will touch every aspect of our life and society. . . We can be, as God's people - as Anglicans, even - reconcilers of the environment and natural order, of families and communities, of economies and financial services, and of nations." He challenged the Church to "establish a pattern and model of trust-filled living, a model that changes the world."

 

The full sermon can be read at www. archbishopofcanterbury.org.

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