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