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Church is not flaky, Welby tells MPs over pastries

20 June 2014


Archbishop Welby at the National Parlimentary Prayer Breakfast

Archbishop Welby at the National Parlimentary Prayer Breakfast

FOR the first time in its 30-year history, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, held on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, joined almost 700 guests to hear Archbishop Welby speak on the theme "Global Christianity in the 21st Century". It was also the first time that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition had both attended.

The breakfast, in Westminster Hall, has been organised for three decades by the group Christians in Parliament.

Archbishop Welby told those present that the Church must not be just an "NGO with lots of old buildings". He spoke of how he had visited All Saints', Peshawar, in Pakistan, earlier this month. A bomb attack on the church last year had killed 200 people (News, 13 September), but the congregation had tripled since then, he said.

Another feature of the global Church should be its unity, even in disagreement, the Archbishop said. "All Christians belong to one another as sister and brother, not as mutual members of a club. We do not have the option, if we love one another, of simply ditching those with whom we disagree."

He used the women-bishops legislation currently going through the General Synod as an example of how the Church could model "good disagreement".

Another trip, to South Sudan, showed how the Church could bring reconciliation, he said. He told the audience how the Archbishop of Sudan & South Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng, had gone straight from the scene of a brutal massacre in Bor to national television, to call for reconciliation.

"Isn't that extraordinary? Doesn't that speak of what the Church should be? That belonging to one another, being different, diverse, and yet authentic to oneself and to one's tradition and the truth, is a gift this world needs."

He also commented on the "Trojan horse" investigation into alleged Islamic extremism in some Birmingham schools (News, 13 June), and said that C of E schools stood for "tolerance, acceptance, reception, generosity, open-handedness".

"In this country alone, we educate nearly a million children in the Church of England. . . And let me say, no recent problems were in one of the church schools."

He suggested that improved communications had made deep thought more difficult: "Instant reaction has replaced reflective comment. The best answer to a complex issue on which one has heard a sound-bite from a sophisticated argument is not always given in 140 characters."

The Labour MP Stephen Timms, who chaired this year's breakfast, said that the high turnout and presence of Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband reflected "a growing recognition at the top of Parliament that the Christian faith has a very important part to play today in the life of our nation".

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