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Welby: Church seen as nasty

22 August 2014


G'day: the Archbishop of Canterbury takes questions at a press conference in Melbourne, last week

G'day: the Archbishop of Canterbury takes questions at a press conference in Melbourne, last week

ANGLICANS are "like one of those families that, rather than having their arguments in private, hissing at each other and sulking, goes out in the garden and shouts", the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Wednesday of last week, during a visit to Australia. "It's not always a good thing. I think it often is a good thing, because it's transparent and honest."

Archbishop Welby was speaking on ABC Australia's Religion and Ethics Report, during a one-day visit to the country, as part of a ten-day stay in the South Pacific.

When asked about divisions in the Anglican Communion - the previous Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, was an active member of GAFCON - he said that there remained "a sense of unity". In each of the 29 provinces he had visited to date as Archbishop, he had found that the link to Canterbury had been "something that people treasure and value to a huge degree".

He concluded: "I believe that Christ is calling us to walk together, and that's what I am working on."

On Wednesday, the Archbishop preached at the service of inauguration for the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, as Primate of Australia, in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne.

The Church of England was swimming against a cultural "rip tide", and associated with "what is often seen as nasty, bad, judgemental, condemning", Archbishop Welby said. In this tide, "autonomy and existential self-invention tear through all assumptions about everything from the proper conduct of government to the nature of human sexuality, taking with it the ethics of our collective life."

The Church was "laden with our systems of governance, our assumptions about how we act, our sins of the past, especially in the treatment of children and vulnerable adults".

The Church must seek "positive holiness and liberation", he said, which "sets us free from the sins of defensive inward-looking, competitive argument". It must confess its faults, "especially the abuse of power that lies behind the abuse of children and vulnerable adults", and seek "liberty to be diverse and yet full of love for one another".

During his visit to Australia, the Archbishop said that decisions about changes were best made by the Communion as a whole; and this included the next Lambeth Conference, "whenever that might be". "There is nothing magic about the number eight," he said, which suggested to some that the next Lambeth Conference might not necessarily to be held in 2018, as would have been expected.

Supporting Dr Freier's call to the Australian government to offer asylum to Christians from northern Iraq, Archbishop Welby said that what was happening there was "off the scale of human horror". The persecution in Iraq and Syria was "especially savage", he said, but it was also part of a "rising and increasingly serious persecution of Christians and other groups in many countries".

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