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‘In the eyes of our persecutors we are already one’

08 May 2015


Stars in their eyes? Left to right: Jo Malone, Joyce Meyer, Cardinal Nichols, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Nicky Gumbel

Stars in their eyes? Left to right: Jo Malone, Joyce Meyer, Cardinal Nichols, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Nicky ...

UNITY between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches is an elusive goal, but it is one that the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, the Revd Nicky Gumbel, has in his sights.

After interviewing the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster at the HTB Leadership Conference on Tuesday, Mr Gumbel was visibly delighted at an occasion that had apparently been several years in the planning.

"When I think of how divided the Church has been in this country for hundreds of years, to see you both on stage, united, with so much love for each other, it is like a historic moment," he said. They were given a long standing ovation.

The theme of the conference, now in its sixth year, was unity. RC speakers included the Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, who told the audience of about 2000 that "In the eyes of God - and of our persecutors - we are already one."

Mr Gumbel interviewed Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the RC Bishops' Conference of England Wales, about leadership. The Cardinal said that he sought to prioritise relationships with his fellow priests over any project, design, or "crackpot idea" of his own. "The kind of leadership I try to exercise has a much stronger similiarity to family life than to business life."

Bishops should be "well-rooted in an appreciation of the difficulty of life, the messiness of life, those places on the fringes", he said. It was a mistake, he suggested, to rule out those who had shown "mistaken judgement in the past but have evidently learned from that".

He was then joined on stage by Archbishop Welby, a surprise guest, and a former member of Holy Trinity's congregation. Interviewed about his relationship with the RC Church, he described the "extraordinary" effect that the religious community Chemin Neuf had had on Lambeth Palace: "We are reminded both of our unity and division." When the RC Sisters did not receive communion in chapel, it was "a knife in the heart of all of us".

Unity was "not something we will negotiate or construct," Cardinal Nichols said, "but one we will receive in two places: on our knees and in service of the poor".

Archbishop Welby spoke of the cost of division: "The things that I find most destructive of peace are never the external events or the attacks, particularly going on outside the UK. . . It is always from inside, the divisions in the Church. . . We destroy the peace of the Church and the Church's capacity to be a peacemaker when we are not peaceful with each other, when we fight and destroy and tear each other. We cripple our witness when we are not united."

The conference heard from leaders in other spheres. The perfumier Jo Malone spoke of leaving school at 14 with no qualifications before founding a multi-million-pound business. She recalled being prayed for at Holy Trinity, aged 16, by Jackie Pullinger, the missionary to Hong Kong. Also invited was Joyce Meyer, an American author and broadcaster, whose books have sold millions of copies.

THE Dioceses Commission has approved the revival of the see of Islington, paving the way for a new bishop to lead on church-planting in the London diocese (News, 6 March), it was announced last week. A press release said the bishop would hold "a particular brief for church planting initiatives in the Diocese of London but [would] provide advice for other dioceses as invited to do so by the local bishop".

The bishop will also contribute to the new School of Church Growth in association with St Mellitus, the theological college founded jointly between the London and Chelmsford dioceses and St Paul's Theological Centre, which grew out of Holy Trinity, Brompton.

The new bishop will be accountable to the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, and part of his senior team. The Archbishop of Canterbury said the proposal was "essential to the future development of the evangelistic work of the Church of England".

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