THE Church is entering a new season of revival, despite living in an age of turmoil, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
“I believe from the bottom of my heart that the long years of winter in the Church — especially in the Church of England — are changing,” Archbishop Welby said last week. “The ice is thawing; the spring is coming. There is a new spring in the Church.”
He was speaking in Harrogate at a conference for church leaders run by the New Wine movement. He praised New Wine for leading the turn-around. “New Wine have been heroes, and will continue to be. You’ve borne the burden; you’ve turned the tide. There is renewal and life springing up.”
He began his speech, however, by suggesting that the world was seeing a time of deep insecurity and uncertainty — the worst since the end of the Cold War, or even the tumult of the 1930s.
Everyone was tempted to look for strong leaders in times of turmoil, he said. “We are seeing powerful figures rise who claim to be the ones to make their nation great again. Trump that if you want,” he joked.
But those who put their hope in “princes or elections” would be betrayed, because all humans were fallible.
“May I tell you a secret? We’ve had a strong leader for 2000 years, and today we still have him, and he’s called Jesus Christ. We don’t need any others.”
Archbishop Welby said that evidence of this new dawn in the Church could be seen in the discussions on evangelism at last month’s General Synod meeting (News, 26 February).
Furthermore, he said, people in the Church were no longer opposing change and reform, but were pushing for it themselves.
When living through an era of “rough seas”, Archbishop Welby said, it was not a time for “safe hands and faint hearts. . . It’s a time for courage and adventure, and living as the people we really are. The days of rough seas are exciting. We should not be intimidated. Praise God for the responsibility of living in these times.”
He spoke of how, in both Lambeth Palace and Canterbury Cathedral, looking at the names and deeds of his predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury made him feel the weight of his position. As Augustine, Dunstan, Thomas Becket, Anselm, and Thomas Cranmer had all left a legacy, so must he.
As leaders, he said, they must all seek to be humble servants, not strong autocrats. He recalled they way in which the founder of the L’Arche communities, Jean Vanier, had made the Anglican Primates end their fractious meeting in January by washing one another’s feet.
“We are servants of Christ: washers of feet, not lovers of publicity. Our call is not a quest for great leaders, but a quest to be a holy people; for that is the only way that we win a world more and more lost.”
He urged the audience to join him, and the Archbishop of York, in their week of prayer for evangelism leading up to Pentecost (News, 5 February).