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Welby finds that Anglicans are actually fond of each other

15 April 2016

Joyful encounters have overcome his pessimism, the Primate tells Madeleine Davies


HAVING fallen prey to “pessimistic moments” in the build-up to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury was struck by the fact that members were “really fond of each other”, he said this week.

“People really listening and talking to one another has struck me very strongly,” he said in an interview on Monday. “I think in my more pessimistic moments over the last couple of weeks, I was expecting a bit more sort-of-friction around, and I am quite struck, as I was at the Primates’ Meeting, that people actually like each other, are really fond of each other, even where they disagree with each other.”

Archbishop Welby said that he was “very conscious” of those not present at the meeting — “and we miss them”. But he had taken heart from what he had heard: “The Communion is very much based in national Churches, and you listen to what is happening there, and it is very healthy indeed. So, actually, I’m quite encouraged.”

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, an ACC member, said that he, too, missed those who were not present.

“I cannot choose who will travel alongside me as I follow Christ; only God can do that,” he said. “Therefore, when my fellow travellers choose not to talk with me, it is not that we’ve stopped being fellow travellers, just that the conversation on the road is not as rich as it could be.”

Archbishop Welby said that had been struck by the “vigour and life” at the eucharist on Sunday, and by the words of the Zambian President. “A couple of weeks back, they got the main political parties here at the cathedral because of the growing fears of political violence in Zambia in the run-up to the elections. What I just saw here was yet another Province that’s really stuck into reconciliation.”

Asked about the effect of the meeting on his personal faith, he said: “It reminds me of the breadth and the depth and the height and the length of the love of God embracing this extraordinarily diverse thing that is the global Church, never mind the Anglican Communion alone. . . It says so much about the richness of the power of the Spirit of God.”

The Archbishop appeared unperturbed by the fact that news of his biological father had broken in the UK on the second day of the meeting. He had remained cheerful throughout the day, merely joking that the cold he was suffering from would perhaps provide the press with a new headline. “Welby buckles under strain,” he suggested.

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