THE purpose of dialogue with other Churches is to “rub salt into the wounds caused by our division”, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Tuesday. “I pray for disruption,” he said.
Archbishop Welby was preaching at an evensong in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome. The Centre had been set up after a ground-breaking meeting between Pope Paul VI and a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey. The Archbishop described the Centre as “a needle to provoke mission, a translator to interpret tongues of difference, a channel of friendship to share hope and strength, a family to celebrate our call as God’s children”.
He warned that “the habits of the centuries render us comfortable with disunity, even more so when there is the apparatus of dialogue. Dialogue can be an opiate, dulling the pain of separation.”
It could, however, be “a stimulant, confronting us with the need for repentance and change”. In this context, he praised the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), now into its third generation, and the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
“I pray that ARCIC disrupts our disunity, makes waves, makes pain,” the Archbishop said. “ARCIC has been running a marathon in three phases, perhaps a triathlon might be a better word. Its labourers have been remarkably constant, and its efforts are unseen but essential.
“In order for it to keep finding disruptors of division, of disunity, and of schism, it must develop its especial genius of a spirit of receptive ecumenism, of asking not what we might give the other, but what we lack that God might give us through the other. It rubs salt into the wounds caused by our division.”
IARCCUM, he said, “confronts us with a world that does not ask if we are Anglican or Catholic, but whether we are Christian”.
Praising the work of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop Welby described it as “essential” to the Anglican relationship with the RC Church, as well as essential “to knowing the pain of division, to being humble and patient in bearing with one another in love.
“Above all, it carries the disruption of love, that brings, in place of the comfortable complacency of long-accustomed distance, the ecstasies and agonies of passion, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
Many past and present members of ARCIC were present at the service. The lessons were read by the co-chairmen of ARCIC III, the RC Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Revd Bernard Longley, and a former Archbishop of New Zealand, the Most Revd David Moxon, who is also the director of the Anglican Centre.
The passage read by Archbishop Moxon came from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in which he urges them to make “every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”.
Other guests included Jonathan Doria Pamphilj, in whose family palazzo in Rome the Anglican Centre has resided since its inception. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey was there, as were the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor; the Papal Nuncio, the Most Revd Antonio Mennini; and several diocesan bishops.
Among the prayers, Bridget Moss, the Centre’s UK development officer, thanked God “for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you”, and asked for “the courage to bear witness to the truth together, and may our conversations embrace those who perpetuate disunity”.