THE Church of England must take part in reshaping post-Brexit Britain or risk seeing the country ruined by its current problems, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
“This could be a time of liberation, of seizing and defining the future, or it could be one in which the present problems seize our national future and define us,” Archbishop Welby said, during his presidential address to the General Synod on Monday.
“Whether one was a supporter of Brexit or of Remain, there is now a wide and liberal choice of future for this country.
“This is a moment to reimagine Britain, a moment of potential opportunity — certainly combined with immensely hard work and heavy lifting.”
Archbishop Welby also suggested that Brexit seemed to tie in with the rise of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and other figures from the “nationalist, populist, or even fascist tradition of politics”.
This was where the Church of England came in, he said. “Let’s not be too self-important. I don’t mean we, the Church of England, are the answer. But we can be part of the answer.”
Whether through church schools, ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, the voice of bishops in the House of Lords, or chaplains in every workplace, the C of E cannot miss the chance to shape the emerging new Britain with its values — or, rather, Christ’s values, Archbishop Welby argued.
Yet it must also avoid the temptations of both becoming obsessed with internal affairs or becoming transfixed with securing “power and glory” from the outside world. This also mattered when it came to the Church’s current travails on sexuality and abuse, he said.
While it was natural and right to want to see one’s own position prevail within the Synod, he went on, all sides must be not self-indulgent but outward looking.
Responding to the news that the Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, had been quizzed on his personal life through a text from another member of the Synod, Archbishop Welby said that this was a good example of “inexcusable self-indulgence” and “how not to act”.
He went on to speak of recent revelations about abuse (News, 10 February), about which he wanted to be “blunt and clear. Abuse has occurred across every tradition of the Church, and in every other institution, and in society as a whole, and above all in families. It is part of the human tragedy, and something against which we must struggle. That struggle has to show genuine concern for survivors. .
He concluded by urging the Church to participate, but not dictate, in the “necessary reimagination of our country. . . [The C of E’s] heritage is to be used confidently, but not arrogantly. We are not to seek to rule, but to love and serve. We wash all feet indiscriminately.”