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Lambeth 2022: Now is time to deepen relationships across Communion, urges Welby

07 August 2022

Neil Turner/Lambeth Conference

Archbishop Welby delivers his final keynote address of the Lambeth Conference, on Sunday morning

Archbishop Welby delivers his final keynote address of the Lambeth Conference, on Sunday morning

THE Archbishop of Canterbury called on the whole Church to put into action the vision and strategy that has been shaped over the past ten days of the Lambeth Conference, in his final keynote address on Sunday morning.

“Whatever else comes out of this Lambeth Conference, at the heart of it must be the deepening and the building of relationships as our first objective,” he declared. “We need bishops who love God and love people. If you can tick those boxes, the rest doesn’t matter very much.”

Not for the first time, and to loud applause, he lamented the absence of Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda, acknowledging: “Discussion might have been more complicated, but, if we love each other, we will all find renewal.” He had told the press the previous day that his greatest failure had been “not being able to encourage them enough to be here.”

The Calls had been appeals not just to the bishops but to everyone in the Church to “be visibly the Kingdom of God.” Speaking in terms of new ways of learning and responding to the Holy Spirit, he commended the Living in Love and Faith process, describing it as “an extraordinary work of scholarship by scholars of all opinions about the nature of human identity.”

He recommended the 500,000 words of learned articles, in which the aim had not been to give a decisive answer but to enable the Church of England to think through all aspects of the issues. “The project hid from nothing,” he said. “It is an example of one church in the Anglican Communion journeying together.”

The Church throughout its history had seen and recognised and confronted the darkness of the world, he said, citing St Benedict as one example: “He started a school of discipleship . . . and accidentally saved civilisation. . . The priests in England, working in the 19th century slums of London, preached the gospel and invented epidemiology.”

The Church was “not just a nice thing to have in society. It points to the Kingdom of heaven. . . It is not another NGO, it is God’s chosen means of shining light in the darkness.” Even in its human weakness, the Church was “still the Bride of Christ, every moment, everywhere. . .

“The darkness of the world around us too often swirls with the smoke of hell. The church staggers and coughs in fear of the future. We argue and divide. But how should we act, above all in relationships? That is the greatest call because it is the scriptural call. This week has been a time of intense ecclesiological development and thinking and action.”

Scriptures were at the very heart of the reformed tradition, he reiterated: not just the historic episcopacy of the Catholic tradition, “or that we are part of the global Church. We also hold to the catholic principles of organisation.” He went on to talk about autonomy, subsidiarity, “secularisation made easy by technology. . . It is the habit of control and the exercise of power.

“Interdependence is expressed by solidarity. By seeking the common good, we accept a level of mutual accountability without mutual control.” In each generation the principle of the five marks of mission remained the same, he said, “but the way we take action changes.”

Of the first of these marks, to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, “we can only tell what we know and explain what we understand,” he said. “The strength of many churches that grow deeper and grow in numbers is that everyone knows the gospel and can say their own testimony of their love and meeting with Jesus Christ. It is central throughout the Anglican Communion that everyone understands themselves to be witnesses.“

He continued: “Let every Anglican know they are a witness. . . And let them be caught up in worship, for they are the foundation of the church.” And throwing out a challenge, he asked: “Are our church services so boring that people think they have done their duty to God by coming?”

On the work of teaching, baptising, and nurturing, he urged the importance of knowing the texts, and commended the regular practise of exegesis. “Have confidence in the Bible,” he urged. “Teaching is not simply saying what the text says; it is a prophetic task.” Scripture, like Christians, went out into the world, to teach and to give its hearers the tools to think, pray, and decide.

He went on to speak of Hooker’s basis of scripture, tradition, and reason and to commend Christian universities as one of the most important developments in the Anglican Communion. “Most of all, we as shepherds must teach and explain the scriptures,” he said.

Turning to the call to “tend”, he spoke of his experience as a weekly hospital volunteer for 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, often in the critical care unit (News, 17 September 2021). Many of those with whom he prayed were dying; others were unconscious.

“We prayed with doctors and nurses of no religious background, who were overwhelmed at the scale of the tragedy. We listened.” Most of it, he said, had been “kneeling by the bed and holding the hand of someone who knew nothing of what was going on.

“None of it was any more than millions of others did — but the fact that the Church kept showing up was noticeable in the hospital. We are to transform, challenge violence, pursue peace and reconciliation.”

Anglicans, he said, had got “sucked into collusion with governments at every level. . . We don’t like it when governments speak forcefully against us, but we must speak. We must act. . . To be silent on the unethical treatment of migrants is to be one of the oppressors. We live in solidarity with the person having the gun pointed at them, who cannot say anything.” Those in other countries could garner support.

He turned finally to the call to “treasure”. The climate crisis was “the result of the wealthier countries having declared war on God’s creation — unknowingly, unthinkingly.” Telling the poor not to use carbon-generating fuels was a way of saying, “We’ll keep our wealth.”

The campaign for urgent action on climate change was having an impact, he said. ”Our approach springs from scripture. This is not the Church getting involved in politics — it is the Church getting involved with God. In him, all things on the earth were created”

The Anglican Communion Office would be following up this Conference with further shared learning over the next two years, “with the aim was seeing how we could put into practice these things we have agreed. . . It will continue to deepen understanding. . . Most of all, it will keep us facing outwards. It could not have been done a week ago. Christian vision is different from any other vision. We are true to the God who says to us, ‘Go.’”

He exhorted: “Be welcoming the Holy Spirit every day, every moment, in every church at every level. . . The Holy Spirit will lead you into all wisdom, all knowledge. We hope that as the Holy Spirit is being welcomed, is sending, that we will see transformation and hope as hearts are changed.”

He concluded: “This is it time of revelation to a world where many forget the gift of God’s love. Let us share it with each other.”

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