THE Church is a place of revolution without violence, called “to set the world the right way up,” the Archbishop of Canterbury told the Lambeth Conference on Friday, in his second keynote address.
“The Church is a place of evolution and of revolution without violence,” he said. “It has too often mixed-up change with violence. But we are called to set the world the right way up, for the tune to which we dance is to become the tune to which all the world dances. . . Revolution is the impact of the marks of mission on the world. We are revolutionaries.”
The theme was intertwined with that of unity. The Anglican Communion must be united but, “Note, I do not say unanimous. It must be united in a way that reveals Jesus Christ. . . People will say that by being friends of those with whom they disagree we are changing sides; we’re betraying the cause. They said the same to Jesus.”
The Archbishop cited the history of the Church in matters such as slavery. But first he chose to return to an earlier theme of contrition for abuse perpetrated by the Church.
“No part of our church has been exempt — such abuse has taken place in Evangelical, in high church, and in liberal churches. Abusers have been single or married — of every sort of churchmanship, old and young, ordained or lay, and abuse has been about power. . . Worse than that . . . abuse [has] very often [been] covered up by the authorities in the Church. . .
“Wherever abuse takes place, it is the gravest misuse of power. I want to pay tribute to the bravery and resilience of survivors. . . I will continue to apologise with tears in my eyes for the Church that let them down so terribly. . . How can it be that institutions based on the gospel, bound up inextricably in the life and death of Jesus, reading the gospels, can themselves do, or tolerate, or cover up such evil things as the Church has done?”
The sins of God’s Church protected earthly power while surrendering heavenly hope, he suggested, asking “What must the Communion do as it faces this paradox?”
He spoke about Mozambique, “one of the two countries in one of our youngest Provinces, working effectively across Provincial boundaries with Tanzania, with the help of a UN group who are constantly surprised by the skill and knowledge that the Church has.”
He continued: “The Communion must . . . have those who are wise in the world. How can science serve the Kingdom unless we have those who can argue the claims of God based on the gifts God has given us in science and technology?
“How can we challenge the selfishness of the richest countries and richest people if we are unable to argue with economics in the power of the Spirit? Will the rich withdraw behind high, armour-protected walls? Or will we seek together to do right? It is the Churches, especially Anglican and Roman, that have the global networks to do right.”
He urged the assembly: “Look at the failure to share the Covid-19 vaccine. Now multiply several thousand times to an age shortly to come, when climate change wreaks havoc around the world, where sea levels rise.”
The miracle that God had brought about in the Church was not that “like-minded people like each other, but that the most unlike people love each other. We are seeing that this week, but to maintain it is difficult.”
He continued: “We are not at liberty to choose our brothers and sisters. We do not go down the road of expelling other Christians. We should seek with passion the visible unity of the Church. . . Anglicanism has always seen itself as contingent, temporary, until the visible unity of God’s church is re-established.”
The greatest challenge for a Christian was “being converted every day . . . becoming churches that live by what they say and are revolutionary. . . Our institutions must conform to the justice and righteousness of God.”
The Archbishop declared the Magnificat to be “a statement of revolution not comfort”, the “statement of a revolutionary. The East India Company forbade its singing in evensong in the churches of the parts of India it ruled, lest the local people got the idea that God was like this. It means we are revolutionaries.”
He reiterated that Christians did not “tolerate what is wrong because it fits the culture or because we have always done it that way, or because our lawyers say so. We are to remain revolutionaries.”
But, unlike secular or political revolutions, the Christian revolution ran on “grace, mercy and forgiveness, generosity and engagement. The aim of this revolution is not human power, influence, or position.
“Our beginning and end is the King and his Kingdom — the greatest revolution the world has ever seen. Revolution is part of the institutional life of those who proclaim Christ. That is our calling, and God will make it plain. But we must obey.”