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Archbishop of Canterbury in Australia: Church is shamed by past and present divisions

10 October 2022

Welby reinforces his message of unity by looking at Australia’s past

Diocese of Melbourne

Archbishop Welby (left) with ecumenical leaders in Melbourne Cathedral on Sunday evening

Archbishop Welby (left) with ecumenical leaders in Melbourne Cathedral on Sunday evening

THE Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to be “saddened and disappointed” by the refusal of the conservative diocese of Sydney to recognise the episcopal status of the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy, the most senior female leader in the Australian Church.

Speaking during the Perth leg of his two-week Australian visit, Archbishop Justin Welby said that it was hurtful to Archbishop Goldsworthy and other women who believed themselves called and whom the Church had recognised as called. “We just have to work our way steadily forward with this,” he said. Archbishop and Mrs Welby were due to dine with the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Revd Kanishka Raffel, and his wife during a visit to Sydney that starts on Tuesday.

On Saturday evening, Archbishop Welby spoke at a dinner to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the diocese of Adelaide; and, on Sunday morning, he preached in St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide, during a choral eucharist that marked the anniversary

Later on Sunday, Archbishop Welby preached at a service of evensong in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the diocese of Melbourne. The service was also attended by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Revd Peter Comensoli: the Roman Catholic diocese was founded in the same year, 1847.

In his sermon, Archbishop Welby referred to the shame caused by the refusal of Melbourne’s first Anglican bishop, Dr Charles Perry, to receive Melbourne’s first resident Roman Catholic priest, Fr Patrick Geoghegan, when the latter called on him after Dr Perry’s arrival in late 1874. “I wish Perry had embraced his Roman Catholic confrère,” he said. “Thank God we have moved on from there.”

He said that he counted his English counterpart, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, as one of his closest friends. “We speak every time there is a crisis — which means, in England at the moment, about hourly,” he joked, adding that he “mustn’t stray into politics”.

He continued: “Who can deliver us? The Anglicans? Us the Church in its broadest sense, including Rome? Who can deliver us from our past? For our past has so much shame. So much in which, in the dark of the night, we say to ourselves, I wish they had not done that. . .

“I wish they had not treated the original inhabitants of this land as ‘savages’, as ignorant, as subhuman, as not worthy of life, as not worthy of respect, as people to be displaced. . . I wish they had not done that.

“I wish they had come with the good news of Jesus Christ lived, as well as spoken; shared, as well as imposed. I wish there had not been lost generations. I wish that our society was fairer, when so much of it originated in the life of the Church.”

Archbishop Welby will be visiting a number of Indigenous communities in Sydney and North Queensland during his Australian visit, at a time when Australia is preparing for a proposed referendum on a constitutionally recognised Indigenous ‘Voice to Parliament”. Asked his views of the proposal on a radio interview, he said it was “a matter for the Australian people”, and he would not interfere.

He said he wished that the Church had not split in the 16th century. “Who can deliver us from a Church which, in the United States alone, has 36,000 denominations? If God can raise Jesus Christ from the dead, then God can transform our Church.”

He longed for a Church that was “once again a light, salt in society, forgiven, transparent, full of integrity, a blessing for our society, a hope for the lost, a strength for the weak. We serve a God who is capable of deliverance. . .”

Referring to the enormous societal differences in the Anglican Communion, he said that it was not surprising that there were different views. “The heart of the call of God to all Christian people is not that they are unanimous,” he said, “but that they are united, and they learn to differ well.” God calls us, he said, “to disagree in profound love”.

He has refused to be drawn on the divisions within the Australian Anglican Church over the creation of the Gafcon diocese. Speaking in a radio interview, he said that, while he was always saddened to see a group of people who felt they needed to divide from the Church, this was “very much a matter for the Church in Australia”. On questions of religious freedom, he commented that “we need to learn better how to deal with them”.

Archbishop Welby met the national Anglican bishops at their meeting in Melbourne on Monday. He also visited members of the Karen refugee community, whom he described as “an example of courage, determination, and faith”.

On Tuesday, the Archbishop met Arab and Iranian clergy and lay people in Melbourne, including refugees from Syria and Iraq. “Be assured of our prayers as you live with the pain of exile and the joy of finding safe haven,” he wrote on Twitter after the meeting, which he described as “deeply moving”.

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