*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

The Power of Reconciliation by Justin Welby

by
27 May 2022

Stephen Cherry reads the Archbishop’s new book on reconciliation

THIS book, though written when the Archbishop of Canterbury was on sabbatical at Trinity College, Cambridge, is far from being a cloistered or academic. The Power of Reconciliation is, rather a three-way hybrid of testimony, autobiography, and workbook. Its intended readership is Christian and global, but, since the good news of reconciliation is for all, so the book is for all.

The best way to read this book, I suggest, is not to see whether you think the Archbishop is right about reconciliation, but to get a deeper feel for what he means by it, why he cares so much about it as to risk his life for it, and to glean insights into what might actually work when it comes to reconciling people in your own situation.

By “reconciliation” Justin Welby means the transformation of damaging conflict into healthy disagreement. He sees it as peace-making and describes reconcilers as facilitators. Like many who have done the hard yards in this zone, he is not sentimental about outcomes. He doesn’t think that disagreements will cease; and it is for that very reason that we need to learn how to relate well to those with whom we disagree. But, equally, he isn’t one who thinks that grand statements agreed by a few, or fuzzy compromises forged out the mistaken efforts to blunt difference, are worth while either.

A long essay would need to be written to explain why Welby is so passionate about reconciliation, and this book certainly gives the theological rationale. He understands the Trinitarian God to be the ultimate reconciler, not in a disconnected sense, but in and through the work of Christ and the power of the Spirit — the Spirit that calls each and every person to the work of reconciliation.

Such work doesn’t involve standing back from conflict or failing to take positions or make statements that might be controversial or uncomfortable. Reconcilers, too, must enter conflict and experience the pain that it causes. But they must also, both by method, and also by prayer, seek to go through it to the point where people and relationships are given their proper priority and dignity. Conflicts may not be resolved — but people may be reconciled. And so it is that the Archbishop didn’t spend his sabbatical writing a book called The Power of Truth, or the The Power of Justice, or even the The Power of Mission. It is in reconciliation that Welby sees the core of the Christian calling.

The book is in three sections, and there are takeaway points throughout. In section one, the warnings against “overreach” and “overspeed” are salutary and addressed by the suggestion that any reconciler needs to have the virtues of patience and humility. Part two focuses on an approach to reconciliation pioneered in Coventry. This is based on six words, all of which begin with the letter “R”: “researching”, “relating”, “relieving”, “risking”, “reconciling”, and “resourcing”.

The third part promotes the “Difference” course that has been developed by the reconciliation team at Lambeth and is based on three habits: “Curiosity”, “Presence”, and “Reimagining”. While some books peter out before they finish, this one keeps going to the end, and the third section offers some of the more rewarding pages in the book, especially in the vital and topical “Presence” section.

Like most people, the Archbishop is better company when he is relating experiences than when he is informing and instructing, and there are times when the imperatives feel a little bit bossy and the analysis rather clipped — a bullet point standing in for a short paragraph. But the reader who steps back and feels the passion, absorbs the challenge, and accepts the articulation of a call to say “no” to hatred, to violence, and to a zero-sum approach to life will be much encouraged and better equipped to understand conflict, embrace difference, and facilitate reconciliation, whether in a small or a great way.


The Revd Dr Stephen Cherry is the Dean of King’s College, Cambridge.

 

The Power of Reconciliation
Justin Welby
Bloomsbury £17.99
(978-1-399-40297-2)
Church Times Bookshop £14.99

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)