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Lambeth 2022: ‘Evangelism is our core truth’ says Archbishop of York

02 August 2022

Richard Washbrooke/Lambeth Conference 

The Archbishop of York speaks at the mission and evangelism plenary, on Saturday

The Archbishop of York speaks at the mission and evangelism plenary, on Saturday

NO BISHOPS would be likely to vote against mission and evangelism; so the plenary addressed by the Archbishop of York, on Saturday, was always set fair to be on firm ground.

Archbishop Cottrell was on lively form, reeling off a string of brand names: McDonald’s (making burgers), Cadbury (chocolate), Starbucks (“extremely horrible coffee”), Heineken, Toyota, and the rest.

“The Church of England makes disciples. That is what we are about,” he declared. Disciples made peace, disciples made justice: “We are not here to build an earthly empire of an institution called the Church.” He urged his fellow bishops: “Be angels. Be messengers of the good news. Evangelism is our core truth.”

In the light of acknowledged disagreements on some issues, he urged the Conference to “show the world that what we have, despite our disagreements, is love. Water [of baptism] is thicker than blood.”

If he had been in charge of Pentecost, he reflected cheerfully, “I’d have done it differently. I’d have got everybody in the world to speak the same language — a sort of holy Esperanto. It’s not us speaking one language: it’s the Church of Jesus Christ speaking every language. Evangelism is usually dialogue, not monologue.”

The work of evangelism was to be intentional, he said. “We as bishops need to lead on this, help people to do it. ‘One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.’” Being a bishop was a spiritually dangerous business: “People treat us like we’re very important . . . show us to the top seat at the top table.

“If we allow ourselves, we can be taken in in by this. We can start imagining we are the bakers of the bread, not the beggar, leading by example. We bishops need to know ourselves beloved of Christ. The gospel needs to be shared in cultures, tribes, and nations as well as individuals.”

He continued: “We in the North have been particularly good at keeping [the gospel] to ourselves.” In an “altar call”, to which all acceded, he urged the bishops to stand up if they were committed to taking this forward.

The Archbishop of Chile, the Most Revd Tito Zavala Muñoz, challenged the bishops about whether they were “mission-minded” or “maintenance-minded”. He called for thinking minds and a vision for the work, and emphasised the importance of the laity.

Specific requests in the Calls, to which they later acceded, included:

“Each diocese and every church to seek fervently to be renewed by the wonder and power of the good news of Christ;

“For each diocese to make a fresh and creative commitment to revitalise churches and to plant new congregations in contextually appropriate ways, to reach those who have not yet heard the gospel;

“For the churches that are persecuted to be supported in their witness, that they may be protected and stand firm in their faith.”

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