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‘Ecumenical winter’ must end, declares Archbishop Welby

08 September 2022

Albin Hillert/WCC

Archbishop Welby addresses the 11th World Council of Churches Assembly, meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Wednesday

Archbishop Welby addresses the 11th World Council of Churches Assembly, meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Wednesday

AT TIMES of world crisis, the “habits of division” between Christians must end, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Wednesday. He was addressing the 11th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly, meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany (Comment, 2 September).

Archbishop Welby spoke of the Lambeth Conference meeting in Canterbury over the summer (News, 19 August), at which participants had expressed “huge differences” over matters such as human sexuality. “We found our way forward through, not by solving the issues but by living in the light of Christ, by saying we do not agree, by being honest without excluding one another.”

He continued: “And in this time of world crisis, we found a way forward: not in panicking in what is happening around us, but in studying the scriptures, in prayer, and even, by the end of the conference, by sharing communion far more than we were the eucharist at the beginning. At the beginning, many felt they could not participate; by the end, almost all did.”

The Archbishop went on to say that, in a time of crisis, Christians of different denominations were called “to be a community of peace, the creation of God, not us, in Christ through the Spirit”, and to be “a people of generosity and harmony across difference”.

The crises facing the world were “greater today than perhaps ever before in human history”, he said. This meant that “the time of ecumenical winter and the habits of division, of living separately, is past. New life will come with obedience, and the choice of us taking risks in ecumenism, that step forward expecting to be blessed when we obey Christ.”

Archbishop Welby said that the challenge facing the Church worldwide was “to re-find the spiritual passion of the past for ecumenism; theologically, in solidarity with the suffering, in love that covers a multitude of sins. To do that, we must face our fears of each other and of the world together; we must love one another, we must give common witness and work towards a more visible unity that we reimagine in the grace of God.”

Speaking at a press conference after his speech, Archbishop Welby warned against denominations’ competing against one another. “Unity does not mean a united bureaucracy, or even a united hierarchy, or style of worship or common cultural assumptions. It means a profound love for one another that receives each other at the Lord’s table.”

Read Archbishop Welby’s speech here.

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