Vikings, Muslims, and Anglicans: Justin Welby addresses first day of Primates’ gathering

According to Christian Today, the speech was supposed to be a private address to the gathered Primates, and it is not published on the official Primates 2016 website.

Although his office declined to comment, there was no denial that he had delivered the speech.

Nevertheless, the transcript of the speech leaked by Vanguard has been widely shared since yesterday’s opening of the “gathering.”

In his address, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby drew on the history of tension and mission of the churches together:

Since Augustine, the history is a mixture of good and bad,of the heroism of missionary endeavour from Augustine onwards, through the evangelism of the savage tribes of Scandinavia by monks from the north east of England, and onwards over the centuries to the great missions from the 18th century which led to so many of the churches whose Primates are here. We are all the heirs and beneficiaries of courage, of loss, of suffering and of martyrdom, of wars of independence and conquest, of the search for freedom and of others who have used the church for repression. They all shaped the way we think and feel, and our history influences how we deal with crises.

Welby revealed that his own Christian conversion had been introduced by African missionaries:

Yet, through it all, God was faithful. For example, East Africa was evangelised, it is true, first by missionaries, but it was the East African Revival that set the pattern for holiness, for a vigour of lifestyle in relationship with Christ that so impressed an 18 year old teaching at Kiburu Secondary school. That same 18 year old then had the seed of the gospel sown into the ground prepared, when three Ugandan Bishops, led by Festo Kivengere came to England in 1975. And a few weeks later I gave my life to Christ. So for me it was indigenous Kenyan and Ugandan faith, through the Revival’s legacy, that brought me salvation. I do not forget that.

He touched on the difficult relationship in some parts of the Anglican Communion with their Muslim neighbors:

Islam is engaged in more and more violent activity in its civil war. Its violent arms subvert, attack, kill and destroy without mercy or conscience, as Christians did during the reformation. Islam’s mainstream leaders, at peace but much menaced, look for friends, how do we respond?

Christian Today described the speech as “at times, almost desperate,” as Welby described the divisions present in the Communion today:

We so easily take our divisions as normal, but they are in fact an obscenity, a denial of Christ’s call and equipping of the church. If we exist to point people to Christ, as was done for me, our pointing is deeply damaged by division. Every Lambeth Conference of the 20th century spoke of the wounds in the body of Christ. Yet some say, it does not matter, God sees the truth of spiritual unity and the church globally still grows. Well, it does for the moment, but the world does not see the spiritual church but a divided and wounded body. Jesus said to his disciples, “as the Father sent me so send I you”. That sending is in perfect unity, which is why even at Corinth and at the Council of Jerusalem, we find that truth must be found together rather than show a divided Christ to the world. …

We can also paint a gloomy picture of the moral and spiritual state of Anglicanism. In all Provinces there are forms of corruption, none of us is without sin. There is litigation, the use of civil courts for church matters in some places. Sexual morality divides us over same sex issues, where we are seen as either compromising or homophobic. The list can go on and on. The East African Revival teaches us the need for holiness. We must be renewed as a holy church, defined by our passionate worship and its content, with every Christian knowing scripture, prayerful, humble and evangelistic. In a sentence, we must be those who are, to the outside world, visibly disciples of Jesus Christ.

The wide-ranging address, which also covered climate change, the secularization of culture in the west, global poverty and persecution, ended with a call to unity.

So with all our grave difficulties we face a world in darkness, lostness and suffering, knowing that we serve Jesus who sends us and that those whom he sends he equips. Our responsibility this week is therefore to be making the church more ready for action, as a body around the world.

First, by dealing truthfully and lovingly with each other. The last weeks have seen much press speculation, many statements, even threats. But now we are in the same room and can speak truth to each other, but truth that is spoken with a deep sense of love for the other, not as a thing, a Primate, but as a person, loved by God whatever their faults. We will not find a way forward, a reconciling, either by avoiding issues or by aggression and power games. True reconciliation is based in truth, and in peace, as Jesus sends us in peace, which means a harmony of heart, even if there is divergence in view. There has never been a time when the church was one in view, but it has often been one in heart.

Secondly, by a deep focus on Jesus Christ, in our worship, in our meditations. Jean Vanier on Thursday and Friday has no role in our struggles, but will speak of Jesus and lead us deeper into love for Him.

Thirdly, by being decisive and clear, even if we cannot agree.

Fourthly, because we are sent, by being outward looking. Every time we act or conclude an action we must ask ourselves, will this lead a world of lostness nearer to Christ Jesus and His salvation. Even when we disagree, even if we decide we must walk separately, we must not in the way we do that imperil the salvation of one person outside this room.

Read the entire address here.

Photo: Evensong, via Canterbury Cathedral and 

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