Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Justin Welby at Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast

An inspiring, challenging and encouraging talk 'the global church in the 21st century' by the AB of C at the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast earlier this week. The full text is here, video here, below are some snippets which jumped out at me:

whatever else the Church is, I hope and pray and we will never just be useful – what a dreadful condemnation that would be. There have been moments when we’ve fallen into that trap, and the walls of Lambeth Palace are lined with Archbishops looking useful [laughter], a bit like Hogwarts. But it’s always happened when we’ve lost sight of the fact that at the heart of being a Christian is knowing Jesus Christ, so that together as we meet with Him and share in worship, we find ourselves renewed and strengthened for the call of carrying the cross and following Him.

"The Church, though, is a suffering church in this century. It is growing and in growing it suffers. It carries a cross. That is as true today as ever, and the last few years have demonstrated the truth and cost of that reality. A couple of weeks ago, Caroline and I were in Lahore in Pakistan....  We met some of the clergy and the Bishop of Peshawar who were involved in the bomb explosion last September at All Saints Church, an Anglican church, in which over 200 people were killed. And you ask them: “How are things recovering? Are people still going to church?” “Oh,” they said. “The congregation has tripled.” It is a suffering church and a church of courage.

all Christians belong to one another as sister and brother, not as mutual members of a club. Through all our differences of culture... and we belong to one another not because we choose to but because God has made us that way; you can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives, and I have to tell you that all who follow Christ are relatives, so you’re stuck with me and I’m stuck with you, so we’d better get used to it.  And that last point is essential to understanding how we act as the Church in the 21st century. We do not have the option, if we love one another, of simply ditching those with whom we disagree. 

In the Church of England we are seeking to start a radical new way of being the Church: good and loving disagreement, a potential gift to a world of bitter and divisive conflict. What can be more radical than to disagree well, not by abandoning principle and truth, but affirming it – agreeing what is right, acting on it and yet continuing to love those who have a different view?

"The poor are not served by a divided church obsessed with inward issues.

even 20 years ago it took months to reach the far corners of the earth now, as we know, take seconds. Instant reaction has replaced reflective comment. That is a reality that you deal with in politics, and it demands a new reality of ways in which we accept one another, love each other, pray for each other. The best answer to a complex issue on which one has heard a soundbite from a sophisticated argument is not always given in 140 characters.

"International aid. The Church of the 21st century is among the most efficient and the best deliverers of help for the poor that exists on the face of the earth... Isn’t it wonderful, let’s celebrate what’s good – it’s easy to be cynical about politics – but let’s celebrate what’s good: that with cross-party support in this country we have maintained international aid at 0.7 per cent of GDP.

"In the South Sudan, again in January, Caroline and I were there, and we were called a couple of days before we got there by the Archbishop, Daniel Deng, one of the great heroes of the faith, and he said: “Would you come up to Bor with me?” A town in the middle of the fighting zone. Well, we did, with a slight objection from some people, but we did. And we went out and we found the town that had been taken and retaken four times. Bodies on the streets, the smell of death in 40 degrees of heat everywhere. Mass graves to consecrate. And what does Daniel do? He goes on national television in the South Sudan and calls for reconciliation. Isn’t that extraordinary? Doesn’t that speak of what the Church should be? And in Sudan, the Church is also speaking heroically for an imprisoned woman and her two children, Meriam, for whom truth matters enough to die. A 21st-century global church loves the poor and the victim, and stands for human dignity, challenges oppressors and supports victims. It speaks for women killed in lynchings called “honour killings”, or for those imprisoned under blasphemy laws. It does all that despite its own suffering. Truth and love embrace.

"And it’s a forgiven church because it’s a failing church. The Church is always full of failure, and I’m sorry to say that’s because it’s always full of people. Without wishing to be controversial, you’re sinners, and so am I. I once said that in a sermon and someone came up afterwards and said: “I’d never have come and listened to you if I knew you were a sinner.”

"And lastly we are a hospitable church in the 21st century if we follow Christ – utterly at home in a world of numerous faith traditions. Open about the hope we have while listening to others. In Lent I spent some time with Ibrahim Mogra, the remarkable Muslim leader from Leicester, and we shared together our scriptures: I read bits of John’s Gospel with him, and he read bits of the Qur’an with me. Hospitable. That belonging to one another, being different, diverse and yet authentic to oneself and to one’s tradition and the truth, is a gift this world needs. It’s the opposite of all this Trojan Horse process. It is a generosity of spirit and openness to listen. The 21st century Church knows that the good news of Jesus Christ is a gift which is to be shared in witness. 

"The church is not an NGO with lots of old buildings. It is the Church of God, rejoicing in the realities of cultural diversity in a way never known before: global, cross-bearing, confident and welcoming. The Church holds for the world the treasure of reconciliation, and offers it as a gift freely given out of its own experience of struggling with the reality of it, of being reconciled ourselves through the sovereign love of God in Jesus Christ. The global Church is above all God's church, for all its failings, and in passionate devotion to him will offer the treasure He puts in our hands, unconditionally, always pointing in worship, deed and word to Jesus Christ.

Sorry, that's a lot of snippets, but there is a lot of good stuff in there. Well worth a read/listen.
Some links to the media coverage of the breakfast here

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