Transcript of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s remarks during the General Synod debate on women bishops in York today.
To pass this legislation is to commit ourselves to an adventure in faith and hope. Like all adventures it carries dangers; we’ve been reminded of that eloquently today. Uncertainties. And full success will require perseverance, integrity and courage. Speeches today have been good examples of the adventure – costly, painful, but generous and hopeful. That is a cause of genuine gratitude and even much admiration. They have not been culture versus theology, but genuine theological arguments which differ.
The five principles at the heart of the House of Bishops declaration are fundamental to how we proceed. It will be hard work. Progress will be all but impossible to achieve without a fresh embrace of one another in love that Jesus Christ gives us by his spirit. Reimagining and spiritual growth are inextricably entwined if we are to demonstrate the reality of Jesus and serve the common good.
Today this legislation allows us to move forward together, all of us as faithful Anglican Christians and all of us committed to each other’s flourishing in the life of the church. We must mean it, not just in what we say but in how we now live and work together in the months and years ahead. That is as true of those who find this difficult to accept as it is for those of us who rejoice in it. An independent process to hold us to account for the promises we have made to each other allows us to take the risks necessary to build trust.
The House of Bishops must act on their words – on our words. We do know that. I expect and hope the vote to go through, and I rejoice in that. But I also rejoice that we are promising to seek the flourishing in the church of all those who disagree. If I did not think that was likely, I could not support this legislation. You don’t chuck out family, or even make it difficult for them to be at home: you love them and seek their wellbeing, even when you disagree.
The House of Bishops means what we say. If this passes, especially in the light of the debate, we are going to deliver. But to make these principles real will require practical steps of training and development, and a long period of culture change so that we learn in practice what it means to love, to struggle for truth, and to do so in the mists and sometimes darkness of disagreement that derive from our fallible humanity.
Even if at times, in the past, we have been overwhelmed by the tortuous path we have taken, we must not understate the significance of what we can do now. Today we can start on a challenging and adventures journey to embrace a radical new way of being the church: good and loving disagreement amidst the seeking of truth in all our fallibility; a potential gift to a world driven by overconfident certainties into bitter and divisive conflict.
Jesus invites us to radical belonging to one another, so that all the world will know we are his disciples – not that we are perfect, but that we love one another as he has loved us.