As we heard from Cardinal Tagle in that magnificent talk yesterday, being sent by God is at the heart of being a Christian.
A key mark of declining institutions or companies or countries – and churches – is that they may have a vision of what they should do, they may even have a clear strategy: they just can’t turn their strategy into action. There is no implementing of the strategy
So the question is not always “what should we do?”. We do need to ask that question. Archbishop Stephen answered that: we worship, and we make disciples. We know what we should do. But the problem is how?
And as the church, we are always travelling and therefore we have to renew the life of the church on the march, as we go. We can’t stop, take time out and get everything right and move on. We have to renew it on the go.
And the very obedience of going is one of the main ways in which the church finds renewal and revival. Because when we travel, we travel with God look at the Israelites in the wilderness in the Exodus. And travelling is how we build relationship. And the heart of the church is deeply relational – go back to 1 Corinthians 13, it doesn’t matter what we do, what gifts we have, what wonders we carry out but if we don’t have love and in that context of Corinth, love for one another, if we don’t have that, love for one another, we are a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal and therefore whatever else comes out of this Lambeth Conference and as we go forward in this next period, at the heart of it must be the deepening and the building of relationship as our first objective that we love one another we love God and love one another.
When I am asked what kind of bishops we need, my answer is bishops who love God and love people. If you can tick those two boxes none of the other boxes matter nearly so much but if you can’t tick those the rest of them, doesn’t matter what they are good at, it is a waste of space.
That is why – I want to say this here as I did at the press conference, yesterday – that is why I so miss the Nigerians, and the Ugandans and the Rwandans. Discussion might have been more complicated. But if we love one another, we will all find renewal. And that really matters. I was asked at the press conference yesterday evening what I felt was my greatest failure in this Lambeth Conference and I said not to have been able to encourage them enough to be here.
We have agreed the Calls – subject to amendment and your comments. They are not an end in themselves. They are an appeal to each Church and Province, and Bishop and Diocese, to every Anglican, to be more visibly the people of God.
From St Thomas in South India in the 1st century, to the Jesuits and other missionaries across the world to the great pioneers of the 19th century and Hudson Taylors and others and heroes like AJ Crowther, the Holy Spirit sends out those whom God is calling.
The Church responded to learning about the world in a new way geographically – the vision came for going to all the Earth as they learned what all the Earth was. As they learned about societies the Church responded sociologically, as they learned about human beings, and as we continue to learn about human beings, we respond physiologically and psychologically in our understanding of how to go and how to engage with people. As we understand more about DNA and about the chemistry of the brain, we learn how to communicate the gospel better, and we learn how to think better.
Some of you will have heard that the Church of England has spent the last four years on a project called Living in Love and Faith. It’s produced a big book of about 400 pages – I had nothing to do with it, by the way, I didn’t write anything except the Foreword, so I can say this – it is an extraordinary work of scholarship and underneath it lay articles of scholars from all opinions around the nature of human identity from within the Christian tradition. 500,000 words, I think, of learned articles behind it. And they were scholars in biblical studies, in church history, in human and biological sciences, in ethics and philosophy and systematic theology.
It’s the aim of this was not to give a decisive answer, that wasn’t in the project. It’s aim is to enable us in the Church of England to think through the issues of identity and being human, in all their aspects, including human sexuality. The project hid from nothing, and included people of very different views, trusting in the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth, as John promises.
And that is just one example of a church in the Anglican Communion journeying together as a body of disciples, engaging, learning, praying, going, speaking, acting, being visible. And when we look back over the history of the Church the moments of greatest growth have been when the global church has seen, recognised, and confronted the darkness of the world:
St Benedict as the Roman Empire collapsed – and he set up schools for disciples, as he called it, in his Rule, schools for disciples. And he more or less accidentally saved Christian civilisation, wasn’t his intention. St Francis, half a millennium later, in a time when the churches leaders was morally depraved.
The priests in England working the 19th Century slums of London who at the same time preached the gospel and, working together with local doctors, invented epidemiology – the science of the understanding of how we work out why disease spreads. When they discovered that cholera was not something in the air but came through water.
The martyrs and heroes of the Church – Archbishop Janani Luwum, the Melanesian martyrs, and so many known only to God.
The Church united is not merely a help to the world. It is the sign of salvation for the transformation of the world. The Church humble and hospitable, generous and full of love, is not just a nice thing to have in society, it points to the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church, salt and light, courageous in prophetic utterance, gracious yet clear, is not another NGO: it is God’s chosen means of shining light in the darkness.
That is why we began these three addresses by looking at God’s world. It is the world that was made through Jesus Christ, spoiled by human sin. But even in its human weakness, the Church is still the bride of Christ. Every day, every moment, everywhere.
And we are those reconciled in order to be reconcilers, that all things may come together in Christ, all nationalities, all men and women, rich and poor, strong and weak, and with all humanity, all of creation – Colossians Chapter One.
The darkness of the world around us too often swirls with the smoke of hell. The church staggers and coughs in fear of the future. We argue and divide. But how should we act? Above all, in relationship. That is the first and greatest Call – the one we haven’t listed but it is the greatest Call because it is the scriptural Call.
And through these weeks of Calls and conversations, this week has not planned to be but has become a time of intense ecclesiological development, and thinking and reflection for the Anglican Communion.
We are a communion of churches catholic and reformed, autonomous and interdependent: and we must keep to the principles of both.
The scriptures are the core the very heart of our reformed tradition and in the catholic tradition it is not just the historic episcopacy it is not only that we are part of God’s holy church and recognise ourselves are part of this we also hold in our organisation the catholic principles and teaching of social organisation as essentials. Autonomy is an expression of subsidiarity, the principle in Catholic Social Teaching that we should always work at the most local level possible.
Centralisation is made easy by technology. With the technology we have now, I could get a copy of virtually every sermon preached by virtually every pastor anywhere in the Anglican Communion, but that does not make it right or efficient. Centralisation is the habit of control and the exercise of power. It is very difficult to break. But we are a Communion of churches, not a church.
Interdependence is expressed by solidarity, the Catholic Social Teaching of solidarity, our mutual support, and by seeking the common good, a third key Catholic Social Teaching principle, we accept a level of mutual accountability without mutual control.
So, relationship, ecclesial structures, and ways of being the Church of God. And then our tasks:
The Five Marks of Mission. In each generation the principles remain but the way we take actions changes. And we see the actions to which we are called in many of the Calls. I’m just going to go through them. First:
Tell: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
The practical reality is that we can only tell what we know and explain what we understand. We cannot give what we haven’t got. Or for those of you who like Latin legal tags: nemo dat qui habet. It is the only Latin legal tag I know so I use it on every possible occasion.
The strength of many churches that grow deeper and grow in number is that everyone knows the gospel and can say something about their own testimony of their love and meeting with Jesus Christ. They may not be eloquent. The theology may be slightly crude. But when they speak from the heart others listen. And their transformed lives illustrate their words.
It is essential, throughout the churches of the Communion, that everyone understands themselves to be witnesses because they are baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit. And in those Provinces that for generations forgot much of this or where the importance of culturally appropriate evangelism has been forgotten, evangelists must be discerned, trained and sent out. In many of the churches here you take that for granted, but in many we have forgotten.
And let every Anglican know they are a witness, and let them be caught up in worship. For they are the foundations of the health of the church. Do we have simple and useful courses that teach people how to explain the gospel? They exist in profusion and we’re using them. Are our services so boring that people feel they have done their duty to God for the week when the service ends? Or are they so full of the life of the spirit that those who leave the church long for those they love most to discover God and his love.
Second, Teach: To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
Ellen Davis, (from the book I mentioned on Friday, Opening Israel’s Scriptures, OUP 2019) she says “[Teaching/Exegesis] is necessary for the ongoing life of church and synagogue – whose identities, and even existence as communities with a common story and language – depends on the recurrent experience of hearing these texts and of speaking of and to contemporary lives with these texts. End of quote. Teaching is not. She goes on to say: “and while that experience is not predictable, it is contingent on the regular practice of exegesis – of unpacking the Scriptures – by members of the communities of faith, generation by generation.”
Have confidence in the Bible and if we have confidence, we will enable our hearers to have the tools to think, and pray, and to decide.
Teaching not simply saying what the text says. It is a prophetic task of reflecting on the world around us in the light of the scriptures and the life of Christ. This is why things like the Anglican Science and Technology Network are so important; why the Anglican Health Network is so important. Because those are about engagement with the world and bringing the scriptures and the world into relationship in which the scriptures help us understand what is happening in the world. It is not about retreating into a huddle.
I came across a school, not a Christian school, in fact a network of schools, where the only thing they teach is their scriptures – they don’t teach science, they don’t teach languages, they don’t teach literature, they don’t teach politics, they don’t teach maths, they don’t teach anything except their scriptures.
But that is not a Christian view of scripture. Scripture, like Christians, goes out into the world.
It goes out and transforms and changes those around. To teach is to enable the hearers to have the tools to think and pray and see and decide, to explain the scriptures, but in explaining to demonstrate exegesis, so that the community sees, culturally appropriately, not just the ‘what’ of what the Bible says, but the ‘how’ of understanding it for themselves, that’s our reformed tradition.
As we all know, Hooker, the great -greatest possibly – of the Anglican theologians from the 16th Century, rested Anglican theological method on three foundations. The primary is scripture, first and decisive. The second and third are reason and tradition. Because the nature of societies and individuals is to remember. Tradition matters and must be taught. Why, in Deuteronomy, the youngest child is taught to ask, why do we do this? And the answer is because God brought us out of slavery.
Reason, what is happening in the world around, may – must – be questioned by scripture. Traditions must be questioned by scripture and reason. Traditions that are healthy grow and develop. Traditions die either because they will not change and become irrelevant or because they change too quickly and too dramatically and lose contact with their roots.
Remembering is deep in the very nature of God, and so it is essential for God’s people to be those who remember. The Israelites remembered God’s actions at the Passover in order to make sense of Jewish identity, as we do in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. We remember the Ugandan Martyrs at the end of the 19th Century in order to help us understand what it is to be Anglican. An Old Testament scholar once remarked in a lecture that I was listening to: ‘What God forgets ceases to exist, what we forget opens the way to error.’
Teaching is equipping. The farmer needs to know what it is to be a Christian farmer – whether they are running 10,000 acres on the prairies of North America or three acres in a clearing in a forest.
The banker needs to know right from wrong. The cabinet minister or the soldier needs to recognise that Christ is their first Lord.
Christian universities which are growing up everywhere – and they’re a way in which we can express solidarity by supporting and helping them grow – are one of the most important developments we are seeing in the Communion. Even in places of war like South Sudan Christian Universities are growing. Schools for girls and boys are essential. Teaching churches to teach the children, as All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi is doing, enables them to grow into mature Christians, able to read the Bible and listen carefully to what it is saying, comforted to know that they follow the truth who is Christ.
Most of all, we the shepherds must teach and explain the scriptures and make sure that every seminary teaches and explains the scriptures and prepares students for the challenges that the next 40 years will bring.
Third Mark – to tend: To respond to human need by loving service.
At the very beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic one night I woke with a very clear thought in my head, and that’s unusual, which was that I ought to offer help to the huge London Hospital that is next to Lambeth Palace, because I couldn’t go anywhere, we were in lockdown. I emailed the chaplain and most of her volunteers had gone because they were over 70 and they were compelled to shelter at home by law. And so for the next 18 months I went into the hospital just one evening a week, often or usually to critical care units, to pray with people, many of whom were dying.
Often they were unconscious and all I could do was commit them to the Lord. They were of all faiths and none in all probability.
I had to pass exams in how to put on and take off protective clothing – what is known as your donning and doffing test, and you had to be able to do it within a certain amount of time and in the right order so you didn’t spread infection.
We prayed with nurses and doctors with no religious background overwhelmed by the level of tragedy. And we listened to people.
None of it was complicated. Most was kneeling by a bed, holding the hand of someone who knew little or nothing about what was going on. The chaplain accompanied me – they wouldn’t quite trust me wandering around the hospital on my own, might get everyone into trouble – and wherever she accompanied me she would introduce me by saying, “This is the Archbishop of Canterbury, I am his line manager”. Which indeed she was.
And the evening ended at some point with returning home, a very hot shower and all clothes in a hot wash, as we did not know at the beginning of the pandemic, as we all remember, how easily or not the virus could be transmitted on surfaces.
None of it was complicated. None of it was any more than millions of others did or experienced during that time. Yet the fact that the church kept showing up was noticed in the hospital.
We are to tend – not for gain, not for advantage in evangelism but just because the people we tend are people for whom Christ died, they are infinitely valuable.
And we are to transform (the fourth T): To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
I once listened to a Primate at the beginning of his ministry, his primatial ministry, addressing the cabinet and President of his country in the Cathedral, and addressing them about corruption and, failure to care for the people.
It was a risky thing to do but the history of the churches is so often and tragically not one of challenging unjust structures.
The Church of England embedded in establishment – I’m not against establishment, I’m not giving… just for the sake of anyone who might be thinking that or the press who might give me a nasty headline tomorrow, I’m not saying that – but it has tempted us sometimes in the Church of England to be too close. Not so much nowadays, I think both the Cabinet and myself would say.
In history, in Empire, in politics, all too often all churches, not only Anglicans, have got sucked into supporting governments, colluding with injustice and upholding oppression at any and every level.
To stand up against oppression is frightening, because it is costly. And so many of you know that so well.
We don’t like it when governments speak forcefully against us – or do worse than that in many parts of the Anglican Communion – yet we must speak, and we must act.
To be silent on the climate emergency and its implications for the economy today, not in 10 years – which is a political expression meaning ‘after I’ve retired’. To be silent on the unethical treatment of migrants or on war or oppression, on the abuse of human rights, on persecution, is to be one of the oppressors. And we live in solidarity because the person with a gun pointing at them -and I’ve been there – often cannot say anything.
One of the expressions in the days when I was doing a lot of work in places like that, constantly every month, was the man with the gun –and it’s always a man – the man with the gun is always right.
It was half joking. But those in other countries can speak with power, they can gather support, they can take risks.
And finally to Treasure: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Climate change, better called the climate crisis, or better still the climate emergency, as we know, is the result of the wealthier countries having declared war on God’s creation, unknowingly, unthinkingly starting from the 19th century. The symptoms of that war now are that the wealthy dump refuse in the oceans, tell the poor not to use carbon generating fuels, and say to the world too often, not by their words but by their actions, ‘we will keep our wealth, and you, the poor, must discover new paths’.
It is an undeclared war with huge consequences. I’ve spoken of the 800 million-1.2 billion refugees. We cannot foresee the impact they will have on the world, but we do know the results will be tragic beyond anything in human history, overwhelming beyond anything we can imagine, and devastating for so many people Our campaigns for urgent action on climate change are having an impact. Archbishop Julio is clear about that, and they’ve had much more impact, as I’ve had the huge privilege of working with Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Our approach springs from scripture.
This is not the church getting involved in politics. It’s the church getting involved in God.
Colossians 1 again: Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him …. through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-23).
All things. Not just all people.
So where do we go? How do we turn vision, ideas, strategy, plans into actions? How do we get away from that devastating sign of being a failed institution, we know what’s wrong but can’t do anything about it? Well, it’s something in each church and in each area.
Over the next two years, a group facilitated through the Anglican Communion Office, under Anthony Poggo’s leadership, will follow up this Conference with further shared learning as we’ve done over the last 18 months. I hope as many of you will participate in that as possible. Deepening relationships through the bible study groups, deepening our love for one another. And that is part of the aim of this – it’s not to say ‘what are we going to do’. It’s not an action list, it’s a relationship approach. But we will have the aim of seeing how we can put into practice contextually, in our local area and in the right way, those things we have agreed. The chair of that process will be announced as soon as possible.
And I urge you to share in this next 18 months of the follow up. It will continue to deepen mutual understanding, it will reveal issues and errors and it will enable us supremely to pray for and love one another. Most of all it will keep us facing outwards, going outwards, it will enable our relationships to draw us towards greater holiness and unity and it could not have been done before we could go online.
Because our vision – our Christian vision – is different from any other vision in the world. For we trust the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. We trust the God who says to us: go. In John 20, when Jesus breathes on his disciples, and says ‘receive the Holy Spirit’, another understanding of the Greek word is ‘welcome’. But it’s an imperative in a continuous present– be welcoming the Holy Spirit every day, every moment, in every church, at every level. It’s a plural as well and therefore it applies to everyone together.
And when we welcome the Spirit we welcome God, we welcome life, we welcome learning; the Holy Spirit will lead you into all wisdom, all knowledge. And we trust that as the Holy Spirit is being welcomed, the Holy Spirit is sending, and when we are obedient to being sent, we will see transformation as hearts are changed
We have a vision that is a picture of the Kingdom. Not greater darkness but spreading light. Not science and technology bankrupt and captured by the powerful but shared and developed for the Common Good for all human beings. Not masses of people vainly seeking shelter from climate disaster, but generosity, hospitality, effective tackling of the climate emergency led by those who see our world as God’s gift, and who take seriously the reconciliation of all things to their creator.
This is a time of hope, because hope is of God – 1 Peter 1. And as Walter Brueggemann says, God is not just a word for what is already happening.
This is a time of revelation to a world where many forget the gift of God’s love.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We have received that gift of God’s love. And our hearts rejoice. And so let us share it with each other For each of you, I give thanks to God. I pray for you. And we pray for each other- I know you pray for me. I love you – as neighbours, as a family, as those who have been brought together in Christ.
God’s love is seen in this world through a countless multitude of people of every race and nation, a great multitude that is ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, who declare the wonderful works of the God who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light’. It is a multitude of those who have received mercy.
The Anglican Communion is one part of that multitude.
Is it argumentative? Oh yes.
Is it diverse? Immensely.
Is it God’s holy people? Certainly.
Let us go out together in obedience – sent out, as God’s church for God’s world.