Video: Archbishop of Canterbury addresses the WCC General Assembly

By Matthew Davies
Posted Oct 31, 2013

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addresses the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, meeting Oct. 30-Nov. 8 in Busan, South Korea.

The full text of Welby’s address follows.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ

On behalf of the Anglican Communion I greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and bring you our very best wishes for this Assembly in Busan. It is a great privilege – more than I can express in words – for me to be here at the opening of the 10th Assembly. Ever since the first Assembly at Amsterdam in 1948, Archbishops of Canterbury have been present at Assemblies, a personal sign of how important the fellowship of churches has been, and still is, for Anglicans. As a result we have sometimes been uncomfortably challenged and even moved to reform ourselves. We have learned so much from our participation in the life of the fellowship. We have made so many friends. Friendship is the seed bed in which unity, the visible unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church grows and flourishes.

This is my first Assembly. I am enjoying sense of wonder at my smallness, my tiny place among  God’s great Church, which draws together women and men, young and not so young, lay and ordained, from different continents and cultures and different ecclesial traditions. Being here together a fresh vision of that to which we are called. It is an opportunity for genuine encounter, an opportunity to learn about one another and to learn from one another. We must learn to hear Christ through one another. We renew our commitment to the ecumenical journey and the ecumenical task. We need one another.

We have travelled to this place praying  –‘God of Life: Lead us to justice and peace.’ Peace and justice begin with us and God. When we are not at peace with God through Jesus Christ we cannot be peacemakers in the world. God calls us to be reconciled reconcilers, reconciled ourselves to God and to each other. Peace and justice become in us a cause for which any sacrifice is worthwhile when they are given birth in each of us and in the church by the Holy Spirit. For that reason we need to be seen again to be a people of prayer; faced with the God of peace and justice our hunger for unity grows, we are able to forgive and love one another with the love that God puts in our lives.

It is  God, who is the perfection of unity. In God is the one Father, the one Lord, the one Spirit, who in Christ draws us into unity with God and with one another. (paraphrase of Lambeth 1920). We are to be one, visibly one, so that the world may believe. We are to be one so that the Gospel we preach is not denied by the way we live in separation. We are to be one because we are more effective together than apart. We are to be one – one people worshipping one God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, eating and drinking around the One table of the Lord, for that is Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, then and for us now.

The fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches has helped us Anglicans to understand something of the unity that is God’s gift and our calling. But so often we have made God’s amazing and precious gift sound like an impoverished unity, the life of an inward-looking, self-absorbed community, only intent on self-preservation.

Only institutions that are willing to lose their lives for the sake of the good news, the gospel, and for Christ, will find the life God offers. As Anglicans, as the WCC, we must die to live.

When we look to God our eyes are turned outwards to His world, and we hear again the command, as Pope Francis said, to be a poor church for the poor. The children of Christ act instinctively to love those who suffer, as He loves us. If justice faints, hope fades. But when justice is loved, and lived, the poor have hope and the whole world begins to sing. Our vision has to be of God and God’s world and the Church made sense of in that perspective. The unity statement before this Assembly tries to capture this vision. To fulfil that vision we need a fresh confidence in the good news as the best way for every human being on the planet, a fresh Spirit of grace to one another, and a fresh commitment to sacrifice all in the name of Christ for unity that reveals Him.  ‘God of Life: lead us together in unity to justice and peace’.



Comments (7)

  1. The Rev. Fred Fenton says:

    I was disappointed by the archbishop’s address. It was so predictable, with nothing arresting, nothing new or prophetic. He does mention Pope Francis. I give him credit for that. However, he fails to make a strong point of the Pope’s words and actions, or to call for the WCC and its member churches to support Pope Francis’s brave new beginning. Only a Pope can unite the Christian churches. This could be the Pope we have been waiting for since the WCC was founded. He faces strong, determined opposition, not just from the curia but also from prince bishops throughout the world. Surely the Archbishop of Canterbury and the WCC could offer positive reinforcement of the Pope’s prophetic stand for simplicity of life and service to the poor.

    1. Peter Menkin says:

      Why does everything have to be jazzed up and “new” in a manner of give me a kind of new thrill? Is there something wrong with what he said, for in your remarks, Reverend, the implications of what you say is he is off base if not missing the mark. Is it that he is not a Progressive enough voice in statement to lead some kind of inspired tilt on the Gospel for your taste?

      If so, let us hear your statement of what you would have him add. I am most curious to learn of this kind of tilt that you either ask for or are eager to encourage in your criticism of what to my way of listening were the Archbishop’s solid remarks seeking unity of his Anglican authority and Communion.

      Is this not more his business, than the business of seeking a pathway of the Pope’s way and tastes? I think so, for we have enough of divisiveness in the Anglican way and for my money have a need for hearing words of a more cooling kind that help. At least help with at the least with a calmness and worthiness in a kind of humility of approach. Do you even find a kind of humility in his approach in a charism of friendship? Grant the argument, at least.

    2. The Rev. John Greve says:

      I am wondering about your opinion that only a Pope can unite the Christian churches. I believe that the Archbishop took his place among the many leaders that are required to unite the church. While the Vatican has admittedly had an influence upon other churches, it is not the final authority, nor should it be. For a unified church to come into being, there must be room made at the table for doctrinal and dogmatic differences. If we can set those aside while recognizing the centrality of Christ’s message and ministry, then we can pull each other along as we grasp onto that common thread that holds us together. I am certainly encouraged by what I have seen and heard from this Pope so far. I also am encouraged by the Anglican church and especially the Episcopal church. Each of us have our understandings of the Gospel, how we carry that into the world and how it speaks to us today. I think that the Archbishop did well to remind us that it is not the institution that is important… it is the ministry.

      1. John Neir says:

        Totally concur

  2. Peter Menkin says:

    I found the Archbishop’s remarks understandable, uniting and heartening. It was good to hear a straight shooter.

  3. Joyce Ann Edmondson says:

    I loved his remarks. The more he and the Pope speak of unity, love, going out to the world, evangelizing (through the Holy Spirit living in Christ living in us) the more it reminds me of the vision of good old Pope John who opened the windows of the Vatican during the Vatican Council when many conservative Catholics thought the Holy Spirit had flown out the door!

  4. Philip Almond says:

    The ‘doctrinal and dogmatic differences’ are fundamental disagreements over what ‘Christ’s message’ is; and about who God and Christ are, what they are like, what is the greatest need of human beings – to be delivered from the wrath of God – and how that deliverance can be achieved.

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