Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Welby in Nairobi
Welby's sermon to GAFCON is interesting and worth a listen for what it reveals about his thinking. Welby is renowned for his abilities in diplomacy and arbitration, and this sermon, or so it seemed to me, tried both to speak to GAFCON's concerns about faithfulness, righteousness and obeying the bible while delivering food for thought, or even a rebuke. Welby spoke of how reading the bible in a complicated world is hard work and we cannot settle for easy answers or those which give us power. The extent to which the establishment of GAFCON is driven by the politics of power for its movers and shakers is not something often raised within the Church, even so obliquely, so all credit to him there. Welby reminded GAFCON that scripture can and has been misused and cited the use of scripture to support Apartheid in South Africa, a fairly stark comparison. He said that differences had existed throughout Christianity and that it was not difference, but the way we deal with our difference that matters. The problem arises when we "cannot settle our difference in a way which points to Jesus."
This was a clever sermon, challenging yet affirming. It was as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. What it will not do is to bring about reconciliation in an unreconcilable situation.
Perhaps Welby knows that because he spoke of the need for new structures within the Anglican communion, and GAFCON itself is a new structure, one hedged with barbed wire barricades.
Two thoughts stayed with me most strongly. The first was that observation that, " we have not settled our differences in a way which points to Jesus." I have seen this so often. The other was that, "we need a new way of being together." The question that kept asking itself here was what he means by together and whether the Anglican Communion can really lay claim to that word any longer.