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.


  1. I am greatly suspicious of both Welby's abilities as a reconciler and his reasons for trying to attempt reconciliations. When I asked him, as my diocesan bishop, to help me become reconciled with the Church that had hurt me so much, he refused. When I told him that I thought he was part of my healing process he told me that I was being manipulative. Maybe his upbringing has made him into a person who can deal with things on a macro level but not on a personal, one to one level. Mind you he is not the only bishop who is incapable of being a pastor. I asked another bishop to help me become reconciled with the Church recently and he said he couldn't because I brought with me too much baggage. In other words he wouldn't help me because I needed help.

    1. MadPriest, I'm moved by your account. Back in 1992 I heard a prominent theologian tell a group of female clergy: 'Never discuss your emotions with a bishop. Don't cast your pearls before swine.'

      A retired priest commented to me recently that 'the CofE is an abusive institution'. I agree; for myself, I've finally got to the point where I've given up on it. So, you have my sympathy.

      But I also wonder why you need a bishop to help you be reconciled to the Church. Would a good spiritual director perhaps do the job better? If you want another post, you do need a bishop - but can you move dioceses?

      Best wishes

      Iffy Vicar

  2. I try to be detached about the C of E nowadays and consider just how things are developing (GAFCON, women bishops etc) in the light of something that still quite interests me but doesn't involve me very deeply ( I don't mean that my faith doesn't still involve or engage me , it does.) I obviously only know Welby as a public figure, he seems genuine, thoughtful and holy, but as with any public figure, we rarely if ever see the whole picture. Do we ever see the whole picture of any individual anyhow?

    I am truly sorry, Jonathan, that you have gone through so much and that it has left you with so much bitterness towards the Church. I don't have that sort of personal hurt to carry around thankfully. I have had other sort of hurts though and if we can let go of hurt and bitterness at least a little it helps us. I hesitate to give advice because I know it is sometimes impossible to let go of hurt and being told to do so can make things worse and that is not my intention. Perhaps you should forget about being reconciled with the Church and focus more on your own well being and look to the people and things that give you hope and joy and a positive sense of yourself? Would that be possible? Kind regards. Sue.