When you pray say Abba

Our granddaughter Claire will be eight on the 15th August. Although we live next door to each other, we went to Italy this last June as a family. I had a special opportunity to observe her enjoying her relationship with her father. Unfortunately, for her mother, Claire is at that terrible age when daughters like to pit their wills against their mothers. This internecine struggle between mother and daughter only intensifies Claire’s adoration of her father. Maybe his turn will come as Claire negotiates the complex process of relational development, but for the time being there is a quality of love, admiration, adoration, and intimacy communicated every time Claire utters the word Daddy.

In speaking of him to me she will often say, my Daddy –this, or my Daddy -that. When I hear Claire utter the word Daddy, I have an internal experience that is akin to a melting sensation. It is a beautiful experience that carries the strongest intimations of warmth, and the intimacy of unquestioned safety. However, as I reflect upon the experience in the light of Luke 11:1-13, I have two questions that arise. Firstly, when Jesus told the disciples: when you pray, say Abba; is my melting experience what Jesus had in mind? Abba most directly translates into English not as Our Father, but as Daddy? If so then my second question is: when I address God as Daddy, why is it so hard for me to capture the experience I glimpse that Claire has in relation to her Daddy?

This intimation of warmth, and the intimacy that can only arise from a sense of unquestioned trust and safety is the experience Jesus clearly had in mind when he told his disciples: when you pray, say Abba hallowed be your name.  Like nearly everything Jesus said to his disciples, this would have provoked in them the error message –this does not compute.  Intimacy, affection, and unquestioning trust were not expectations they had when addressing God. For them, God was the God-of-our Fathers, the creator of the universe. 2,000 years separate us, and yet we are not so different from them in our expectations when addressing God in prayer.

Sadly, and paradoxically, I feel more comfortable with a little distance between me and God. Temperamentally, I am more comfortable addressing God as Our Father, rather than as Daddy – which if truth be told leaves me feeling a little silly. Maybe that’s because I am an Episcopalian? Yet, it seems that it took the early Jewish Christians around 100 years before they could reclaim addressing God as Abba instead of God of our Fathers. There is something in the religious DNA the balks at too much intimacy. How can you hallow, which means to honor and respect the name of God, if you call God Daddy? Yet, this is what my parched soul cries out for.

I am not alone in wanting more in my relationship with God. However, I am mostly aware of fearing to risk wanting more. Comfortable though we may be with a little formal distance, do not our hearts ache with a deep longing for more? Fearing we cannot find the-more-we-long-for in our relationship with God, we seek it in less appropriate places, through less satisfying experiences. The result is we ache with feelings of alienation and loneliness. Do we not all long for that depth of relationship observable in Claire’s feelings towards her Daddy. Here is the quality of love, which alone, is able to satisfy our soul hunger. It is this quality of love and trust that Jesus shockingly holds out to us as the fruit of prayer that always begins with, Daddy, holy is your name.

Jesus’ teaching on prayer is short and simple. He shares his own experience of prayer as the speaking-out of relationship. Relationship characterized by the intimacy expressed through addressing the creator of the universe as Daddy with all the attendant consequences of relationship that I observe my granddaughter enjoying with her Daddy. This realization is so challenging for many of us that we never penetrate beneath the relational filter afforded by the more distancing term, Father. Why is this?

In our human relationships we learn the importance of the right amount of distance. As a generalization, the function of distance in relationship is to protect us from rejection on the one hand, and on the other, the experience of feeling engulfed. We learn these patterns through our early experience of our parents. It’s not just fathers, it’s also mothers that figure significantly in the way we learn to manage distance – by which I mean the achievement of the right amount of distance in our relational lives. We never really get this calibration right. We tend to find a hovering place somewhere on a continuum between merger and separation, that is always unsatisfacory.

Some of us impulsively gravitate towards the merger end with the result that we experience rejection when others are driven by us to push us away. Some of us experience feeling marooned towards the separation end with the result that we experience disconnection no matter how socially skilled we become at masking this. For some of us, we move back and forth in a volatile way, one moment experiencing too much closeness, the next too much separation. This experience, unfortunately more and more common in society. It was aptly caught by the title of Jerold Kereisman and Hal Straus’ little psychological self-help book: I Hate You –Don’t Leave Me http://www.amazon.com/Hate-You-Dont-Leave-Understanding/dp/0380713055

Jesus does not simply hand his disciples a form of words. He demonstrates what the praying of the words involves in the three stories that follow. In the story of the man waking his neighbor at midnight for three loaves of bread we can note two startling characteristics of Jesus’ attitude to prayer.

1. The request for three loaves is an excessive request given that bread was baked fresh each morning and not kept longer than the day of baking. No one would have at midnight that much bread left over from the day. So prayer involves the audacity of asking for a lot rather than a little.

2.  We are told that the neighbor gives-in, not because he pities the man  or feels generous, but because of the man’s perseverance. Perseverance is not the meaning of the Greek word Luke uses. Anaideia does not translate as perseverance but as shamelessness, as in not to feel shame. Prayer involves abandoning our cherished self-respect and exposing ourselves to the shame of wanting and longing. For us, it’s a shameful thing to be dependent upon our longings. For us, it’s also a fearful thing to risk the humiliation of exposing our own need. In our prayer with God we must be audacious, impudent, beyond shame in our expression of our need of God. 

Prayer involves the courage to ask in order to receive, to seek in order to find, to knock so that opportunities will open to us. We often hear this text with the emphasis on the receiving, finding, and opening as if God is some kind of request vending machine. For me, this text is put into perspective in the famous Holman Hunt painting The Light of the World,  now hanging in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Jesus is pictured standing with ou_kbc_pcf24_largea lamp, knocking at a door overgrown with ivy and brambles. He clearly seeks entry, yet on closer inspection the door has no handle. The implication is that it can only be opened from the inside. What is depicted here is the door of the heart. Hunt captures what it means to knock and the door will be opened. Paradoxically, it is Jesus who is doing the knocking, and it is we who have the power to open or not.

In Jesus’ teaching and personal example on prayer we are given a new revelation of God as Abba or Daddy. Depending on our association to the gendered experience of father, we might need to translate this into God as Amma or Mummy. The meaning is the same either way, for while God is not gendered, our human experience is.

This is really good news! Because it means in that prayer is the articulation of our relationship with God, and it doesn’t matter where we find ourselves on the emotional-relationship continuum between merger and separation. In our relationship with God it is audacious expectation, and shameless vulnerability, which open us to the love of God. In our relationship with God there is no right distance to find.

Can we find buried in our own experience that quality of unquestioning trust and expectation of immediacy and love which Claire currently takes for granted in her relationship with her Daddy? As someone who struggles more with the experience of distance, that is feeling too much distance in my relationships, observing Claire relating to her Daddy evokes feelings of sadness and joy. Sadness in the face of my own thwarted longings. Joy in the prospect that in my relationship with God I too can be more like Claire. She is for me a role model of hopeful joy. The same quality of experience is present also in Claire’s relationship with her Mummy. For despite the relational vicissitudes resulting from the current phase of her developmental and relational chemistry, Claire brings the same unquestioning trust and love to her relationship with both her parents. It’s Mummy’s turn to bear the brunt of Claire’s explorations in relating and relationship. There is nothing surer that at some future point it will be Daddy’s turn to be the one against which she is compelled to test her will.

Let’s embark on an experiment. For the next month, whenever you pray begin your prayer with the relational daddy or mummy, and at the end of the month note the change.

Where Prayer Has Been Valid: a cathedral reaching-out


For many of us in the Episcopal Church we feel somewhat surprised by so many spiritual seekers coming through our doors and finding enough of something, often very indefinable, that makes them want to come back. Yet, on deeper reflection, our initial feeling of surprise fades, for was this not also our initial experience on finding our way into relationship with the Episcopal Church?

The Cathedral and the Life of Prayer

In August of 2006, I found myself sitting in Trinity Cathedral for the first time. My partner Al and I, at that time still living in London, were on one of our visits to Phoenix to spend time with our young family who had recently moved here from Washington D.C. My first impression was how different Trinity was from my more familiar experience of an English Cathedral. Yet, as I sat with the light streaming through the stained glass windows the words from T.S. Elliot’s poem Little Gidding drifted into my mind:

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report. You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more

Than an order of words, the conscious occupation

Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

I knew without doubt that I was kneeling in a place where prayer has been valid. The walls of Trinity Cathedral are saturated with the prayers of generations of Arizonan Episcopalians. From here all Episcopal life in the city of Phoenix traces its origins. Even in this new world, the cathedrals of the Episcopal Church are places that collect the intensity of generations of hearts laid bare in prayer.

What is a Cathedral?

The easy answer is that a cathedral is the church housing the cathedra, or bishop’s chair. Yet, as I remind the members of our diocese on those great family gatherings around diocesan confirmations, and ordinations, the cathedral is also our collective spiritual home. On such occasions I rather enjoy the surprise on many faces as I say, ‘welcome home!’

Unlike a parish church, the cathedral exists as a benefit for the life of the whole diocese. The peculiarity of its clergy being known as canons further drives home the point. For the title of canon simply means appointed for the benefit of the whole Church. Although at Trinity, we have a life that is not unlike that of any parish, it is in our identification with the wider church that we feel most particularly fulfilled. 

Trinity and the Diocese

In the Diocese of Arizona, Trinity Cathedral is the church that everyone has a right to look to for an example of excellence in liturgy, music, and as a source for spiritual guidance. Our sense of service is most potently experienced when the members of the diocese gather together in the presence of our bishop. Bishop Kirk is not only our shepherd; through being in communion with him we are connected to the network of relationships we call the Wider Church.

Although an attitude of elitism is a temptation cathedrals are often vulnerable to, Trinity is a source for excellence and tradition in a world where the value for such is easily lost. Trinity is the place where tradition in worship encounters contemporary ideas as we seek to live out the tensions between the traditions we receive and lives we are actually living in the 21st century. For us this tension is the very essence of being Episcopalian.

Trinity and the City of Phoenix

In the City of Phoenix, Trinity Cathedral is the church for the city. We embrace the city through our ministries of music, the arts and social outreach. Ministry to the arts is an important service to civic life that cathedrals in particular, are able to offer. At Trinity we welcome all who seek a sacred space for those important life occasions such as weddings and funerals. We are a place where the civic life of the city has an opportunity to connect with the dimension of the Divine.

Being placed in Phoenix’s urban heart our embrace of diversity enables us to be a place of refuge and hospitality for those who have found it difficult to find a spiritual home elsewhere. For any person an essential ingredient in finding a spiritual home lies in being able to look around and experience themselves reflected in the faces of others. In this sense, diversity is not simply a quality Trinity aspires to. It is the core quality defining our particular identity. Diversity is what makes us different from many parish churches, which rightly tend to reflect the profiles of their particular neighborhoods.

As the cathedral, Trinity does not exist only for its own members. Neither does it exist only for the diocesan family. It exists for everyone, whether they are Episcopalians or not, our kind of believers, or not.

The Anglican Tradition has been molded within more than a thousand years of interaction between Catholic Christianity and the cultural life of the English Nation. This interaction between Christian Tradition and culture has shaped an attitude of openness to the world. For over 300 years the Episcopal Church has continued that interaction between Church and World within the distinct experience of American culture.

Trinity Cathedral’s particular vocation is to embody in its life the heart of our Anglican Tradition of Benedict and the Benedictine Spirit. Historically, our cathedrals continue the spirit of the Benedictine monastic institutions and traditions they came to replace at the time of the English Reformation. As this spirit comes to be re-embodied afresh in each new generation, not only in our cathedrals but in all our parish churches, at Trinity we understand this to be in particular, our vocation and mission.

Of Neighbors and Eternal Life

Sadao_Watanabe_The_Good_Samaritan_smWith the Zimmerman trial being reported in the news this last week the Good Samaritan parable strikes me as a timely commentary on the question of who is my neighbor? Of course this was at the heart of the lawyer’s questioning of Jesus. Jesus, side steps the question and elicits an answer from the lawyer to a slightly different question: which of the three, the Priest, Scribe and Samaritan acted as a neighbor? The lawyer now does some side stepping of his own and simply replies: the one who showed mercy. In telling the lawyer to go and do likewise, Jesus is answering the lawyer’s original question: what must I do to inherit eternal life?

So there are two questions here. The first is who is my neighbor? The second is what is what is my responsibility to my neighbor? The simple answer to the first question is everyone is my neighbor. You may question this as an impossibility? A simple definition of the word neighbor is the one who comes near. Therefore, for me it’s the second question that is the more significant. If everyone is my neighbor, the real rub is, so what do I owe them; what do they owe to me?

Understanding neighbor in this way, George Zimmerman became Trayvon Martin’s neighbor the moment he came near to him. Such a reading is dramatically at odds with the assumptions that underpin social relations in contemporary America. In our society, a working definition of neighbor might be, not the one who comes near to me, but the one who fears me or of whom I am afraid.

Why is this so? Do we really pose such a threat to one another? Is this a hangover from frontier culture in which the stranger was automatically experienced as a threat until discovered to be otherwise? Perhaps. Having lived in the UK for 30 years and now in the US, I notice how quick Americans are to enthusiastically shake hands with broad smiles. In England such behavior might imply particular interest being shown between people, otherwise the English tend to ignore one another. I have learned not to assume this in the American context. The person vigorously shaking my hand and broadly smiling at me with perfect teeth is not expressing any particular interest in me. He, for usually it’s men who behave like this is simply signaling to me that he poses no threat to me and is hoping I am likewise, nonthreatening.

Yet, the pioneer roots of American culture can’t explain the degree to which we now fear one another in modern America. Listening to the Gospel reading of The Good Samaritan, one sympathizes with Jesus as the lawyer attempts to cross-examine him. The overly litigious nature of American society both reflects and stimulates an environment of mutual fear and suspicion between us.

It seems to me that a better explanation of the situation we find ourselves in as neighbors to one another lies in the nature of modern society viewed from the helpful perspective of a theory called Spiral Dynamics http://spiraldynamics.org/ . Spiral Dynamics is a tool that I found very useful in my former life as a priest within a large secular organizational setting. Here, my task was to be the pastor to organizational structures and relationships.

Spiral Dynamics helps to analyze organizations, and by extension social structures in terms of types of cultural development it calls Memes. A meme is a particular location on an evolutionary continuum that helps to explain the dynamics of social relations and worldview. Spiral Dynamics assigns a color to each meme, which greatly aids comprehension. Each meme represents an organized shared system of values around which a culture structures itself. For instance, purple, tribal cultures based on blood or extended kinship ties, blue, hierarchical-authoritarian cultures, relying on complex stratified bureaucracies, where knowing one’s place in the order is a primary concern.  Orange, scientific- entrepreneurial cultures structure social relations around an ethos of progress, and wealth-creation. Whereas, green, communitarian- egalitarian culture bases its value system on shared notions of equality, consensus, and the common good. There are two rather interesting evolutionary stages identified as the yellow, systemic-integrative, and turquoise, holistic-interdependent memes.

Historically, it has been possible to identify a culture by reference to its monochrome memetic identity: purple, red, or blue, green, etc. It’s also possible to show how a society evolves through the hierarchy of memes; from purple or red to blue, from blue to orange, or from blue to orange to green.

In each memetic location, the concept of neighbor is given a dominant meaning. In a purple, tribal culture my neighbor is my kin or others similarly connected by virtue of belonging within the tribe. Those outside the tribe are not my neighbors, and in fact they are usually seen as my enemies. In blue, authoritarian- hierarchical culture my neighbor is someone of the same class, group, or occupational identity as me. In orange, scientific-entrepreneurial culture there exists a shared yet, individualistic concept of neighbor. Anyone who is not able to embody a strongly individualistic, progress or wealth-driven self-sufficiency is not my neighbor. In green, communitarian culture my neighbor is an extensive concept that includes everyone who agrees to be governed by a shared construction of the common good. Anyone who does not agree to this construction of the common good is not a neighbor, as those who resist the contemporary liberal social agenda, usually blue or orange meme individuals, come to quickly find out. No modern society has yet to achieve a secure hold on yellow or torquoise memes, although small groups among the elites do reflect these memetic locations.

Spiral Dynamics tells us a lot about our competing political and religious cultures. The Army and the Church are classic blue cultures. Republicans tend towards being blue- orange in culture. Democrats are heavily green with sometimes an orange, and sometimes a yellow tinge. Evangelical Christians sometimes are purple, sometimes blue. Roman Catholics tend toward the blue, with purple enclaves and with green on the liberal fringes. Episcopalians are almost uniformly green.

When a society displays a primary memetic location, there exists a consensus within that society concerning both the identity of, and obligations owed, between neighbors. In contemporary American culture there no longer is any consensus on neighborliness. Fear is generated between us as we struggle with competing purple, blue, orange and green notions of who is my neighbor. I suspect competing concepts of neighbor lie at the heart of the violent altercation between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin leading to the tragic death of young Martin. Amidst the overwhelming confusions between who is neighbor and who is foe in our global, pluralistic society, Zimmerman seems to have relied upon a more primitive, purple, tribal classification. Zimmerman decided that Martin was not his neighbor, but his enemy; a conclusion reached through a complex process of classifying the identifiers (age, race, on foot rather than in a car, etc) of like and non-like.

Jesus lived in a society structured around two memetic locations. The dominant location was the blue culture of the Roman Empire, which imposed an authoritarian, bureaucratic enforcement of hierarchy and stratification. Along side this, and in reaction against it, there co-exited the earlier purple culture centered on tribal loyalties. Jesus exploits his listener’s purple, tribal construction of neighbor through his parable of the Good Samaritan. For them good and Samaritan couldn’t share the same mental space. In connecting good and Samaritan, Jesus was creating an identity conflict that threatened to burst open his hearers tribal construction of neighbor, or push them into cognitive shut-down.

Jesus conversation with the lawyer had a larger group of people eavesdropping-in on their conversation in a manner similar to our eavesdropping-in on the Zimmerman trial. Jesus invites the lawyer and the eavsdroppers into the turquoise, meme of the Kingdom of God. Here, there are no tribes, nations, or empires, only neighbors. In the Kingdom of God we are not concerned to discriminate between neighbor and non-neighbor on the basis of the costs to us of neighborliness. In the Kingdom of God we are invited to consider as our neighbors all who come near. Our only consideration should be the cost to them if we refuse to be a neighbor to them.

Jesus asked the lawyer: which of the three do you think was a neighbor to the injured man lying in the ditch? The lawyer replied, the one who showed mercy. Jesus said to him- go and do likewise!

The print appearing above is Sado Watanabe’s: The Good Samaritan

For Episcopalian Eyes Only!

The Church of England is a complex animal because it does not share the possibility for consensus more easily arrived at in the Episcopal Church(TEC). TEC has its voices of minority, yet it draws from a narrower and more homogenous range within the wider social spectrum than does the Church of England, which often strikes us from this side of the pond to be bedeviled by the breadth of its constituency and therefore, the strength of different voices competing with that of the predominant voice of progressive liberalism. Here you can see in the Archbishop’s opening address to the General Synod his attempt to address the complexities of difference within his audience while at the same time sounding an unequivocal call to move beyond the confines of our limited imaginings to embrace the winds of change the Spirit is breathing into and through the Church.


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Archbishop’s call for church revolution
Justin Welby, addressing General Synod in York, 5th July 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

Before I begin I would like to thank all the staff at Lambeth and around the NCIs, and at Bishopthorpe and the Anglican Communion Office, who have been so effective and kind in dealing with the frightening and unsettling impact of a new Archbishop. Transitions are always very complex, and taking on a new Archbishop is as demanding as it gets. But there’s invariably been a warm welcome and extremely hard work, for which I am extremely grateful. Chief amongst those who have led the way through the process is Chris Smith, the Chief of Staff at Lambeth. After more than ten years of faithful service, working night and day and every weekend – he’s the biggest menace to my capacity to have a quiet evening in on a Saturday night because I get an email from him – after more than ten years of never stopping he is moving on to other things later this year. His contribution has been largely behind the scenes, but he has served the Church of England and the Anglican Communion – not only for a long time but with huge effect – and our debt to him is more than we can imagine. So on your behalf I would like to thank him.

As you know too from public announcements, Bishop Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, has with great generosity and considerable sacrifice, I’d imagine, agreed to become the Bishop at Lambeth, in a new configuration for the role, working alongside the new Chief of Staff. I could not be more grateful to have such a wise and experienced person, who will enable my many weaknesses to be compensated for more than adequately.

One of the things about this job is you tend to carry a lot of baggage – physical, metaphorical; probably more than I know. We arrived yesterday, the car having broken down en route – there’s a nasty metaphor there. But we did arrive – and we found ourselves with a ton of baggage to carry from one end of what seemed to be a much bigger campus than last year, to the other. And it reminded me – as I was staggering along with what seemed to be enough robes to rival Wippell’s – that we come to this session of Synod with a certain amount of baggage; and it’s good to find ways of getting rid of it. A friend of ours – of my wife and mine, from our days when we lived in Paris – worked for many years for an American company but living in Paris. We went to stay with them about six of seven years ago – he’s now ordained; there’s no connection – and he was still laughing about an experience at Kennedy airport the day before. It was a February and the weather in New York had been very bad, and he’d arrived and everyone was in a grump and the flights were late. And when he got one from the front of the check-in, the person in front of him was incredibly rude to the poor check-in operator. And John, our friend, is always gracious and polite, and when he got to the front he said, ‘I’m embarrassed to be a passenger when people treat you like that. I don’t know how you were so patient.’ And she said, ‘Well, sir. I shouldn’t really tell you this. There’s sort of bad news and good news. The bad news is he’s sitting next to you on the flight to New York. But the good news is I’ve sent his luggage to Tokyo.’

There are a number of obvious applications to that, one of which is we could do with some people like that at the beginning of a Synod session – for the baggage to go somewhere else.

You don’t want a lot of baggage in a revolution. And we live in a time of revolutions. And the trouble with revolutions is once they start no-one knows where they will go. Of the most serious type, the physical type, the practical type… Bishop Angaelos, Head of the Coptic Church in the UK, whom I met in Egypt last week, and who is sitting with us today, knows exactly about revolutions. While we were in Egypt, we heard much talk of what would happen this week – and we’ve seen. And the grace and leadership of Christians in that country is something to behold.

But we live also in a time of many revolutions in this country. And as the Synod meets today, we are custodians of the gospel that transforms individuals, nations and societies. We are called by God to respond radically and imaginatively to new contexts – contexts that are set up by revolutions. I want to thank you, and to say what a privilege it is to share with you, in the ministry of shouldering the heavy burden of facing these changing contexts, and grappling with them in this Synod, now and over the years to come, and to thank you for your commitment in your work here you show to Jesus Christ and to His church. It is genuinely a privilege to be among you.

The revolutions are huge. The economic context and position of our country has changed, dramatically. With all parties committed to austerity for the foreseeable future, we have to recognise that the profound challenges of social need, food banks, credit injustice, gross differentiation of income – even in many areas of opportunity – pressure on all forms of state provision and spending: all these are here to stay. In and through the church we have the call and potentially the means to be the answer that God provides. As Pope Francis recalled so memorably, we are to be a poor church for the poor, however and wherever poverty is seen, materially or spiritually. That is a revolution. Being a poor church for the poor means both provision and also prophetic challenge in a country that is still able and has the resources to reduce inequality – especially inequality of opportunity and life expectancy. If you travel north from parts of Liverpool to Southport, you gain almost a year in life expectancy for every mile you travel. We are debating these questions in this Synod. But prophetic challenge needs reality as its foundation, or it is mere wishful thinking; and it needs provision as its companion, or it is merely shifting responsibility.

The social context is changing radically. There is a revolution. It may be, it was, that 59% of the population called themselves Christian at the last census, with 25% saying they had no faith. But the YouGov poll a couple of weeks back was the reverse, almost exactly, for those under 25. If we are not shaken by that, we are not listening.

The cultural and political ground is changing. There is a revolution. Anyone who listened, as I did, to much of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill, which included me and many other bishops, was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance in the House and participation in the debate, and majority, since 1945. There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches. I am not proposing new policy, but what I felt then and feel now is that some of what was said by those supporting the bill was uncomfortably close to the bone. Lord Alli said that 97% of gay teenagers in this country report homophobic bullying. In the USA suicide as a result of such bullying is the principle cause of death of gay adolescents. One cannot sit and listen to that sort of reality without being appalled. We may or may not like it, but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it.

The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it. And sometimes they look at us and see what they don’t like. I don’t like saying that. I’ve resisted that thought. But in that debate I heard it, and I could not walk away from it. We all know that it is utterly horrifying. to hear, as we did this week, of gay people executed in Iran for being gay, or equivalents elsewhere. With nearly a million children educated in our schools we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying; but we must also take action. We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can find anywhere, that specifically targets such bullying. More than that, we need also to ensure that what we do and say in this Synod, as we debate these issues, demonstrates above all the lavish love of God to all of us, who are all without exception sinners. Again this requires radical and prophetic words which lavish gracious truth.

The three Quinquennial Goals of growing the church, contributing to the common good and reimagining ministry, are utterly suited to a time of revolution. They express confidence in the gospel. They force us to look afresh at all our structures, to reimagine ministry, whether it be the ministry of General Synod, or the parish church, or a great cathedral, or anything between all of those three. For that reimagination to be more than surface deep, we need a renewal of prayer and the Religious Life. That is the most essential emphasis in what I am hoping to do in my time in this role. And if you forget everything else I say, which you may well do – probably will do – please remember that. There has never been a renewal of church life in western Christianity without a renewal of prayer and Religious Communities, in some form or another, often different. It has been said that we can only imagine what is already in our minds as a possibility; and it is in prayer, individually and
together, that God puts into our minds new possibilities of what the Church can be.

The Quinquennial Goals challenge our natural tendency to be inward looking, calling on us to serve the common good. That covers many areas, and between us all, not singly, we are able to face the challenge. May Synod rise to that. But the second of my personal emphases, within that goal, is reconciliation, within the church but most of all fulfilling our particular Anglican charism to be reconcilers in the world, in our communities, in families, even, dare I say it, amongst ourselves. Even if we do sometimes conduct our arguments at high volume and in public, to be reconcilers means enabling diversity to be lived out in love, resisting hatred of the other, demonisation of our opponents.

The common good goes much further than that. Our unique presence across the country enables us to speak with authority both in parliament and here, and in every church and cathedral and synod and gathering place across the country. Our extraordinary presence across the world as Anglicans enables us to speak with intelligence from around the world. As Anglicans we are called to reconcile incredible differences of culture in over 150 countries. What an extraordinary heritage we have under God. So we seek to be renewed here and across the Communion, and to find the reconciling presence of God. This Synod meets in an era of revolution, but we have together the means and the courage to seize the opportunities that revolution brings.

The Quinquennial goals aim at spiritual and numerical growth in the church. That includes evangelism, the third of my emphases. The lead has been set by the Archbishop of York. Here again we need new imagination in evangelism through prayer, and a fierce determination not to let evangelism be squeezed off our agendas. At times I feel it’s rather like me when I have to write a difficult letter, or make an awkward phone call: even things like ironing my socks become more attractive. We treat evangelism too often in the same way. We will talk about anything, especially miscellaneous provisions measures after lunch on Sunday; and we struggle to fit in the call to be the good news in our times through Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed THE good news for our times. God is always good news; we are the ones who make ourselves irrelevant when we are not good news. And when we are good news, God’s people see growing churches.

Attitudes to hierarchy and authority have changed, and continue to change; there’s nothing new in that. And the more they do, the more we are perceived, often wrongly – but genuinely – to say one thing, about grace, community and inclusion, and do another.

And yet with all these revolutions, which raise such huge challenges to us in our lives as the Church, we see clearly that God is working a wonderful and marvelous revolution through the Church in the wind of the Spirit, blowing through our structures and ideas and imagination.There is a new energy in ecumenism, not least shown by Pope Francis. There is a hunger for visible unity. Many churches across England are growing in depth and numbers. People are looking for answers in a time of hardship and when we show holy hospitality and the outflow of grace, we are full of people seeking us. There is every cause for hope. This Synod had a shock, depending on your view, good or bad, last November; but there is here assembled, in weakness or confidence, in all sorts of fear and lack of trust, people with the faith and wisdom who in grace will seek the way to the greater glory of God.

In some things we change course and recognise the new context. Revolutions change culture. In others we stand firm because truth is not set by culture, nor morals by fashion. But let us be clear, pretending that nothing has changed is absurd and impossible. In times of revolution we too in the church, in the Church of England, must have a revolution which enables us to live for the greater glory of God in the freedom which is the gift of Christ. We need not fear. The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.

There have been many times where the Church of England felt that change was in the air or this was a moment of crisis. Because we are not an organisation, let alone a business, or even an institution, but in reality the people of God gathered by the Holy Spirit to walk together in a way that leads to the greater glory of God, there are bound to be many crises and turning points.

So let us not imagine for one moment that because we are in revolutionary times what we are going through currently is either more dangerous, more difficult or more complicated than anything faced by the generations before us. We are in the hands of God; the eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. We need not worry, but we must give all that we have and we are, for the uniquely great cause of the service of Jesus Christ.

So how we journey here is essential, and that is why during these next few days, certain things are being reimagined: not least what we do tomorrow. What is clear to all of us is that there exists, as we gather – and let’s be honest about it – a very significant absence of trust between different groups; and, it must be said – and the evidence of this is clear, though sad – an absence of trust towards the Bishops collectively.

One thing I am sure of is that trust is rebuilt and reconciliation happens when whatever we say, we do. For example, if, while doing what we believe is right for the full inclusion of women in the life of the church, we say that all are welcome whatever their views on that, all must be welcome in deed as well as in word. If we don’t mean it, please let us not say it. On the one hand there are horrendous accounts from women priests whose very humanity has sometimes seemed to be challenged. On the other side I recently heard a well-attested account of a meeting between a Diocesan Director of Ordinands and a candidate, who was told that if the DDO had known of the candidate’s views against the ordination of women earlier in the process he would never have been allowed to get as far as he did.

Both attitudes contradict the stated policy of the Church of England, of what we say, and are completely unacceptable. If the General Synod, if we decide, that we are not to be hospitable to some diversity of views, we need to say so bluntly and not mislead. If we say we will ordain women as priests and Bishops we must do so in exactly the same way as we ordain men. If we say that all are welcome even when they disagree, they must be welcome in spirit, in deed, as well as in word.

Lack of integrity and transparency poisons any hope of rebuilding trust, and rebuilding trust in the best of circumstances is going to be the work of years and even decades. There are no magic bullets.

So how we travel, and our capacity to differ without hating each other and to debate without dividing from each other, is crucial to the progress we make.

Integrity and transparency depend utterly on a corporate integrity and transparency before God, above all in our prayer and liturgy. I sometimes wonder if one of the drivers of our lack of trust is that we have lost from our experience and our expectation two of the great moods of liturgy: of lament and of celebration. The ability truly to lament, to rage at circumstances, at loss, at decline, at injustice, at our own sin or the problems we face, is one that enables us to find afresh the mercy and grace of God. Lament is a liturgical mood that builds our capacity to trust God in the face of change, and then we trust each other. Encountering the face of Jesus Christ in pain, grief or anger transforms us.

Equally the capacity to celebrate, to lift our hearts and voices in true and passionate praise and thanksgiving because the presence of God is known among, restores our perspective. Not only does it renew our faith and strengthen weary limbs in the long journey we are undertaking, but also the act of celebrating that which we share together cuts across our great barriers and difficulties. We celebrate because who can not be overwhelmed by the love of God?

Take for example the two Anglican Dioceses I saw a week ago in the Middle East, in Jerusalem and in Egypt. In the midst of terrible and confused situations, with unspeakable human suffering, tension and fear, they shine with brilliant light. And they are part of us. In each of them there is a profound commitment to the common good of the populations in which they live as a minority – populations of whatever faith and ethnicity. In each of them there are more schools, hospitals and clinics than there are churches. In each of them the Bishops have established confident and effective relationships with other churches, with Muslim leaders and with governments that enable them to speak frankly and truly and with great courage. And we need to remember that as what they do there affects us, lifts our hearts, shows us the grace and glory and power of God, even more so what we do here affects them and every other church in the Anglican Communion. We have great responsibilities.

We should do no less, be no less effective, no less bold than our brothers and sisters in Christ in those Dioceses; in Nigeria, in Pakistan, in places of persecution and suffering, of revolution, change and disruption. The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. AMEN.

© Justin Welby 2013

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