Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Inaugural Service of Archbishop Welby

 New Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sits in the Chair of St Augistine as the Dean of Canterbury Robert Willis, centre left,  takes him by the hand during his enthronement service at Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury England Thursday March 21, 2013.  (AP Photo/ Gareth Fuller/Pool)

Last Thursday Elizabeth and I had the privilege of attending Archbishop Welby's enthronement service at Canterbury Cathedral.  So much has providentially occurred in my relationship with ++ Welby since we first met last May at HTB, that I still find myself "pondering these things in my heart."  In that vein, I will offer a few personal reflections about the man, what the enthronement service symbolized for the Church, and finally what I think he and it may portend for North American Anglicanism.

As is widely known, ++Welby has had a long and fruitful service to the Church through the reconciliation ministry of Coventry Cathedral.  This ministry is known to Truro mostly through our relationship with Canon Andrew White (aka "Vicar of Baghdad" see  and Canon J John, one of Anglicanism's foremost evangelists and a close associate with another Truro friend, Leighton Ford.    ++Welby has worked closely with Andrew and shares his vision of the Church as a body of "reconciled reconcilers."  As ++Welby has articulated numerous times, he sees reconciliation ministry as a process of de-escalating and detoxing conflict so that issues dividing people can be addressed and managed in ways that are no longer destructive to community.  It is a measured attempt, among other things, to create a zone of dialogue and friendship which lends itself to human flourishing, even when the "issues" themselves are not fully resolved.  It is NOT an attempt to paper over differences nor to make nice.  It is not an attempt to "meld" conflicted groups. This ministry of reconciliation, as practiced by Coventry, has an extraordinary track record throughout the world and none more notable than Canon White's ministry in Baghdad.  As you know, this is a ministry that many of us at Truro already supported before I became friends with ++Justin Welby.  We now wait to see if these same skills and principles can be applied to the Anglican war in North America.  I believe they can, but it won't be easy until a cease-fire can be established.  And I think 815 bears the onus of responsibility in this regard. 

Another aspect of the man that has become more known recently, and was widely evidenced at Canterbury, is his deep indebtedness to Holy Trinity Brompton Church.  I will cite some examples of this indebtedness: the Vicar of HTB, Sandy Millar, introduced Justin to Caroline, while they were at Cambridge.  It was HTB that comforted Justin and Caroline after the tragic death of their nine month old daughter, Johanna.  It was HTB that nurtured their faith through the Alpha course and a home group they co-lead with Paul Perkin, another important player in this unfolding drama.  (BTW, Paul is Tim and Ros Mayfield's former boss and mentor at St Mark's Battersea Rise.  Tim learned to lead worship at Justin's home group and served Justin as a seminary intern whilst at Ridley Hall, Cambridge).  It was HTB where Justin and Caroline discerned a call to vocational ministry and it was HTB that sent them to seminary.  It is difficult to overstate the indispensable role of HTB in the formation of our current Archbishop of Canterbury. And I believe HTB will continue to play a significant role in his archiepiscopacy.    In terms of the history outlined above, the most memorable moment of the service for me was when I saw Sandy Millar watch ++Justin as he ascended St Augustine's chair.  Sandy's look of both affectionate tenderness and spiritual intensity toward ++Justin, was a Moses-Joshua, mentor-mentee moment that I shall never forget.  This was THE significant moment that most commentator's missed and its importance should not be lost on us.   There were several receptions afterwards, but the one we attended was essentially an HTB re-union.

What does this portend for North American Anglicanism?  That is not the most important question that comes to me but it is one that I know concerns many readers of this blog.  In a future post, I will address the more important question - which is, what does this portend for world Christianity?  But for now, allow me to go out on a limb and prognosticate.  First, I think it will mean that within a decade ACNA will be recognized in formal relationship to the C of E and thus, the wider Anglican Communion.  I think this will happen as both a means to the kind of reconciliation described in paragraph one - not as a full, final reconciliation in the truth of Christian faith, but as a zone of welcome that detoxes our current conflict and sets us on a path of the truer and deeper reconciliation that come from repentance, amendment of life and renewal in the Holy Spirit (see this recent sermon for some important distinctions missed by the culture warriors on both ends of the ideological spectrum:  ).  Second, I think it will mean that North American Anglicanism, in all its deviant and wounded incarnations, will enter into a season of humiliation and amendment of life.  We will cease to call the shots and set the agenda for the rest of the Communion unless and until we can model the kind of peacemaking that is at the heart of the Christian gospel.  Right now we have radiated our toxic schism and theological heresies (everything from "gay marriage" to "seven point Calvinism on steroids"- sheesh, talk about taking on the attributes of your oppressors), and that will have to cease .  I think the first and second developments will occur in tandem, as the spoilers of peace are contained or relocated to one of the many sects of North America.  There is more hope for ACNA in this regard since our theological deviants do not appear to have infected the head. 

In a subsequent post, I will address issues of greater import such as world evangelization and greater unity between Anglican and Roman Christianity. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Francis, The New Pope


Don't know much about him but was encouraged to read this from Archbishop Venables:

“Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like.
He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.”

New Pontiff ?


Cardinal Angelo Scola - what is seen cannot be unseen Cardinal Schonborn on the Pope in Austria: Part I | Part II ...

My top two hopes for the Bishop of Rome is Cardinal Scola or Cardinal Schonborn.  These men would be fine successors to John Paul II, just as Benedict XVI has been.  We should learn who the new Papa is today.  If either is elected I will explain why they are my top choices.  If not, I suspect like you I will be learning who the new Bishop of Rome is and his amazing story. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Our Bodies Proclaim the Gospel


Friends, the seminar we had a small hand in helping Christopher West put together is now going global.  The Theology of the Body for All Christians Seminar is coming this Thursday, March 14th in Lancaster, PA.  If you missed it last year a Truro this would be a good time to get caught up. 

Vestry Statement

Truro's Vestry Statement on Marriage and Mission Strategy can be found on our website, here:

I am proud of our vestry and its theological acumen, evidenced by this statement. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A welcome voice on the blogosphere.....

Moving the frontiers

Thursday, 7 March 2013
Justin Welby.  Photo: Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates
I am still reeling from the recent Faith in Conflict (FiC) conference at Coventry Cathedral. The event had been a dream of mine for years, ever since the Church of Scotland hosted a gathering on the same theme, which a friend attended. The reality was far greater than the anticipation.
The conference aimed to look at what causes conflict in the church, and whether it is necessarily destructive. More than 200 delegates from Christian churches across England discussed fresh ways to view conflict, and different options for intervention.
By nature I am a conflict avoider; I like to keep my head down and get on with the job. So I have always felt that church disagreement was at best a distraction, and often worse.
That is true up to a point, but mainly because we disagree so unhealthily. In a series of brilliant talks over the three-day conference, Sam Wells and Jo Bailey-Wells set conflict in a completely new light. Conflict, they argued, is something that springs from our being created different. The problem is that we then respond to difference with aggression and fear. When that happens in the church, it is utterly repellent to people who are not Christians. Sam and Jo showed how, in the grace of God, conflict can be transformed. (You can listen to and read their talks here.)
So that was really good; thoughtful talks, brilliantly delivered. But the cream on the cake was seeing it all in action. For example, the Reverend Tory Baucum and Bishop Shannon Johnston – the Episcopal Church Bishop of Virginia – were interviewed together about their experience of being in the most profound dispute over enormously important issues. The disputes led to years of legal action, yet they found a way to meet and talk together – and pray together. There was no compromise: Tory was forthright in his disagreement with Bishop Shannon and gave no ground, nor vice versa. But there was a clear love for each other which spoke powerfully. It was transformed conflict.
The second example was from Jo herself, and her experience of the Anglican House of Studies at Duke. It’s in her talk, and to me it was as powerful as the dialogue. It said that our differences are both great and important: but the greater call is to a world that does not know Christ. And while we strive and struggle, rightly, for holiness and correct conduct in the church, we must do so in a way which shows that His love, spread through us, is a reality.
The journey of transforming conflict is a long and hard one (by the way that is how I understand reconciliation in the church: not agreement, but conflict transformed from being destructive). It is also always a necessary one – and essential if our preaching of the good news of Jesus is to have any credibility. It does not mean compromise – that was clear in what we heard at Coventry – but it does mean allowing the Spirit of God to warm our hearts towards those whom we too easily classify as to be hated.
© Justin Welby 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coventry Conference - A View from England


Today I received this post from a friend who attended some of the conference at Coventry.  I thought it would encourage you, dear reader.

Coventry in Retrospect - A Personal Reflection


On Sunday during the Rector's Forum Q/A, I summarized what was most significant about this conference for Truro, for Anglicanism and for me personally.

1) Truro's public stand for the irreplaceable function of marriage in the economy of grace (the Bible "begins and ends with a wedding in a garden") and as a basic building block of society (it is a "load bearing wall"), has been vindicated and globally acknowledged by the platform given us by the new Archbishop of Canterbury.  The most important parts of the conference were not the plenary sessions but the workshops and various side conversations that occurred throughout the conference.  Our public witness and the active participation of five lay leaders, sparked many such conversations.  For example, several Church of England Bishops pulled me aside to discuss the merits of ACNA's recognition by the C of E as well as questions on how to manage their own conflicts around the issue of human sexuality (which is really a conflict about anthropology).  A winsome orthodox witness of North American Anglicanism has been memorialized.

2) The reason we were invited to have such a role at Coventry is because +Justin Welby, the then new Bishop of Durham had already heard our story last May at HTB and was deeply affected by Truro's marriage of doctrinal and relational orthodoxy.  He wanted the Church of England to witness what he witnessed.  I am humbled that he is holding our example up as a model for his archiepiscopacy.  The doctrinal conflict - neither in Virginia nor the Communion - has been resolved but our ability to relate to each other without enmity while still in conflict is the kind of model ++Welby promotes as a pathway toward reconciliation. This hard won space is not an end in itself, but creates a place where the doctrinal and relational wounds of the Church can be healed.   I am grateful that Archbishop Welby holds up Truro's relation to  the Episcopal diocese of Virginia as a model for the rest of the Anglican Communion.

3) We have taken a number of risks the past several years.  We have paid a high price (none more than Elizabeth and my daughters).  We walked into a cataract of litigious rage and have watched the Holy Spirit transform it into an environment of affection and respect - even for former adversaries.  We have seen 20 years of long-term, entrenched, systemic decline gradually turn into a steady stream of pre-Christian seekers coming to faith in Jesus.  And, without intending to, we have have pioneered a model for engagement with an increasingly secularized American society that is already becoming a model for other orthodox Christians who want to see "all sorts and conditions" of people loved and redeemed by Jesus Christ in the fellowship of their churches. What is that model?  Quite simply, it is the rediscovery of Trinitarian love in the love of husband and wife, and that God heals, restores and upholds Creation through it.  Salvation is a nuptial reality and marriage is its archetypal sign, and the wellspring of its vitality.  Though we remain vociferously committed to God's "No" against all sexual deviance, we put our emphasis on God's "Yes."  We think this is a pastorally wise and missionally prudent course to pursue.

There is more to be learned about this model in the upcoming conference that we helped plan, sponsor and promote : )

I am so grateful to you Truro for walking in obedience with me.

Your brother in Christ,

Truro in Coventry - the Habits of Conflict Resilience

Editor's Note:  These notes are a late contribution of one member of the Truro team.  Full audio of these remarks can be found on the Faith in Conflict website.

During the Wednesday morning plenary session, "The Habits of Conflict Resilience," we had the privilege of hearing Old Testament scholar,  the Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, reflect about the challenges of traveling the hard road of conflict to a place of hope and God's shalom.

Jo asked us to imagine how it must have been for God's chosen people to find themselves exiled and held captive in Babylon.  A long-awaited message arrives from the prophet Jeremiah, a captive himself  in Jerusalem, with word that the Israelites are "to settle down in Babylon; make yourselves content. You will live and die in that place. So seek the welfare of the Babylonians, pray for them because your welfare is linked inextricably with theirs. "

There were good reasons then, just as there are today...even good religious reasons...for both reconciliation and hatred. She suggested that Scripture offers no final resolutions to this dilemma and that both extremes are real and valid.

So, how do we live well in this tension? Jo proposed three observations:

1. That conflict is normal and it is to be expected.

2. That conflict is not definitive and what happens on earth does not ultimately reshape anything.

3. That there are many protagonists but no umpires. We all have to unlearn our feigned innocence and accept that we are, each of us in our own way, protagonists ourselves.

She ended by suggesting that lament, sacrifice and hope become the process by which we attain highly effective habits for conflict resilience.

Lament describes our fierce conversations with God where "nettles are truly grasped, " and lead us to ask the question of ourselves, "How much are you willing to sacrifice?"  Our sacrifice then becomes a sign of hope as we share in the sacred, prophetic words spoken by both Jeremiah and by Christ himself:  "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Jo ended the session with the following insight: "This is what a ‘future of hope’ looks like in God's own white-hot imagination: people praying without ceasing for their enemies, appealing to God for the godless, putting all their hope in God's ability to craft shalom, well-being, peace, true prosperity out of our own misery, suffering, and profound spiritual poverty.  Fulfilling the call to Abraham, to share God's blessing with the world - knowing that it is not in limited supply."
Much of the Jeremiah 29 material was inspired by and borrowed from an unpublished sermon by Ellen Davis. For other, published, sermon material of hers, see Getting Involved with God (Cowley: 2001) and Wondrous Depth: Preaching the Old Testament (Westminster/John Knox: 2005).