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Archbishop Justin on ecumenism: "the oxygen of mission and evangelism"

Friday 24th May 2013

Bonds between different church traditions are "the oxygen of mission and evangelism," Archbishop Justin told an Anglo-German Christian delegation

Archbishop Justin addressing the Meissen Commission in Leicester, 24 May 2013 Archbishop Justin speaking to an Anglo-German Christian group at St Philip's Church in Leicester. 24 May 2013. Picture: Lambeth Palace

Good relations between different Christian traditions are the "oxygen" that allows the Church to fulfil its mission and proclaim the Gospel, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today.

Speaking in Leicester to members of the Meissen Commission, an ecumenical programme between English and German churches, the Archbishop said: "Ecumenism is not an extra that one can fit in because it's an interesting occupation. It is the oxygen of mission and evangelism."

The Meissen Commission oversees relations between the Church of England and the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), who in 1991 signed an agreement to work towards "full, visible unity".

Opening his talk - called 'Sailing in Uncharted Waters' - the Archbishop said the Meissen Agreement is "an ecumenical journey", which like many journeys turn out "very different from what we expected". 

"Much ecumenical journeying starts with the assumption that it will be a cruise with lots of parties," but instead turns into "one of those global circumnavigation events that you see which is mostly rough weather, and being extremely cold and uncomfortable and grumpy with the people with whom you are sailing," he said.

The trouble with this kind of journey is that "when it goes on for a long time, we stop noticing what is around us – what’s happening in our context. We live in a bubble," he said.

But beyond this bubble, the Archbishop said, are pressing challenges. He said that social damage caused by the economic crash in 2008 had challenged churches across Europe to find "new attitudes and responsibilities" to ensure they remain "hospitable" spaces in their communities.

He added that offering such hospitality also required different churches to "extend friendship and hospitality to each other".

"These challenges cannot be met if churches are divided," he said. 


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