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Watch: Archbishop addresses WCC General Assembly

Friday 1st November 2013

The Archbishop said 'we cannot be satisfied with a lack of visible unity' when he addressed the World Council of Churches in the Republic of Korea today

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on churches to renew their 'determination' to achieve visible unity. 

Archbishop Justin said the Church 'cannot be satisified' with a lack of visible unity as he spoke at the 10th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Busan. 

Addressing the international ecumenical gathering, Archbishop Justin Welby said that peace and justice 'begin with us and God'. 

'When we are not at peace with God through Jesus Christ, we cannot be peacemakers - or bringers of justice - in the world,' he told the governing body of the WCC which meets every seven years. 

'We cannot be satisfied while there is a lack of visible unity. If we are satisfied, we defy the great high-priestly prayer of Christ himself.

'We are to be one, visibly one, so that the world may believe,' he continued. 'We are to be one so that the Gospel we preach is not denied by the way we live in separation. We are to be one because we are more effective together than apart. We are to be one – one people worshipping one God, eating and drinking round the one table of the Lord, for that is Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, then and for us now.'

We are to be one – one people worshipping one God, eating and drinking round the one table of the Lord, for that is Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, then and for us now.

When the church turns its eyes towards God, the Archbishop said, 'we hear the command... to be a poor church for the poor.' 

'The true children of Christ act instinctively to love those who suffer, as He loves us.'

Read the text of the speech: 

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

On behalf of the Anglican Communion, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and bring you our very best wishes for this Assembly in Busan. 

It is a great privilege, more than I can express in words, for me to be here at the beginning of the 10th Assembly. Ever since the first Assembly at Amsterdam in 1948, Archbishops of Canterbury have had this privilege of being invited to be with you – a personal sign of how important the fellowship of churches has been, and still is, for Anglicans. 

As a result of being here, we have sometimes been uncomfortably challenged – and even moved to reform ourselves. We have learned so much from our participation in the life of the fellowship. We have made so many friends. Friendship is the seedbed in which progress towards unity – the visible unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – grows and flourishes.

This is my first Assembly. I am enjoying a sense of wonder at my small, my tiny place among God’s great Church, which draws together women and men, young and not so young, lay and ordained, from different continents and cultures and different church traditions. 

Being here together provides a fresh vision of that to which we are called. Together we renew our commitment to the ecumenical journey, and to the ecumenical task. It is a task, I am reminded, that requires a stern renewal of determination if we are going to make progress. 

We cannot be satisfied while there is a lack of visible unity. If we are satisfied, we defy the great high-priestly prayer of Christ himself.  

We have travelled to this place praying, ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace.’ 

Peace and justice begin with us and God. When we are not at peace with God through Jesus Christ, we cannot be peacemakers – or bringers of justice – in the world. God calls us to be reconciled reconcilers, reconciled ourselves to God and to each other. 

Peace and justice become in us a cause for which any sacrifice is worthwhile when they are given birth in each of us, and in the church, by the Holy Spirit. 

For that reason we need to be seen again to be a people of prayer. Faced with the God of peace and justice, our hunger for unity grows; we are able to forgive and love one another with the love that God puts into our lives.

It is God who is the perfection of unity. In God is the one Father, the one Lord, the one Spirit, who in Christ draws us into unity with God and with one another – and that is using the words of the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 1920.  

We are to be one, visibly one, so that the world may believe. We are to be one so that the Gospel we preach is not denied by the way we live in separation. We are to be one because we are more effective together than apart. We are to be one – one people worshipping one God, eating and drinking round the one table of the Lord, for that is Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, then and for us now.

The fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches has helped us Anglicans to understand something of the unity that is God’s gift and our calling. But so often we have made God’s amazing and precious gift sound like an impoverished unity, the life of an inward-looking, self-absorbed community, only intent on self-preservation.

Only institutions that are willing to lose their lives for the sake of the good news, the Gospel, and for Christ, will find the life God offers. As Anglicans, as the World Council of Churches, we must die to live.

When we look to God our eyes are turned outwards to His world, and we hear again the command, as Pope Francis said, to be a poor church for the poor. 

The true children of Christ act instinctively to love those who suffer, as He loves us. 

If justice fades, hope faints. But when justice is loved, and lived, the poor have hope and the whole world begins to sing. Our vision has to be of God and God’s world – and the Church made sense of in that perspective. 

The unity statement before this Assembly tries to capture the vision. To fulfil that vision we need a fresh confidence in the good news as the best way for every human being on the planet, a fresh Spirit of grace to one another, and a fresh commitment to sacrifice all in the name of Christ for unity that reveals Him.  

God of life, lead us together in unity to justice and peace.

Amen. 

 

For detailed coverage of the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Butan, please visit the Episcopal News Service.

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