09 February 2018, The Tablet

Church of England must rise to the challenge of change, says Welby

The Church must not change in such a way that leads it to reject its 'catholicity', said Archbishop Justin Welby

Church of England must rise to the challenge of change, says Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury called for the Church of England to rise to the challenge of change.

But he also warned against undertaking radical change without due care.

"To call for radical change without being aware of the traditions that underpin and secure the structures to which we belong is likely to lead to disaster, typically through division," he told the General Synod meeting in Westminster, London. "It stirs fear rather than hope, and encourages a bunker mentality rather than a willingness to see transformation."

The church has never had the luxury of remaining unchanged, he said. "Through Popes and Reformers, through men and women monastics, through movements of lay people and through bishops, the spirit of God has disrupted stasis and caused the church to reimagine its shape and ministry. Such disruption is ever more true as the church today hears the voice of its global membership amplified by social media, and is ever less able to live as the church in one country – to misquote a phrase of Stalin’s – or one tradition only."

The Church of England, as every other church, struggles with change and stability, he said.

It must "reimagine" not merely tinker with ministry.

The Church hears the "voice of the spirit" with every tweet and every blog in a way that was historically impossible.

This means the questions of change are ever more complex, "unless we reject our catholicity and the very concept of the church as universal", he added.

One mistake is to imagine that everything can be changed, and the other mistake is to believe that nothing should be changed.

Any tradition that is incapable of adapting is also one that is doomed to death.

The Archbishop said there is a range of approaches to change in an organisation such as the church. "At one end there are the traditionalists, who feel that even if something has only been done twice before, it must never be changed. At the other extreme are the so called radicals who feel that once something has been done twice before, it is high time it was thrown out."

At the three day meeting, which ends tomorrow, the synod, the governing body of the Church of England, has called on the Government to tackle food poverty and take steps to minimise waste, it has endorsed the Anglican Communion's role in mission and discipleship and has heard calls for more theological depth in those chosen to be bishops. 

On Saturday, the synod will hear a presentation on the Church's preparation for the Independent Inquiry into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and will debate the importance of religious communities and digital evangelism. 

Pic: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addresses General Synod as Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu looks on. Pic credit: Ruth Gledhill



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