15 June 2014, The Tablet

Welby in Rome: Churches must cast off 'institutional prestige'

by Christopher Lamb in Rome

The Archbishop of Canterbury today called on Christian Churches to reject institutional self-preservation and instead become inspired by the Holy Spirit to reach out to the world, particularly the poor.

Archbishop Justin Welby, who is in Rome for a two-day visit during which he will meet Pope Francis, said “we are constantly reminded of the beauty and the history of the Church and the challenges of the history of the Church.”

In a sermon at a celebration of the Eucharist this morning at the Anglican church of All Saints, he said that historically, churches had opted for “power and structural integrity.” The archbishop pointed to the Church of England’s failure to respond to the preaching of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century, and instead opt for a “static, unchanging Church.”

He urged the Anglican Communion, which has “historically been established and in the Church of England, extremely wealthy”, to be willing to take risks. “If we are to protect the inheritance of the Church, the Father calls us not to protect the institutions but to seek the stability of life,” he said adding that this included a “bias for the poor” and serving the marginalised. In his sermon he reflected on the concept of stability found in the Rule of St Benedict, which calls on monks to seek God by staying in the same monastery.

“Stability is not the same as changelessness, especially not in human situations,” Archbishop Welby said. “Stability always focuses on the Glory of God and never, ever seeks its own power and self-perpetuation.”

Urging the Anglican Communion to respond to the urgings of the Holy Spirit, he said that in October he would be preaching at a Pentecostal gathering in the Excel Centre in London that is normally attended by up to 45,000 people. And he added that responding to the spirit would help “overcome denominationalism.” Before celebrating the Eucharist at All Saints, the archbishop attended a meeting at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican on combating human trafficking. He then met with members of the St Peter’s cricket club who are due to play a match against the Church of England later this year.

Tomorrow Archbishop Welby will meet Pope Francis where they will continue discussions on how to stop trafficking though the an interfaith initiative they co-launched earlier this year called the Global Freedom Network. During his trip the archbishop is also due to meet Fr Adolfo Nicolas, the Superior General of the Jesuits, and attend meetings at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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