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Churches challenged to “rehabilitate and refresh” how they explain the Gospel

Posted on: December 4, 2017 10:11 AM
The new Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, after his enthronement on Saturday in Brecon Cathedral.
Photo Credit: Church in Wales
Related Categories: Abp John Davies, Primates, Wales

The new Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, has said churches are “not always seen for the good which we do, or for the just causes which we support or further, or for the justice and truth for which we call.” He called on churches to “rehabilitate and refresh” how they explain the Gospel message, particularly to young people who, he said, would high-five the prophet Job and queue for selfies with Jesus – if they properly understood Christianity. Archbishop John made the comments as he was enthroned as the 13th Archbishop of Wales during a service in Brecon Cathedral on Saturday.

John Davies, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, was elected as the Primate of the Church in Wales in September, securing the two-thirds majority from the electoral college on the second day of their meeting in Holy Trinity Church, Llandrindod Wells – the small Welsh town that has the honour of being the meeting place for the archiepiscopal electoral college. His election took effect immediately. Yesterday’s service marked the ceremonial start of his role as archbishop.

About 600 people from all over Wales and further afield filled Brecon Cathedral for the enthronement service, which began with a long procession of clergy, visiting bishops, diocesan legal officers, ecumenical and interfaith guests and representatives of academic institutions. The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, was amongst those present.

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The opening page of the William Morgan Bible – the first Bible to be translated in the Welsh language.
Photo: Library of Wales

During the service, the new archbishop made his declaration and oath on the historic William Morgan Bible – the first Welsh-language translation of the Bible, prepared by William Morgan, in the 16th Century. The Bible was taken to Brecon Cathedral from its permanent home in St Asaph Cathedral, where Morgan was once bishop. The Church in Wales Senior Bishop, the Bishop of Bangor Andy John, placed the Archbishop John in the Archiepiscopal chair, or throne.

The Church in Wales’ Archiepiscopal chair is a replica of the Chair of St Augustine, which sits in Canterbury Cathedral. It was presented to the Church in Wales by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, when the Church in Wales became independent of the Church of England, becoming a separate Anglican province, in 1920. The chair was taken to Brecon Cathedral from Llandaff, where it stayed during the archiepiscopacy of Archbishop Barry Morgan. It will remain in Brecon throughout John Davies’ tenure as archbishop.

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A replica of St Augustine’s Chair – the original sits in Canterbury Cathedral – was presented to the Church in Wales on its independence in 1920 by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury Randall Davidson. It is used as the archiepiscopal throne for the Church in Wales.
Photo: Church in Wales

In his address, Archbishop John said that the churches needed to do more to make themselves relevant to young people in particular; and said that being a Christian was not about just going to church.

“Let churches resolve to face down the caricature of being an institution, focussed on simply surviving and being against things,” he said,

“Let churches and their charities, resolve to proudly affirm caring, loving and open-handed initiatives which, often in partnership with others, they are already taking; supporting and affirming needy communities and people. They work through things such as family centres, food-banks, night-shelters, homelessness projects, in chaplaincies and schools, in towns and cities through the work of street-pastors, through aid agencies rebuilding broken and struggling communities in destitute places some of us have never even heard of, and in so many other ways.

“Often the work goes unseen, as does a remarkable amount ordinary but supportive community engagement at home. But, in such ways what churches say they believe takes flesh, has real meaning, and the kingdom comes. We must be ready and not afraid or ashamed to say so and explain so.

“That should become part of what I believe has to be a commitment to an overdue drive to rehabilitate and refresh how we explain the Gospel message, helping others really grasp that it’s not simply about going to church.”

The Archbishop said he had an “active and deep concern” for witness to young people who were not associating the Gospel message with their own strong sense of right.

He said, “So many of them so evidently have a deep and clearly-articulated sense of moral right. They are keenly aware of the need for social and economic justice, the stewardship of creation, and equality of opportunity; they are equally aware of the need for a society free from any form of prejudice rooted in anything which is part of the individual identity, gender, race, origin, religion or orientation of anyone.

“Interestingly, they also often have a deep admiration for ideals which actually are found in scripture – they would give Job a high-five or even a hug, they would encourage the Colossians to put on that overcoat of blood-red love; they would be blown away by the radical teachings of Jesus, the Good Shepherd – and, if they could, would almost certainly have a selfie taken with him! Perhaps, however, they don’t associate our sometimes-struggling churches with these things, or hear those churches saying a clear enough ‘hear, hear’ to them.”