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Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of “radical vocation” during visit to Dallas, Texas

Posted on: September 25, 2018 2:18 PM
Bishop Anthony Burton, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Photo Credit: Archbishop Justin Welby on Twitter

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has likened the Church shining the light of the Gospel in “a world of puzzlement and confusion” to switching on car headlights in fog: “all you see is reflection without illumination”. Speaking during Evensong during a vocations conference in Dallas, Texas, Archbishop Justin said that the role of ordained ministers “is to ensure that all for whom they are responsible are walking in the light of Christ, in their freedom as children of light. Through Christ there is salvation. In him there is life. With him there is light. From him there is wisdom.”

He continued: “Unless that light is shining freely and unhindered, the call of the Church to the world is vitiated. Unless its minister lead its people faithfully, there will be confusion within as well as without.

“The metaphor of light and children of light makes no sense when we divide. God’s light is one light; the children of light of whom Jesus speaks are children of one light.

“Let me be clear, although as Anglicans we are already in a Church divided globally since the Great Schism, and far more so since the Reformation – and my goodness, as Protestants we’re good at doing that – we are called in everything we do to be together, despite all the difficulties involved: to be together in an often painful living out of what it means collectively to be children of light.

“We are called to be children of light, yet we live in a world of puzzlement and confusion. Like switching on the main beam of your car headlights in fog, all you see is reflection without illumination.

“The nature of ordained ministry is to seek to ensure that the Church shines a light that illuminates – and yet to find oneself doing that in a confusing world, where options and choices often have the appearance of equal validity.”

The conference, “Discerning a 21st Century Call to the Ancient Order of Priesthood”, was organised by the Communion Partners – a group of theologically conservative bishops who are committed to remaining within the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada despite differences over issues including sexuality.

Archbishop Justin was accompanied on his visit by TEC’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the former Bishop of Saskatchewan in the Anglican Church of Canada, Anthony Burton, who now serves as Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.

There is no confusion with Jesus “whatever the state of the world”, Archbishop Justin said. “He is to be raised up and on a cross find triumph; the great surprise of John’s gospel. His light burns up the fogs and dispels the darkness – and we are called to be children of that light. We are called to be children of that light.

“Transformation is the divine response to confusion. Enabling transformation is the divine vocation of the ancient order. The vocation of the minister is transformation of all they meet, people and places. Not by their own strength but by bringing them face to face with Jesus Christ. The vocation of the church is the transformation of the world in the power of the Spirit.”

He said that Christians should be “the true radicals, the extremists of love, the subversive underminers of inertia, those that turn the whole world upside down”, and he joked about a conversation he had held with a senior politician about extremism, saying: “‘What is it with your bishops about our policy on extremism?’, the politician said.

“‘What do you mean by extremism?’, I replied.

“‘An extremist is someone who puts their faith before their country,’ they said – I hope everyone in this place is an extremist!

“And I said to the politician, ‘I’m afraid you’re talking to one.’”

Archbishop Justin continued: “That is the radicality of the vocation. For to be a child of light in a dark world, and above all to lead the children of light, will require a firm decision and a walk of ever-growing closeness to Jesus who calls us.”

He said that priests “do not just shine a light into the darkness” but also “confront the darkness at every point.”

During his visit to Texas this weekend, Archbishop Justin visited the Texas School Book Depository – the site from which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated then-US President John F Kennedy on 22 November 1963.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spends a moment in reflection while on a visit to the Texas School Depository Building in Dallas, Texas.
Photo: Bishop Anthony Burton on Twitter