Justin and Fran­cis: One in faith, prayer and sim­plic­ity of life

The Church of England - - ENGLAND ON SUNDAY - By Mar tin Dales

hat a mo­men­tous time it has been for over 2 bil­lion Chris­tians world­wide. In the same week, we saw both the In­au­gu­ra­tion of Pope Fran­cis for the Ro­man Catholic Church in Rome fol­low­ing in the steps of St Peter and the En­throne­ment of the Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby as the 105th Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury fol­low­ing in the steps of St Au­gus­tine.

Both lead­ers have a huge amount on their re­spec­tive plates as they start th­ese new phases of their min­istries.

The role of Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury is, frankly, an im­pos­si­ble one for any one per­son to ful­fil.

In Gen­eral Synod as long ago as 1999, we looked at how we re­sourced the Arch­bish­ops of Can­ter­bury and York in the ex­er­cis­ing of their min­istries.

In 2002 the report “Re­sourc­ing Arch­bish­ops”, chaired by Pro­fes­sor An­thony Mel­lows, made the fol­low­ing ob­ser­va­tions on the first page: “It is re­mark­able what the Arch­bish­ops achieve with the lim­ited re­sources avail­able to them” and “The de­mands upon, and the ex­pec­ta­tions of, the Arch­bish­ops are at the very limit of what is real­is­tic. The jobs are ap­proach­ing the point at which they will be­come im­pos­si­ble.”

Eleven years later, very lit­tle has changed and those ob­ser­va­tions hold true and in­deed are ex­ac­er­bated by the way 21st cen­tury com­mu­ni­ca­tions and 24/7 news cov­er­age re­quire in­stant com­ments at the drop of a hat from such as Arch­bish­ops and oth­ers in pub­lic life: what is of­ten needed is a con­sid­ered re­sponse as­sisted by a com­bi­na­tion of space and silent con­sid­er­a­tion.

It is clear that the shar­ing by our Arch­bish­ops of the many re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and var­ied roles which both are ex­pected to shoul­der is the best way of lead­ing the Church of Eng­land and utilises the dif­fer­ent skills that each brings to the of­fice of Arch­bishop.

So what are the chal­lenges fac­ing Arch­bishop Welby as he takes on the man­tle of Dun­stan, Anselm, Becket, Cran­mer, Tem­ple, Ram­sey, Cog­gan and Wil­liams to name but a few of his pre­de­ces­sors?

There is the un­fin­ished busi­ness re­lat­ing to women bish­ops, which was re­jected by the Gen­eral Synod last Novem­ber as an un­sat­is­fac­tory package of po­ten­tially dis­crim­i­na­tory pro­pos­als. Much work is go­ing on to bring back to the Synod a new package to en­able women bish­ops to hap­pen whilst ac­cept­ing that those who have the­o­log­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties with this will have equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for con­tin­u­ing pas­toral care.

The mat­ter of same-sex re­la­tion­ships and how they are ti­tled con­tin­ues to ex­er­cise minds both in the Church and Par­lia­ment with the re-def­i­ni­tion of the word ‘mar­riage’ be­ing at the heart of it. My dic­tionary de­fines mar­riage as “the le­gal union of a man and a woman in or­der to live to­gether and of­ten to have chil­dren” which seems to me fairly un­equiv­o­cal and up­holds the teach­ing of most Churches.

As well as his own Dio­cese of Can­ter­bury, there is the pas­toral care of the fam­ily of 78 mil­lion Chris­tians that make up the Angli­can Com­mu­nion world­wide: th­ese are Churches that are “in com­mu­nion with the See of Can­ter­bury in the Church of Eng­land, and thus the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, in his per­son and min­istry, is the unique fo­cus of Angli­can unity”.

There is also the de­sire for unity with other Chris­tian churches in their var­i­ous tra­di­tions and un­der­stand­ing of God’s pur­poses for the world. This of­ten looks im­pos­si­ble and in­cred­i­bly slow in its man­i­fes­ta­tion but is a vi­tal part of the min­istry of Arch­bishop Welby. It was good, for in­stance, to see the Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch of Con­stantino­ple, Bartholomew I, at Pope Fran­cis’ In­au­gu­ra­tion, the first time since The Great Schism of 1054 that a Greek Ortho­dox Pa­tri­arch has at­tended.

As in any fam­ily, whether here in Eng­land, in the wider Com­mu­nion or in the uni­ver­sal Church there are good times and bad, happy and sad, agree­ments and dis­agree­ments and Arch­bishop Justin’s honed skills in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion will come into their own in help­ing us all deal with the is­sues that Chris­tians face liv­ing out the Gospel wher­ever they are.

Per­haps the most press­ing item on Arch­bishop Justin’s agenda is to ad­dress the dwin­dling num­ber of peo­ple at­tend­ing churches in Eng­land. It is not so much that peo­ple don’t be­lieve in God or have no faith but in­stead a gen­eral apathy and lack of any de­sire to join ‘the club’. It is not only churches who are suf­fer­ing a lack of mem­ber­ship but many or­gan­i­sa­tions who find com­pe­ti­tion from the mod­ern age with all its ephemer­al­ity.

On the day of Arch­bishop Justin’s En­throne­ment, we re­mem­bered the 6th cen­tury Ab­bot St Bene­dict and also the 16th cen­tury Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, Thomas Cran­mer.

Bene­dict wrote what be­came known as the Rule of St Bene­dict, a liv­ing-out of the Gospel of Christ in com­mu­nity as rel­e­vant now as when it was first writ­ten. Arch­bishop Justin is a 21st Cen­tury Oblate of the Or­der of St Bene­dict in the Angli­can tra­di­tion as am I and in York­shire we are blessed by the pres­ence of our Ro­man Catholic Bene­dic­tine friends at Am­ple­forth Abbey.

Cran­mer wrote the Book of Com­mon Prayer and the 39 Ar­ti­cles, which re­main part of what the Church of Eng­land con­tin­ues to be­lieve as it too tries to live out the teach­ings of Christ.

Arch­bishop Justin has al­ready been out­spo­ken with the Government about the need for care of the poor and needy and Pope Fran­cis holds sim­i­lar views it seems.

Cran­mer was ex­e­cuted as a heretic for his views, which were un­ac­cept­able to Queen Mary I: be­ing an Arch­bishop in 2013 con­tin­ues to be a sac­ri­fi­cial ap­point­ment from so many per­spec­tives.

But in the words of St Ig­natius of Loy­ola, whose spir­i­tu­al­ity in­flu­ences both Pope and Arch­bishop, there lies their job spec­i­fi­ca­tion:

Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou de­ser­vest: To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To toil and not to seek for rest; To labour and not to ask for any re­ward Save that of know­ing that we do Thy will.

Mar tin Dales has been a Lay Mem­ber of Gen­eral Synod for the Dio­cese of York since

1995

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