The Archbishop of Wales is calling on the church to step out confidently in faith to tackle its challenges.
In his address as President to members of the Governing Body, the Archbishop, John Davies, acknowledged the church was facing ‘confusing and challenging times’ which could lead to disabling fear and anxiety. He urged members to follow the example of people in the Bible by putting their faith in God and acting confidently to make change happen.
He warned that ‘simply standing on the shore and gazing at the other side’ would leave the church in ‘increasing danger’.
Archbishop John said, “To coin words from the Letter to the Hebrews, we, at what might be described as confusing and challenging times for our church, are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses: frail people, flawed people, people who have been challenged, people who have been anxious, people who have been afraid, people who have sometimes dressed up mere excuses as reasons for saying ‘No’, people who, from time-to-time tried and failed – but at least they tried. But they ultimately proved to be people who, with faith and trust and courage and grit, got the work going.
“That is what the Governing Body’s role has to be – despite being of the same frail and flawed flesh as those people who populate the cloud of witnesses, we are called, as a body and as individuals in our own places, to that same faith and trust and courage and grit, to get the work going. Sometimes it feels safer to wait, anxiously, for a better moment, a more acceptable time. But, as the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians, working together with Christ, the acceptable time has arrived. The acceptable time is always now.”
The Archbishop reminded members that the Church was addressing its challenges and implementing radical changes following its review in 2012. It was also planning to celebrate its centenary in 2020 by ‘recognising concrete steps, solid progress, and commitment to our core purpose’. Everyone, he said, had a part to play.
He said, “These are facts, not least among them, that recommendations were received six years ago, facts about which I believe it is both my duty and my responsibility as Archbishop to insist that we remind ourselves and others with regularity; not only here at the Governing Body, but in our dioceses, within their various structures, in our Ministry Areas, in our congregations and, very importantly, in our own hearts and minds as individual Christians, called as today’s cloud of witnesses to play our part, with faith and trust and courage and grit.”
The Archbishop warned that resistance to change was a problem in the church and it could be disabling for leaders.
He said, “There is in some quarters, a simple dislike of change, resistance to change, even a refusal to consider change, let alone embrace change. This could all too easily sow in the hearts and minds of all of us, who are called to be leaders, the seeds of a deep anxiety, and a disabling fear, both of which have the potential to cause us to shy away from the challenge, divert us from pressing on, and weaken the desire to seize or even try to create opportunities.”
Members, he said, must not be overwhelmed by the challenges facing them but must deal with them by acting in faith.
“Today’s leaders, can all too easily become, perhaps some have become, too hung-up, on falling numbers, and convinced ourselves that they can’t stem the tide and cross over to new ground.
“I know that each one of us could sit down, alone, at a table at home or at our desks, and write an ever-growing list of anxieties that might disable us and others from dipping our feet in the seemingly un-crossable stream and from stepping outside the familiar and the situations which we think, at least for now, offer us security. But step out we are called to, step out we must, because we know in our heart of hearts that not doing so simply perpetuates, in too many cases and too many places, a downcast mood and a sense of downward trend, leaving us not with security, but in increasing danger.”
The Archbishop concluded, “Where and when and if tempted to do so, the Church in Wales cannot simply stand on the shore and anxiously gaze towards the other side; rooted in the call of the prophets and rooted in the Gospel, we must, both attentively and courageously, be ready to cross. Change will happen.”
Archbishop John was speaking at the start of the two-day meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales at Venue Cymru, Llandudno.
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For details about the Governing Body meeting see, https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/news/2018/04/church-in-the-public-square-debate/