By Mark Michael
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in the Lambeth Conference’s first keynote address on the evening of July 29, stressed the dangers and uncertainties facing the world and the Church’s call to look outward and address deep needs.
Backed by a large screen that flashed video images, Welby repeatedly used the image of the stalking lion from 1 Peter 5:8, part of the conference’s key biblical text, as a metaphor for a series of threats facing the Church and the world.
“As shepherds, the bishops, overseers of God’s flock, we are commanded to be aware of the roaring lions in order to keep our flocks safe. Sometimes that’s easy. At other times the lions are roaring so loudly that we see and hear nothing but danger all around us,” he said.
He urged the bishops to avoid preoccupation with internal divisions at a time when the world is rife with economic, political, and ecological crises. “Too often the Anglican Communion has been known best — where it is known at all as a Communion — for looking inwards and struggling with its own disagreements,” he said.
“There is nothing unusual about crises. For those who are faithful, they call us to deeper discipleship, to new directions of obedience and holiness. They transform us and we transform the world around us. That is the aim. But the church that turns inwards, that fails to hear the roaring of the lions, is going to fail.”
Welby particularly urged Anglicans to engage with the ethical questions posed by rapid advances in science and technology, and to take action against climate change, especially because of its disproportionate harm to the world’s most vulnerable communities. Both issues, he said, are the subject of Lambeth Calls. He added that the new Anglican Communion Science Commission is well-positioned to develop and coordinate resources for this work.
If churches fail in advocating for social equity, “The rich gain the benefits of the new technologies and science and they do as they choose. The poor are shut out of the gains and live as they can. The wealthy have choice, the poor suffer the consequences,” Welby said.
“In our vastly different circumstances we all hear lions. Some are common to us all. Some are prowling only in one province. Some are in parts of the world but not others. But they are all lions. We may not see them clearly, but we can, together, grow in capacity to deal with them.
“But we must, as God’s shepherds, hear the lions, understand them and be a global church that will face and defeat, in the power of Christ — not by power, not by might, but by God’s powerful Spirit — their empty and powerless threats, because at the end, for every one of us here and everyone in the flock, and everyone in the world, Christ is the conqueror, redeemer, and Savior of all.”