God’s Mission and Ours in the 21st century
An address by the Archbishop of Canterbury to a meeting of the Intercontinental Church Society at Lambeth Palace
Making disciples is a matter of shaping people who are willing to go on learning from God. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t seem to talk about making members, recruiting people to sign up: he wants disciples. He wants members of his body, not members of an organization. And the members of the body are those who share in the action of the body – a disciple is a learner, somebody who puts themselves to school under God and God’s Messiah. So go and make learners; encourage people to embark on the journey of discovering what the gift of God is.
In mission when people see the new creation, the transformed reality that is set before them, they will need time to learn what it’s about. Don’t look for short cuts. Draw people in to the newness and mystery and excitement, and then let them know that it’s a lifetime’s work to find your way into it. Take the time that is needed for people to learn and to grow to be disciples. Of course Christ asks from his disciples service, obedience, sacrifice, but all the time Christ asks us to continue learning, day by day taking up the cross, walking this path and discovering as we go.
An address by the Archbishop of Canterbury given to a meeting of the Alcuin Club at Lambeth Palace
Founded in 1897, the Club (named after Alcuin of York, deacon, abbot of Tours, d 840) has a long and respected tradition of promoting sound liturgical scholarship within and beyond the Church of England by publishing a series of collections and other works.
Liturgy is an event of transition; something changes; where you are at the end is not where you were at the beginning; and I would maintain that understanding liturgy properly is understanding the specific changes and movements that this or that liturgical act involves. So liturgy is itself a temporal activity, it takes time and it takes ‘differentiated’ time. Differentiated time is the opposite of the unmarked time of the seven-day working week; the opposite of time without rhythm; the opposite of time considered simply as a medium you can use in order to make money or make yourself secure or to guarantee profit or whatever. The more time is seen as opportunity for activity like that the less differentiation there is. It’s much better (we seem to assume) to have seven working days on the trot than to have these tiresome interruptions all the time where you can’t actually make money for twenty-four hours. I’m not in principle a dedicated, old-style sabbatarian, but there are moments when I fully understand what that is about in its most positive sense — and many of those moments happen when I’m enjoying a Sabbath eve meal with Jewish friends, when I realize just what it is to have twenty-four hours experienced as sheer gift and grace, to be welcomed like a bride.
But that is deeply counter-cultural at the moment. Global communication and the global economy, and the work patterns that I’ve already referred to, all of that pushes us in the direction of time that is flattened out. It’s just duration, it’s not rhythmical. It’s what I called earlier unmarked time. That is, more and more, the time in which we are encouraged and sometimes obliged to live. Liturgical time is the opposite of simply time that has to be filled up. It is the time of a drama, the time of an event. It is to do with the building and release of tension, and the time needed for transition or change to happen. It is differentiated in the sense that it casts a different light on how we spend the rest of our time (or at least it should). That element of building and releasing tension is, again, something which we are very easily seduced into losing sight of in liturgy. The worship event which has no story to tell and no rhythm to follow may be highly ritualized, but what it isn’t is liturgical, transformative. It may have its own virtues and its own strengths, but they’re not specifically liturgical.
How does God reveal himself? A Christian Perspective
Lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the World Islamic Call Society Campus, Tripoli, Libya
Thus God always seeks to make himself known. God knows that when we fail to see him and know him, we condemn ourselves to a darkness of spirit that means we never become what God wants us to be. So he desires to bring light into that darkness – not only for the sake of human beings but for the good of all creation. In the eighth chapter of the same Letter to the Romans, Paul says that the whole of the creation is held back from becoming what God wants it to be by the failure and sin of human beings – so that when this is overcome, there is a foretaste of the glory of God appearing in everything that has been made. Revelation is the beginning of the restoration of all things in the universe to their proper condition. And so Christians will speak of Jesus as the beginning of a ‘new creation’. St Paul in another letter writes about how all things hold together in Jesus. And because it is through Jesus that the creation is brought to its new condition, the condition in which it is set free to become what God made it to be, the early Christians concluded that creation had always held together because of the eternal Word of God which was embodied in Jesus. Jesus’ life came to be understood as the translation into human terms of an everlasting dimension in the life of the one God – the eternal outpouring of divine love and its reflection back to the heart of God, the movement outwards and then back into the depth of divinity that allows us to speak of God ‘the Son’, though not in any material or literalistic sense.
So we do not say that Jesus ‘becomes’ divine, or that he adds something to God. He is simply the human form of the eternal Word which, says St John in his gospel, is always ‘in relation to’ the God who is the source of all things. When we as Christian believers identify ourselves with him in the ritual of baptism, we are made able by the gift of the divine Spirit to call God ‘Father’ just as Jesus does. In other words, God makes himself known to the believer not by telling us new information about himself, and not even or not only by revealing a law, but by making us able to enter into a relationship with him in which we have confidence and intimacy – like the intimate relationship that a child has to a parent.
When Christians speak of God making himself known, they mean that God, in addition to the signs he spreads abroad in creation and in addition to the revelation to Moses of the Law for his people, makes himself known as a loving father to us. Because Jesus in the gospels prays to God as father, and because we believe that he is more intimate that any other with God, we understand that when we are made able to pray in his words, we are brought as close to God in love as we can be. And because we also believe that Jesus perfectly expresses the one unchanging will of God, we know that in Jesus’ life and death and rising from the dead we encounter a God whose purpose is always love and forgiveness. It is the whole life of Jesus that is the revelation, not only his teaching.
An introduction to St John’s Gospel
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, spoke last month – without notes – to students of St Paul’s Theological Centre, London, about St John’s gospel. This is an edited version of the transcript of the first of his two talks:
Is it eye witness in the sense that it’s reporting exactly what Jesus said?
I suspect that there again we may just possibly be asking the wrong kind of question. And let me paint a picture here which carries some sort of conviction for me.
John, obviously, by the end of the first century is quite an old man. Like every member of his society and culture, he has a very good memory.
People in cultures like that have very powerful memories. They can remember long discourses and they’re used to recalling quite extensive communications of various kinds.
At the same time, they are not, as it were, walking tape recorders, and their memory can also be filled out and expanded with what you might call mental footnotes.
But I’d like to think of John sitting in the middle of a group of his disciples and they say, ‘Tell us about the time when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus.’
And John says, ‘Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and Nicodemus said this and Jesus said that…’
General Synod, York – The Church of the Triune God
Following an allocution from Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Persamon, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the following speech introducing a synod debate on the report at the July Group of Sessions 2008. References are to paragraphs in the report.
And I want to begin by noting that there’s an easy possible misunderstanding of the way in which this document sets about its business. As is said on the first page of the report, it’s not simply that we are being commended to a social analogy for the Trinity; there are three divine persons and lots of human persons and so God and Humanity are a bit like each other really. The document goes a great deal deeper than that. It’s much better to say that in the light of what is revealed about reality itself, in the doctrine of the Trinity all talk of the Church must be consistent with that, and if fundamental reality is revealed in the doctrine of the Trinity (as existing in relation) then that dictates and shapes everything we say about the Church and indeed about everything else.
So, for example, (paragraph) 1.22 is crucial, ‘The Church is the body of Christ, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the abode of the Holy Trinity. It is not primarily a sociological phenomenon, but a gift of God the Holy Trinity’, the Church is as it is because of God’s being as God is, in Trinity. And thus the Church is as it is to be a manifestation of God’s life, a life in communion. What is basic in everything is Agency acting in interdependence, in relationship, in mutuality, but the created order is always at risk of losing that interdependence, and human beings are very particularly at risk of forgetting their interdependence. Hence the fall, hence sin, as essentially the assertion of self-sufficiency against God and against others.
And that means of course, that our salvation is the restoration of relationship. You’ll see if you turn to (paragraph) 2.2, the phrase, ‘These eternal relations are the cause of our salvation’. We are the way we are because God is the way God is, and we are saved in the way we are saved because God is the way God is. Salvation is the restoration of communion, and that happens effectively, decisively, when the eternal life of God the Son in communion with the Father of the Holy Spirit is, through the Spirit, translated into the human life, and death and resurrection of Jesus.
Once again, the form of our salvation depends on God being the way God is. And lest anyone should think that there is some kind of weakening or softening of an emphasis on the centrality of the cross here, I draw your attention particularly to (paragraph) 2.12, ‘The Son of Man is glorified in his betrayal and death: the work of God’s Spirit is power made perfect in weakness’. The signs and wonders of Jesus’ spirit-filled ministry must be understood in the light of the paschal mystery. The paschal perspective, the perspective of Good Friday and Easter, is the way in which we grasp, in human terms, in the human world, how God is the way God is in Jesus Christ.
So the Church appears as the Spirit’s creation out of that incarnate reality in which we are liberated from our isolation (might look at paragraph 2.40 for that). So, that immediately suggests the sort of point made in, for example (paragraph) 3:32. It’s inevitable that diverse receptions of the Gospel, diverse ways of receiving and hearing the good news, are implied in this pattern. Salvation is not a monolithic message, delivered all in one go, to one set of homogenised people. For our restoration to communion, a diversity of hearing and understanding is part of the reality to which we’re called. And (paragraph) 4.14 will tell you a little bit about the proper dimensions of a diversity brought together in reconciliation, that’s not just passive co-existence.