Speaking with clarity and resolution, the Archbishop made several key points that resonated strongly with me. While they were related to the immediate issue of women bishops they encompassed many crucial aspects of Church and Society and the ways we need to re-imagine our approach in facing them.
Archbishop Justin acknowledged that we are living in a time of revolution; that attitudes to hierarchy and authority have changed; that we need to jettison much of the baggage we are carrying in the present in order to be able to respond to God, radically and imaginatively to the new contexts in which we live. As we are in difficult economical times, with the consequent social repercussions, we as Church, are called by God to respond radically and imaginatively. Potentially we have the means to be the answer that God provides. We need to be the prophetic challenge in a country that has the resources to reduce poverty. He quoted Pope Francis in saying, “We are to be a poor church for the poor”.
He noted the overwhelming change in our culture. The predictable attitudes we once had no longer being there. He drew on his experience of the noticeable hostility shown in the House of Lords and towards the views of the Churches when the bishops opposed the Same Sex Marriage Bill. He heard things that were uncomfortably near to the bone. “Sometimes” he said, “the population look at us and see what they don’t like”. Consequently he thoroughly condemned the homophobic behaviour, born of prejudice, which resulted in the bullying and suicides of gay young and mentioned the great suffering in other countries.
He emphasized the importance of demonstrating the “lavish love of God to all of us with radical and prophetic words” and that we, in order to rebuild the trust we have lost, must rid ourselves of the lack of integrity and transparency we have shown. Doing this may well take years or even decades. He instanced, for example, a key point on many people‘s minds relating to lack of trust by saying that, “if we say we believe it is right for the full inclusion of women in the life of the Church, we say that all are welcome, whatever their views on that all must be welcome in deed as in word. If we don’t mean it then don’t say it”.
“We need to be the Church of the common good. In order to re-imagine ministry and achieve this there must be a renewal of prayer and the Religious life. This is essential if we are to fulfill our task”. He emphasized that we need to regain what we have lost in the liturgy of Lament and Celebration. “Lament, that builds our capacity to trust God in the face of change encountering the face of Jesus Christ in pain, grief and anger that transforms us. Celebration, in true and passionate praise and thanksgiving that renews our faith and strengthens our weary limbs in the long journey we are undertaking. We celebrate because who cannot be overwhelmed by the love of God”.
Yes, I felt this was an excellent and welcomed speech, delivered with conviction in the hope of a determined outcome of serious and practical intent beyond just words. Many ordained women will welcome his recognition of the need for Lament for the pain of the long and not-yet-over journey in order to experience the full and unequivocal acceptance of their gifts. Lay women of all ages in Church and society will equally wish to see signalled, by the way ordained women are finally accepted, that we too are seen as fully within the “lavish love of God”.
Listening to our new Archbishop I couldn’t help pondering if the key question for us is; What is the baggage we need to jettison and what is the necessary luggage we need to retain in order to make this all happen? Never-the-less I live in the hope and expectation that, “All will be well and all manner of things will be well” and pray it will happen soon!