Vanguard Media have released what they claim is the text of Welby’s address to the Primates. It’s not been confirmed (and I know others have a copy of the text) but it looks genuine. While the whole thing is worth reading through, this piece early on is of particular interest:
Yet, through it all, God was faithful. For example, East Africa was evangelised, it is true, first by missionaries, but it was the East African Revival that set the pattern for holiness, for a vigour of lifestyle in relationship with Christ that so impressed an 18 year old teaching at Kiburu Secondary school. That same 18 year old then had the seed of the gospel sown into the ground prepared, when three Ugandan Bishops, led by Festo Kivengere came to England in 1975. And a few weeks later I gave my life to Christ. So for me it was indigenous Kenyan and Ugandan faith, through the Revival’s legacy, that brought me salvation. I do not forget that.
It’s quite obvious a deliberate attempt to resonate with the GAFCON Nairobi Communiqué of 2013.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we, the participants in the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) – 1358 delegates, including 331 bishops, 482 other clergy and 545 laity from 38 countries representing tens of millions of faithful Anglicans worldwide – send you greetings from East Africa, a place of revival in the last century and of growth in the Anglican Church today.
There is much we can learn from the East African Revival about having a change of heart. Beginning in the last century, the Revival has touched millions of lives across many countries as the Holy Spirit has moved lay men and women, as well as clergy, to share the gospel with others. Two significant features of great relevance to our situation are —
- Real repentance for sin demonstrated both in confession of guilt and a desire to make amends
- A confidence that the gospel has the power both to save the lost in all the world and to transform the church, rather than seeing the church conformed to the world.
We urge those who have promoted the false gospel to repent of their unfaithfulness and have a renewed confidence in the gospel. We repent of indifference, prayerlessness and inactivity in the face of false teaching. We remind them – as we remind ourselves – that the sins from which we must repent are not simply those which the world also believes are wrong; they are those that God himself abhors and which are made clear in his Word.
Quite what Justin hopes to achieve by the link is uncertain. He could be signalling a real appreciation of the GAFCON position, even sympathy towards it. It’s probably also true that the GAFCON Primates need more than sympathetic words. The 2nd day of the meeting begins very soon and I’m sure there will be lots to report.
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Four problems with Welby’s address:
i) He endorses the Roman Catholic doctrine of the apostolic succession of bishops. This may not be surprising but should still shock us from a Protestant archbishop. What would Cranmer think?
ii) He suggests the C of E house of bishops is the most orthodox it has been for decades (not that that is saying much!). Yet, it doesn’t contain a single complementarian/conservative evangelical – shows how the definition of ‘orthodox’ has shifted.
iii) He equates violent Islam with Christians at the time of the Reformation which is historically inaccurate and misunderstands the enormous difference between ‘Scriptural’ Islam compared to biblical Christianity.
iv) Again, despite saying unity and truth aren’t opposites, he fails to understand that those guilty of false teaching are no longer brothers, have deserted the faith and need to be kicked out. There is no spiritual unity so any institutional unity or expressions of fellowship are a sinful sham.
I’m afraid Welby often says unhelpful things about both Islam and Catholicism so this is no surprise. Let’s hope the GAFCON bishops don’t fall for his subtle charm offensive. What we need is not an identification with the East African revival but standing up for the gospel which always requires the rejection of error (however costly) as well as the teaching of the truth.
“ii) He suggests the C of E house of bishops is the most orthodox it has been for decades (not that that is saying much!). Yet, it doesn’t contain a single complementarian/conservative evangelical – shows how the definition of ‘orthodox’ has shifted.”
In fact there are two respected conservative evangelicals in the English House of Bishops (Peterborough and Blackburn). The fact that they are often dismissed as not ‘real’ evangelicals because they are not ‘complementarian’ shows how much this novel doctrine is being used as a yardstick by ultra-conservatives who want to emphasise points of difference rather than points of unity.
just a quick comment on i)
There are a variety of view on what “Apostolic succession” is about. I think there’s a legitimate evangelical position to suggest it’s a the succession of faithful teaching, one generation to the next. This invariably requires a succession of individuals, but not understood in the same way that the more Roman view has – that the physical passing on of authority resides in the succession.
Having said that, I do think that Welby’s reference is of a broader sort, designed to appeal as widely as possible.