Welby on ‘the crooked straight path of reconciliation’

The newly installed Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke powerfully about reconciliation at the final Eucharist of the “Faith in Conflict” conference at Coventry Cathedral today. “If we can name and listen, be in conflict but not destruction, take the crooked straight path of reconciliation, we can establish a pattern and model of trust filled living drawing on the grace of God, a model that changes the world, ” he said. Here is an excerpt from his address:

Reconciliation is recognition of diversity and a transformation of destructive conflict to creativity. It holds the tensions and challenges of difference and confronts us with them, forcing us to a new way of life that accepts the power and depth and radicality of the work of the Holy Spirit in our conversions.

We speak often in foreign policy of failed states, or failing states. Their common characteristic is the inability to manage diversity and grow with it, enabling it to change them significantly into better places. The core of the American sense of exclusivism is often found within that vocation of being a diverse and thriving nation.

If the Church is not a place of reconciliation it is not merely hindering its mission and evangelism, appalling as such hindrance is, but it is a failing or failed church. It has ceased to be the miracle of diversity in unity, of the grace of God breaking down walls.

But how do we escape the reach of these demons? Because by the grace of God we are defined as family with a call to action in reconciliation, then we have to find not only the call but also the means of being reconcilers, when our instincts and passions often lead us in the opposite direction. Circling the wagons and self-defining as those who are of one mind against the rest of the world has a noble feeling. Hollywood inspired, it gives us the feeling that this is a good day to die hard – hard of heart and hard in action. By contrast the process of reconciliation seems weak and unprincipled, alienating us from everyone involved in quarrel. It is a real work of grace, with all the absence of gratitude for grace that God Himself has experienced. I find myself often doubting myself deeply: have I become totally woolly, taken in by the niceness of bad people, trapped in an endless quest for illusory peace rather than tough answers. That is a question that all involved in reconciliation should be asked, and held accountable to, but it is also part of the process. Bonhoeffer, reflecting on the Good Samaritan, speaks of “the crooked yet straight path of reconciliation.” The Priest and the Levite travelled straight on, the Samaritan turned aside. His path to the neighbour was straight to God.

Read the full text of his remarks here.

Posted by

Comment Policy
Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted. We also ask that you limit your comments to no more than four comments per story per day.

  1. John B. Chilton

    The Diocese of Virginia has a link of the interview of Bishop Johnston (Virginia) and The Rev. Baucum (Truro Church ACNA) that took place at the conference. On Tuesday the Diocese was in Virginia Supreme Court. Falls Church ACNA is appealing a decision that the property is owned by the diocese. Other ACNA churches like Truro settled after several years of litigation.


  2. Rod Gillis

    +Welby’s address is very engaging with an open horizon. He manages to reference an Islamic scholar, Karl Barth, Roman Catholic social teaching and the Society of Friends. Not too shabby! Check out the end notes with the full address.

  3. John B. Chilton

    Sentence of the day?

    “The core of the American sense of exclusivism is often found within that vocation of being a diverse and thriving nation.”

    Can you imagine Rowan ever saying such a thing? Nope. He despised the American notion of exceptionalism, the brashness of TEC’s unilateral moves towards justice for LGBTs that “tore the fabric” of the communion.

    Our North star is all men (sic) are created equal. It’s what tells us when we are falling short and guided us towards (towards!) equal treatment of landless men, women, African Americans and other minorities. It that guide star tells us we’ve fallen short in equal treatment of LGBTs.

  4. Sridgcw

    I absolutely welcome Welby’s comments — and his overall outlook. He’s going to have his hands full with the African folks, for sure, but if he can be quietly, calmly, and forcefully consistent as he deals with their different attitudes, maybe there’s hope for at least detente.

    Sarah Ridgway

Comments are closed.