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.