Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preached at the most recent gathering of the Churches of the Porvoo Communion, Lutheran and Anglican Churches, based mostly in Northern Europe, that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service”
The groups welcomed two new member churches into full communion: the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain.
From their joint statement:
The Bishops, together with members of the local church and other Porvoo representatives, participated in two services of Holy Communion. At the first, which took place in the Lutheran Cathedral (Domkirkjan) in the historic centre of Reykjavik, the Bishop of Iceland, Agnes M Sigurdardottir, presided. In his sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “Justice faints and hope fades when the church looks in on itself. The Kingdom of God is proclaimed by a church that is caught up in the glory of God and the reality of the world around….. If we are to continue to grow closer, so that our [Porvoo] communion becomes family, and that family becomes the transforming influence in our society, which is so desperately looking for a new way, after the decades of reliance on material growth have betrayed us; if that family is to become what it should, then we need each other more than ever, not for comfort in the cold, receding tides of Christian faith, but to stretch and challenge each other to an ever closer walk with God and evermore passionate fulfilling of his mission.
From Archbishop Welby’s sermon, The Widow, the Crook and the Power of Persistence:
The widow is caught up in her desire for justice. For her the cause is clear and she will not give in.
Justice is something we seek when it is not against us. The heritage of church abuse and patriarchy reminds us that the church follows the world in its injustice and too often combines its misuse of power with the blasphemy of theological justification. But the widow cries out, and in one of the very rare occasions where Luke explains the parable, we are told that it is to stop people giving up in prayer.
That is the first lesson. As Pope Francis said, the church is not called to be a Christian NGO. One of my churchwardens said something similar many years ago when I was leading a parish, „we are not the Rotary with a pointy roof“. When we lose sight of prayer and the reading of the scriptures, both as individuals and Christian communities, we lose the road we are to travel. Prayer for justice seems vain when compared to action. But Jesus is speaking out of the tradition of the psalms, where the psalmist calls to God to wake up. Prayer for justice, and a church that prays for justice, should be blunt and clear.
We need to find together in the Porvoo churches a regular renewal of our prayer and the forms with which to celebrate, to protest and and to lament. The widow is caught up with the judge. Are we truly caught up with God? Is his life what calls us together, or merely agreement, habit and obligation? In each other do we see the face of Christ and hear the call to follow together the Lord of justice, to encourage each other so that when the Lord comes he finds faith on the earth? Being caught up with God means that faith is found, not organisation, and faith is the assurance of things unseen.