Church must stand up to oppression, says Archbishop of Canterbury


Anglicans must stand up against oppression “at all levels”, including speaking out on the climate emergency, the unethical treatment of migrants and human rights abuses, said the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Justin Welby told the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops around the world once a decade that they must speak, act and “take risks”, especially as many communities are unable to make one of these things.

Suggesting that this might appear to put them in conflict with governments, the Archbishop said: “Our approach stems from the scriptures.

“It’s not the church that gets involved in politics, it’s the church that gets involved in God.”

Applause erupted during his keynote address, at the Canterbury meeting on Sunday, as he said: ‘Be silent about the unethical treatment of migrants, or about war, oppression, violation of human rights on persecution is to be one of the oppressors.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (centre right) with bishops from around the world gather at the Lambeth Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“We live in solidarity because the person with the gun pointed at them, and I’ve been there, often can’t say anything.”

He added that “those in other countries can speak loudly, they can garner support, they can take risks.”

He described the climate crisis as “an undeclared war with enormous consequences”.

People shouldn’t be silent about the climate emergency and its implications for the economy today, and not 10 years from now, “which is a political expression meaning ‘after I retire,'” according to the Archbishop.

He said: “Climate change, better called the climate crisis or better still the climate emergency as we know it, is the result of the wealthiest countries unknowingly declaring war on God’s creation. , mindlessly from the 19th century.

“The symptoms of this war are now that the rich are dumping their waste in the oceans.

“They tell the poor not to use carbon-generating fuels and they tell the world, too often, not by their words but by their actions ‘we will keep our wealth and you poor people must find new ways'” .

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the altar during the opening service of the Lambeth Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the altar during the opening service of the Lambeth Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA)

He talked about the creation of 800 million to 1.2 billion refugees.

The Archbishop added that while the full impact of current decisions may not be known but predicted, “we know the results will be tragic beyond anything in human history, overwhelming beyond anything we can imagine and devastating to so many people”.

He said the church must stand firm in its ability to help others.

He said: “In history, in empire, in politics, too often all churches, not just Anglicans, have been drawn into supporting governments complicit in injustice and maintaining oppression at all levels.

“Coming against oppression is scary because it is expensive and many of you know that so well.

“We don’t like governments speaking out loud against us or doing worse than that in many parts of the Anglican Communion, but we have to talk and we have to act.”

Earlier this week, the archbishop told the meeting that church members have been “disagreeing without hate” in recent days but “not as much in the press as we want”.

It came after he reaffirmed a 1998 Anglican statement rejecting same-sex marriage, sparking controversy over the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

The resolution states that marriage is “between a man and a woman” and that same-sex relationships are “inconsistent with Scripture.”

On Tuesday, the archbishop said he could not and would not punish churches for holding same-sex marriages.

He said: “I do not have or seek to have the power to discipline or expel any church from the Anglican Communion.

“I will not do it.”

Anglican churches in Scotland, Wales, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico conduct or bless same-sex marriages.

The most determined opposition comes from churches in sub-Saharan Africa, with the archbishops of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda boycotting the conference.

The Archbishop, who said he had been ‘missed’ by African church leaders, said his biggest failure at the Lambeth conference was ‘not encouraging them enough to be here’.

He said: “The discussion might have been more complicated, but if we love each other, we could all find a renewal.”

On Sunday, the archbishop suggested there was still a lot of work to be done by the diverse and often argumentative global Anglican community.

He promised that the areas of learning that came up at the conference will be followed up to try to help “deepen relationships”.


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