Archbishop of York John Sentamu’s Presidential Address to the CoE Synod

Posted by The_Elves

Here is an excerpt from the Presidential address today by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, to the Church of England General Synod:

As a church, we need to learn once again to become risk-takers, people who take risks for the Gospel, who take risks for Christ, who take risks in the service of God and one another. We have to take risks, in order to make the journey. We discover courage by doing courageous, God-like actions. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”. An act at a particular time and place. It is the sin of the world that Christ takes away. Action!

So what are we afraid of? And what are the consequences of our fearfulness? The result of fear can be dangerous, fear itself can create its own risk. Because often when we’re reacting out of fear we don’t behave with courage and determination and grace, we become defensive, we behave badly.

And this Bad Behaviour doesn’t only afflict us as individuals but at every level, as churches, as nations. The language of fear has become the language of international relations; worldwide, a new book on terrorism is published every 6 hours!

Fear has begun to shape the minds and the decisions of those who take counsel for the nations. As Jim Wallis has noted, “The politics of fear can have disastrous results in both foreign and domestic policy. To name the face of evil in the brutality of terrorist attacks is good theology, but to say simply that they are evil and we are good is bad theology that can lead to dangerous politics. The threat of terrorism does not overturn Christian ethics.” It’s mercy, loving-kindness, deeds of mutual charity, reciprocal solidarity, walking in God’s ways of love and justice.

And our fear of terrorism can lead us to false conclusions about our Muslim neighbours.

The challenge we face isn’t about moderate Muslims versus so-called radicalised Muslims; the challenge is about Islam being used for quasi-political ends at whose heart is getting into paradise now by suicide bombing propelled by a hatred of the West and its way of life. Attempting to avenge past hurts by piling them on present problems.

Therefore the question is in fact about our discernment between those Muslims who, being loyal to the holy Qur’an, are dedicated to a vision of Allah who is merciful, holy and kind - in contrast to those who tendentiously make Allah vengeful, violent and merciless – promising paradise now through acts of brutality and mass murder. In remaking God in their own image, they commit the ultimate act of blasphemy.

In the same way we Christians must beware of taking the holiness of God to imply that his wrath and judgement are out to destroy sinners instead of redeeming them, loving them and forgiving them. For those who follow the man of Galilee who was crucified, self-righteousness must die at his Cross. It’s from the Cross that the light of God shines forth upon the world in its fullest splendour. And as David Bosch has said (in Transforming Mission) “The Church is an inseparable union of the divine and the dusty.”

We are still human and the chorus to the song ‘Anthem’ by the Canadian writer, Leonard Cohen reminds us that there can be a point to our lack of perfection:

“Ring the bells
That still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”


We must resist the temptation to abandon Christian principles of justice to those who suggest that fear is a better teacher than Christ Himself. For us, the opposite of fear isn’t courage, but the gift of wisdom, knowledge, discernment and insight from the Holy Spirit.

Sin harms the individual believer. Heresy (the wrong understanding of God) harms the Church. Idolatry destroys both the believer and the Church and is the cause of both sin and heresy. Our mission, like that of Jesus, is to confront idolatry.

So, what are we afraid of? Are we afraid of the loss of identity? Of a diminished sense of who we are and what it means to be us? You might think so, given the amount of time our society at present devotes, in its public conversation, to the question of what it means to be British.

And as a church, are we afraid of the future? Are we afraid of change? Are we privately content with the comfortable certainties of decline?

Or are we afraid of the public square? Of the public conversation about faith and society, difference and identity? In a space which we once confidently thought belonged to us as of right, how do we preach the words of life afresh in our communities of diverse ethnicities, cultures and peoples of other faiths present; and in a generation that is sceptical, cynical, fearful?

The full text is here (Church of England website)

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Update: The audio of this speech is here:


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Primary Source-- Statements & Letters: BishopsAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops

38 Comments
Posted July 9, 2007 at 8:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. William Scott wrote:

Which is riskier for us as a church; to follow the leading ideological power of our time, or to resist it and reaffirm our received community discipline?  I fully agree we need courage at this time.  I also admit that both choices require us to move into the unknown of the future.  I think we who consider our duty to restate our received moral discipline need to understand that we are not merely holding on to something.  We must change too.  We failed somewhere along the line to get us to the mess we are in now.  If there is one thing made clear through all of this, we will all be changed.  Our comfort is disturbed. 

Back to the address . . .  Are we acting out of fear?  Sometimes, but not always. I think we need to shake this bias though.  This kind of characterization is unfair, and would not be permitted to point back the other way.  That is what we are against.  We are in a language war.  That is what revisionism means; to take control of the narrative of the community.  To tell the story means victory.  To be orthodox means to continue to tell the story as we received it.  This is no static state.  The mysteries of the Gospel as received require agility and alertness to live out.  This living is what we are called to do, calmly, and with strength and courage. 
.

July 9, 10:27 am | [comment link]
2. bob carlton wrote:

What a gorgeous, Gospel-filled message:

We must resist the temptation to abandon Christian principles of justice to those who suggest that fear is a better teacher than Christ Himself. For us, the opposite of fear isn’t courage, but the gift of wisdom, knowledge, discernment and insight from the Holy Spirit.

July 9, 10:29 am | [comment link]
3. William Scott wrote:

I would say wisdom and courage ore both highly prized virtues.  and both are opposed to being afraid.  Fear on the other hand can be a virtue when id describes our attitude toward God.

July 9, 10:33 am | [comment link]
4. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

The ABY’s Presidential Address can be listened to by pressing the audio link here

July 9, 10:48 am | [comment link]
5. azusa wrote:

“Therefore the question is in fact about our discernment between those Muslims who, being loyal to the holy Qur’an, are dedicated to a vision of Allah who is merciful, holy and kind - in contrast to those who tendentiously make Allah vengeful, violent and merciless – promising paradise now through acts of brutality and mass murder. In remaking God in their own image, they commit the ultimate act of blasphemy.”
The HOLY Qu’ran? What is this man talking about? Has he ever READ the Qu’ran? or the ahaditha? Does he know ANYTHING about Islam? How is it ‘holy’ in its attacks on central Christian doctrines, to say nothing of its hateful teachings on the Jews, the ‘Cross-worshippers’, and the calls to jihad.
Does he not know that Amin was a Muslim and was supported by the Saudis? I know what his political motive is in a country that is jittery with worry about terrorism, but why does he have to be so ignorant - or ‘economical with the truth’ as they say in England?

July 9, 11:19 am | [comment link]
6. phil swain wrote:

While we are about the business of discernment, is self-righteousness really the besetting sin of western democracies?  Isn’t currently the besetting sin of western democracies an almost paralyzing self-doubt?  I don’t believe you preachers who continually harp on self-righteousness are correctly discerning our current corporate malaise.

July 9, 11:23 am | [comment link]
7. Philip Snyder wrote:

Phil Swain (#6) - I think this is an example of what C.S. Lewis described in the Screwtape Letters.  Satan leads us to be on guard against the besetting sins we have just moved out of.  For example, when we were full of self-righteousness (in the Colonial era), we were led by society and the church to guard against self doubt and fear.  Now that we are full of self-doubt and fear, society leads us to be on guard against self-righteousness - and thus to lead us to fear and self-doubt.

Now, when there is a large group of people who wish to destroy Western Civilization as Christianity, we need courage and faith and the assurance that Christianity is the supreme revelation of God and not the words of Mohammed.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

July 9, 11:33 am | [comment link]
8. bob carlton wrote:

#7,

I am curious - are you suggesting this section is somehow Screwtapian ?

Fear has begun to shape the minds and the decisions of those who take counsel for the nations. As Jim Wallis has noted, “The politics of fear can have disastrous results in both foreign and domestic policy. To name the face of evil in the brutality of terrorist attacks is good theology, but to say simply that they are evil and we are good is bad theology that can lead to dangerous politics. The threat of terrorism does not overturn Christian ethics.” It’s mercy, loving-kindness, deeds of mutual charity, reciprocal solidarity, walking in God’s ways of love and justice.

July 9, 11:42 am | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:

Bob, it is also being as wise as serpents.  And it is not adverse to Christianity to recognize that there are real threats.

July 9, 12:00 pm | [comment link]
10. Larry Morse wrote:

Ho hum. How did the Red Sox do, does anyone know?  LM

July 9, 12:02 pm | [comment link]
11. Philip Snyder wrote:

bob(#8) - I think it is screwtapian (nice word, by the way) because we hear so much that we need to try to understand “why they hate us” and we need to guard against self-righteousness.  The problem today isn’t Western self-righteousness, the problem is radical islamic self-righteousness and willingness to hijack a religion to further their political ends.

I never said “they are evil and we are good.”  I will say that they (those who use terrorism to further their political/religious ends) are more evil than we are.  I am about 2/3 through Miraslov Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace and Volf has a lot to say about evil and our attitude to it.  I would recommend his work to you.  If you don’t have the time for it, you might want to read N. T. Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God.
One of the reasons that I believe we need more courage and assurance is that fear causes us to make bad decisions.  We need to move away from fear to courage - courage to assert the Christianity is a superior revelation to Islam - courage to say that terrorism is wrong and shall not be appeased - courage to say that we will not let them define reality.  We also need the courage to proclaim God’s word of reconciliation to our enemies and to remind them of God’s love for them through Jesus Christ.  We need the courage to hold fast to the faith we have received and not to change it to suit society’s views.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

July 9, 12:07 pm | [comment link]
12. azusa wrote:

# 8. Well, gee, I’d like to see some ‘mutual charity’ from Islamic countries - how about for Lina Joy or that Afghan convert? or the thousands of oppressed Christians of Pakistan & just about any Islamic country you care to mention. It’s a cheap shot to accuse people of ‘fear’ when you don’t face much threat yourself.
Sentamu’s diagnosis is just wrong. But then he’s more a talker than a thinker.

July 9, 12:09 pm | [comment link]
13. Br. Michael wrote:

And, for me, his statements about the “holy Quaran”  come close to blasphamy.  Is he suggesting that God made further revelations after the time of Christ and that those revelations are equally valid with that of Christ and the Scriptures?

July 9, 12:10 pm | [comment link]
14. Deja Vu wrote:

# 1. William Scott says

We are in a language war.  That is what revisionism means; to take control of the narrative of the community.

 
#6 phil swain
I think each side wants to warn their allies to guard against self-doubt and fear and warn their oppostion to guard against self-righteousness.


Interesting to see this particular Leonard Cohen song being quoted again so soon after being used in the confirmation sermon by the Bishop in, was it Lousianna, or Mississippi?

“Ring the bells
That still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

What does this mean to reappraisers? To reasserters?
Reappraisers try to claim that reasserters do not believe God loves everyone. Of course, we do.
Reasserters are thinking that God loves everyone, but does not approve of everything we do. We are all “beloved sons” (and daughters), but that does not mean that God is “well pleased” with all of us.
Reappraisers may read Leonard Cohen’s words and think that it is exactly in their crack, their imperfection, that God gets in. Reasserters also know that that is true, but only if the crack, the imperfection, is acknowledged as such, and taken to God in confession of sin. God, the light, gets in when we confess our sin.
Reappraisers want to claim their cracks are blessings of themselves, without the confession of sin that would allow the light in.

July 9, 12:12 pm | [comment link]
15. azusa wrote:

When we see churches and synagogues opened in the ‘Kingdom’ of Saudi Arabia, and the Gospel is preached there (by Jim Wallis)without *fear of being murdered, then I’ll listen up! The last thing we need is presumed leaders who don’t even know what the problem is. N@zir-Ali is a lot smarter and in tocuh here.

July 9, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
16. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

I wish not to start a debate on the Bishop’s interpretation of Scripture.  At least he has the credentials to opine on Christian theology, however.  What credentials or education does he have to interpret the Koran in contradiction to the interpretations given by large numbers of Muslims who have studied it and claim to follow it? 

I am not saying that the Bishop’s interpretation of the Koran is wrong—I don’t claim to have studied the matter == but it is clear to any observer that geographical areas dominated by Islamists typically have bloody borders, and when in power the Islamists violently suppress other religions.  I don’t think they will change their beliefs because of what a CofE Bishop tells them about the Koran.

July 9, 12:33 pm | [comment link]
17. Deja Vu wrote:

We don’t need to assert that Christianity is superior to Islam. All we need to do is explain the differences in some key areas, and the superiority will be evident in the hearts of the listeners. Christianity, rightly taught, is superior in key areas, i.e., personal relationship with God, salvation and endtimes theology.
However, saying the equivalent of “We are the champions, we are the champions, you are the losers… of the world.” is not a good strategy for getting the message out.

July 9, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
18. Revamundo wrote:

For us, the opposite of fear isn’t courage, but the gift of wisdom, knowledge, discernment and insight from the Holy Spirit.

The opposite of fear is love.

July 9, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
19. bob carlton wrote:

#17

amen to the limitations of self-righteousness - it is certainly not the root cause, but Western self-righteousness & rampant consumerism has certainly contributed to the global struggle we find ourselves in

July 9, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
20. azusa wrote:

# 19: good Calvinist that I am, I would agree with you. But don’t you see the astonishing self-righteousness of the Islamists and their terrifying will to power? Would you have questioned opposing Hitler because of all the flaws among the allies?

July 9, 12:51 pm | [comment link]
21. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

probably off topic; but in response to the comments that debate the role of self righteousness in the problems of the west;  Of course a democracy is self righteous. How could it be any different? The only possibility in seeing a righteousness outside of ourselves is in being a Christain, and we don’t expect institutions of this world to be Christian. Do we?

July 9, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
22. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

come on folks those holy muslim are the imams so outraged by the recent terror attacks that they speak out vehemently and protest against the viloence. It is seen in the huge protests for peace being staged by mosques throughout the land…oh hang on….......

Of course there are wonderful muslim folk, but the archbishop should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes the religion misunderstood or misrepresented.

July 9, 12:57 pm | [comment link]
23. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

To concentrate on the small parts of this speech which deal with Islam is to miss the point of it and its worth IMHO.

July 9, 1:19 pm | [comment link]
24. Spiros wrote:

Re: “The challenge we face isn’t about moderate Muslims versus so-called radicalised Muslims; the challenge is about Islam being used for quasi-political ends at whose heart is getting into paradise now by suicide bombing propelled by a hatred of the West and its way of life.”

As far as I am concerned, the greater problem is: Most of persons of infuluence in the West, including this very Archbishop, continue to put their head in the sand, while at the same time attacking those who call EVIL by its name.

The problem is not in the fact that hundreds of books on terrorism are being published evry year; it is the fact that countless acts of terrorism are being carried out every day by muslims who HATE the West and the Christian principles and heritage that have in the past, and continue to make the world a better place.
These men and women with evil intent do NOT see the Goodness and the Benefits the world has received through Christ and the Christians, past and present, who proclaim this message.

I am sure that if Idi Amin, of the archbishop’s homeland, got the type of rationalization the Archbishop is giving to the present day murders, Amin would certainly have killed much more than he did.

It is time for the West and all Christian leaders to stop all the nonsensical head-in-the-sand approach to Islamic terrorists.

But in order to effectively do a good job of this, we must start by proclaiming the TRUE GOSPEL of Christ. First and foremost, we must condemn Same-sex relationships and call SIN by its real name - both within and without.

July 9, 2:41 pm | [comment link]
25. William Scott wrote:

“For us, the opposite of fear isn’t courage, but the gift of wisdom, knowledge, discernment and insight from the Holy Spirit.”

Is this pure gnosticism?

July 9, 3:06 pm | [comment link]
26. john scholasticus wrote:

#17, 19 Good comments.
#22
Aren’t you being a bit unfair? There has been plenty of Muslim condemnation of latest developments, with absolutely no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. Equally, on ‘our’ side, there has been less swaggering and threatening machismo. I think it’s been well handled by both sides.

July 9, 3:43 pm | [comment link]
27. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

So, Pageantmaster, why would the bishop include those irrelevancies on which he has no particular expertise, and which detract from his message?  He must have had a reason.

July 9, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
28. john scholasticus wrote:

#27
I can’t see that they are ‘irrelevancies’. He’s a big religious figure in the UK and a big public figure. He’s saying sensible things about Islam in the UK in the light of recent events.

July 9, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
29. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

# Cousin Vinnie
I am not saying that they are irrelevant and I do not know what his expertise is in this area, only that he is addressing bigger issues in the remainder of his address to the CofE relevant to the issues on the Communion which our Synod has been debating.  Do read it and listen to Sunday’s Synod Covenant debate and Gomez speech.  I just have.

Regards.

PM

July 9, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
30. Larry Morse wrote:

I am surprised at all this serious talk. His speech is a series of rhetorical devices used to embelllish a set of bromides. There isn’t an original thought here. And there is something particularly irritating to hear him making a prolix paraphrase of, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I much prefer FDR’s version.
  So, what are we afraid of? Loss of identity? Well, as a matter of fact, that is precisely the case and it is a wise and sensible fear. TEC is eroding our identity because we lack the spine to stand up for it by telling TEC to get lost, soon, permanently. Instead, we waffle, debate,give speeches, back and fill, go to meetings, debate, consider and reconsider, and a few other things I have forgottento list. Yes, +++Sentamu, we are afraid, and with good reason. Wouldn’t you have done better to address the issue instead of etiolating the issue with rhetorical questions.(Incidentally, note the number of rhetorical questions. This should make you suspicious, for rhetorical questions are so often used to suggest that the speaker is thinking something subtle, nuanced, when in fact he is putting off anything of the sort. Poor grades for the +++. Compare this with the Pope’s courageous moves in reestablishing the RCChurch’s identity.SEe the enormous difference.

  When do you all get tired of the speechifying, the rhetoric, the lawn sleeves and the posturing? When do you say, “Oh shut up and do something?” Larry

July 9, 8:36 pm | [comment link]
31. William Scott wrote:

Once again Lary is to the point.  But what are we to do?

July 10, 1:03 am | [comment link]
32. azusa wrote:

# 30: You are correct and have pointed out what we’ve missed - that Sentamu’s ‘speeches’ and ‘sermons’ are rhetorical blancmanges, fully of pseudo-inspirational flourishes (sadly, fairly common among African clergymen) of a leftist tinge - like a youth pastor whipping up a group of teenagers -  but desperately lacking in content.
“etiolating the issue with rhetorical questions” - that’s a good summary of Sentamu. He exemplifies the Peter Principle.

July 10, 1:45 am | [comment link]
33. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

We are blessed in having our Archbishop of York who has been tested in the fire in Uganda in a way that I hope that few of the rest of us ever have occassion to find ourselves.

July 10, 10:17 am | [comment link]
34. azusa wrote:

# 33 - all credit for that. But what’s that got to do with his theology or teaching?

July 10, 11:32 am | [comment link]
35. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

#34. He has come like a watering can into a parched land.  He stands up fearlessly for us and we also are blessed in having not one but two Archbishops, and the other one has enough theology for the rest of us put together.

July 10, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
36. kensaw1 wrote:

24 Spiros. “I am sure that if Idi Amin, of the archbishop’s homeland, got the type of rationalization the Archbishop is giving to the present day murders, Amin would certainly have killed much more than he did.”
Did you not know that ++ John Sentamu knew plenty about Idi Amin? When as a young judge in the Uganda High Court in 1974, his criticism of the Amin regime for its human rights violations led to his arrest by Amin’s police and later to his departure from Uganda for the UK. Then he studied theology at Cambridge with a view to returning home after his studies but when his friend, the Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum, was murdered he vowed to take his place, and was ordained in 1979.
As some others have written above many of us here in the C of E have a very great respect for him. He is a great leader in stirring up the church to its mission.

July 10, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
37. Revamundo wrote:

TEC is eroding our identity because we lack the spine to stand up for it by telling TEC to get lost, soon, permanently. So what is stopping you from growing a spine? You’re free to walk out the door at any time. Is it the property?

the other one has enough theology for the rest of us put together. Sorry, but I think that is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. :-D

July 10, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
38. Spiros wrote:

Kensaw1 (#36),
Thanks for making my point.
Idi Amin’s reign of terror was curtailed when men and women of courage (including ++Sentamu) stood up against Amin’s evil deeds. Now,  why is Sentamu finding faults with those who are opposing and challenging the murderous Islamic fanatics/

I am amazed that the archbishop is not as forthright as one would expect a person of his background and past. He should be most vocal supporter of George Bush’s and the West’s War Against Islam’s evil men and women.

As far as I am concerned, anything less than a clear condemnation of the Moslem murderers is not good enough. Period.

July 10, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
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