“Ambassadors for Christ”

Reconciliation is at the core of the good news of Jesus Christ:

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Cor. 5:17-19)

The Old Testament tells the story, in part, of the estrangement of God’s people from God. Instead of dusting his hands of them, God instead commits to God’s people in a whole new way in the Incarnation of Christ. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ reconciles the divide between God and God’s people and entrusts that message to the community of the baptized, to share it as widely as we can.

To that end, it’s encouraging to see that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has appointed David Porter as his Director of Reconciliation. David Porter comes from Coventry Cathedral, a place that has made itself a centre for the ministry of reconciliation.

Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by an air raid during World War II.IMG_5208

On the morning after the bombing, the then-dean had a cross made out of the burned timbers and inscribed “Father Forgive” on the altar.IMG_5202

This, in turn, led to the creation of the Community of the Cross of Nails and the cathedral’s reconciliation work. Justin Welby knows about this, because he used to work there.

I had a chance to meet David Porter on my visit to Coventry and he is an inspiring person: direct, funny, honest, forthright, holy, and deeply committed to spanning seemingly unbridgeable gulfs. His background is in the peace process in Northern Ireland but since going to work at Coventry he’s been involved in a number of places around the world.

Creating this position is a no-brainer, really, and David Porter is an excellent person to fill the role.

UPDATE: David Porter has written a reflection on his new position on his personal blog.

“This is a time for optimism and faith in the church”

So it’s official. Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

His first press conference was fascinating and, I thought, quite impressive. He expressed his hope for the future of the church—as I’ve quoted in the title of this post—and answered questions (at least the ones I saw before the BBC cut away) with skill. The friends I have in the Diocese of Durham speak very highly of him.

Three things I appreciated about what I saw of his introduction:

  • He wants the church “to be a place where we can disagree in love.” I so strongly share this view and it was so encouraging to hear him highlight it.
  • He is “always averse to the language of exclusion when what we are called is to love in the way Jesus love us.” He challenged himself to listen to the experiences of those he does not know about, referring especially to the LGBT community here. Just wait until the conservative Anglican polemicists jump on him for this. I hope he ignores them.
  • His pectoral cross is (and I believe I’m correct about this) the Cross of Nails from Coventry Cathedral. This is a symbol of the powerful reconciliation work that has emerged from that cathedral since it was destroyed in World War II and which Welby was involved with before becoming Dean of Liverpool. Reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel and I’m encouraged he has been so involved with this work in its many forms.

As I’ve written, I think Welby’s appointment could be a moment when Anglicans begin to move beyond (but not resolve) the battles of the last decade or more, given his apparent credibility with evangelicals and the church in Nigeria.

The response to his appointment so far seems to have been fairly positive. I take that as good news and as a hopeful sign for Anglicans around the world.

For now, however, Welby goes back to Durham until the end of the year and the fevered speculation can come to a rest. We’ll have to wait until March 21 and his installation to see how all this unfolds.