Evangelism and witness is ‘not an app, it’s the operating system’ of the church, Archbishop Justin Welby told the General Synod.
Introducing a presentation on a report by the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group, the Archbishop said:
“Evangelism is the proclamation, the setting forth, the holding out of the Good news of Jesus Christ, in ways that do justice to the beauty, integrity, joy and power of the one who was dead but is now alive. . . It is from God, about God, with God and because of God. Above all, He calls and enables us to be his heralds.
“All Christians are witnesses of the love of Jesus Christ. The Spirit comes to us for precisely this task. And as witnesses of Jesus we then become witnesses to Jesus, relaying what we have experienced to others.”
“I’d like to start by thanking the members of the Archbishops’ Task Group [on Evangelism and Witness]. The Archbishop of York is not here because he is on sabbatical going round his diocese on an evangelistic pilgrimage. And I think we would want to acknowledge at this point his extraordinary commitment to evangelism in his own province, the way in which he has led in mission and evangelism in his ministry, and what he is doing at the moment; doing an on-foot pilgrimage around the whole of the Diocese of York is a typical example of the way that he leads. So we pray for him and for blessing on his ministry in these months. . .
“The high points of the calling to serve God in His Church are the times when he works to draw people to himself. The times when hearts begin to thaw with his love, eyes open to his light, and shoulders lift as He comes alongside to bear burdens, as those who have carried around guilt, like in the Pilgrim’s Progress, that has weighed down memory with regret and shame know a freedom and release they never dreamt possible, as those who assumed that they had no worth realise their inestimable and infinite worth to God.
“God works through his Spirit to draw people to open their hands to receive his love and transforming power – and we have the huge privilege of seeing this happen. For me some of the most memorable and grace-filled moments of the last three years have been seeing God at work in the lives of those who would not call themselves Christians, but who I have had the privilege of seeing gently and profoundly drawn to Jesus Christ.
“This is our duty, our privilege and our joy. There is nothing like it.
“For too long the ministry of evangelism in the church has been viewed as an app on the system. I don’t know what kind of apps you have on your mobile device. . . but some of you will know that apps are simply add-ons, optional extras, suited to those with particular interests and activities. As I said, for many it seems that evangelism is such an app – simply to be used for those who are gifted, who don’t mind being out of their comfort zones, who are happy talking about faith with strangers, and have a clever way of explaining the mysteries of God’s love.
“But evangelism and witness are not an app. They are the operating system itself.
“Evangelism is the proclamation, the setting forth, the holding out of the Good news of Jesus Christ, in ways that do justice to the beauty, integrity, joy and power of the one who was dead and is now alive. The one who lived for us, died for us, rose for us, ascended and prays for us. It is from God, about God, with God and because of God. Above all, He calls and enables us to be his heralds – those who proclaim the Good News.
“All Christians are witnesses of the love of Jesus Christ. The Spirit comes to us precisely for this task. And as witnesses of Jesus we then become witnesses to Jesus, relaying what we have experienced and what we have known to others.
“The Archbishop of York and I set up this Task Group because we want to recall the Church of England to the operating system of the love that overflows in evangelism. Many have been engaged within the church for many years in evangelism. This is not new to many, if not most, of those sitting here today and indeed in the Church of England. It was set out in “Towards the Conversion of England” in 1945 that every local church should live to see those who know nothing of God’s love hear, see, taste and accept his gracious presence in their lives. This commitment is seen in our prayers, our budgets, our diaries, our resources and our planning.
“In the presentation that follows, drawing on the history of commitment to evangelism that has existed in the Church of England and in God’s church globally, we will highlight three particular areas of attention, which the Task Group has seen as urgent. Bishop Paul Bayes will then lead through a ‘Take Note’ debate, something we felt, in liaison with the Business Committee and having carefully listened to comments from the floor in November, that would enable members of Synod to participate fully in discussing how we might be increasingly devoted as a church, without exception, to evangelism and witness.
“I hope we can be very clear about one thing. A commitment to evangelism and witness comes out of love, not out of fear. It comes out of obedience to Chris, not out of a concern at the latest figures on church attendance. It is a sign of our discipleship, not a church growth strategy or a survival technique. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15: ‘For Christ’s love compels us’ – or, in the King James Version, ‘constrains us’ – ‘because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’
“A prayerful, sensitive, respectful, love-filled renewal of evangelism and witness will renew the whole church. It will renew each of us deeply. For as I said a few moments ago, there is nothing as wonderful as seeing God at work leading people from darkness to light.”
As I wrote last week, I am standing to be a member of General Synod. Rather than doing a physical hustings, the Diocese of Winchester gave members of the Deanery Synods a chance to ask written questions to all the candidates. The responses from the candidates for the Houses of Laity and House of Clergy, in the Diocese of Winchester, for the 2015 General Synod Elections are below:
What do you see as the single greatest challenge the Church must face over the next 5 years, and how would you seek to address it?
As we seek to ‘re-imagine the Church’ what are the changes and developments you would hope to see?
How should the Church respond to the current refugee crisis?
A majority of the parishes in our Diocese are in rural and semi-rural areas. What is your understanding of the challenges of Rural Ministry and how would you seek to address them?
What are your hopes and prayers for the current programme of Shared Conversations around Human Sexuality?
I am standing for the Church of England General Synod, as a member of the laity, in the Diocese of Winchester. You can find out information about the other Laity and Clergy candidates in the Diocese of Winchester here. Find out more about the General Synod here.
The Diocese of Winchester has a tradition of sending to General Synod experienced men and women, with many years of service to the Diocese and considerable understanding of a range of issues. I hope to complement that experience and understanding with my own fresh perspective, and links to young people across the Diocese. Currently I am a lay member of the Lyndhurst Deanery Synod, the Diocesan Synod, and one of the five lay members of the Bishop’s Council.
I believe strongly in a representative group of both lay and ordained sharing in the governance of the church. I am passionate about collaborative ministry and have experienced, and can worship God through, the rich diversity of churchmanship across our diocese.
I am married to Hannah (since 2004), and we have two children, Daniel (aged 5) and Joshua (aged 3). I enjoy sport, blogging (www.chriskidd.co.uk) and reading.
My Faith Background
Having been brought up in a Christian family I have always been involved in, and enthusiastic about, church. I became aware of the need to make a response to Christ as a teenager at the Sheffield Alliance Music Festival in 1997 where someone spoke on the need to not be an armchair Christian. This sparked something in me, I realised that Christianity is about being an active disciple of Jesus, not just knowing Bible stories. Support and follow up from my youth leaders led me to make a commitment to Jesus, and to be Confirmed in 1998.
I greatly enjoyed my studies in 2001-2004 at Exeter University in the Theology Department. I felt that this was positive and challenging and that it deepened my understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith. Theology gave me the skills to both ask questions about faith, but also to answer other people’s questions.
Children’s & Youth Work
Over the last 11 years since leaving university I have worked as a Children’s & Youth Worker for three different churches. Currently I co-ordinate a team of over 60 volunteers who run the programmes and activities for nearly 250 children and young people aged 0-18 for St. Andrew’s Church in Dibden Purlieu. I am passionate about encouraging children and young people to engage with their faith in a holistic way.
I am involved both in the church and the local community. I was a Local Authority Governor and Vice-Chair for a Federation of Schools (2012-2015), I chair the Partnership Board for the local Children’s Centre. I also sit on the New Forest Local Children’s Trust Board developing strong links with statutory bodies.
I was privileged to attend Cape Town 2010 – The Third Lausanne Congress as one of 4,000 delegates, where I led a small group of six people from four continents, and was the Lead Blogger for the Congress. In the summer of 2016 I will be attending the Younger Leaders Gathering in Jakarta.
Key Issues for General Synod
A Missing Generation: I am eager for children and young people to have life changing encounters with Jesus. I am passionate about people discovering that they are loved by God and the holistic hope that can bring them. I want people to realise that faith has an impact now and not just in eternity. We are missing a generation in our churches and so we must keep mission and evangelism as the highest priority for the Church, facilitating the new and ancient ways of sharing the hope and the life transformation that the gospel brings.
Safeguarding: We can barely comprehend the terrible damage that has been inflicted on those vulnerable children and adults for whom the Church should have been a place of safety and hope. In my role working with some of the most broken youngsters in our local community I understand how crucial it is that nationally, and locally, we continue the great strides in improving our safeguarding practices, training, and policies so that the church truly can be a place of safety and hope for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Poverty & Welfare: Through my work I am sadly all too aware of the need of an increasing proportion of our communities for basic necessities. It is essential that everyone works together to highlight these issues and that the Church focuses its resources towards the communities most at need.
Lay Leadership: I long to see the Church committed to making disciples and releasing its members to serve Jesus in the church and in the world. To enable this I want to see clergy and local lay leaders supported and developed so that every congregation is encouraged in maturity and growth. The Archbishops’ programme for Reform and Renewal will be critical for this, and I will support initiatives that free up the laity to live out their Christian potential.
With all issues that will be discussed at General Synod, I will prayerfully consider each on merit. Listening carefully to all sides of the argument, both locally and nationally, whilst at the same time seeking to be obedient to what I understand the Bible to be saying and the Holy Spirit to be prompting.
Your vote is important in this election. I ask for your first preference vote and should I be elected, your prayer in the months ahead.
Do please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss any issue.
Archbishop John Sentamu in a speech at General Synod has called for “more equitable, more caring world” and questioned the effects of government’s welfare reforms:
In a long and often angry address to the Church of England general synod on Tuesday, John Sentamu said static salaries and rising prices had left nine million people living below the breadline at a time when the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest companies were earning on average £4.3m – 160 times the average national wage.
Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, said politicians needed to stop referring to “hard-working” families and recognise that they were instead “hard-pressed” families struggling to survive despite their best efforts.
“Once upon a time you couldn’t really be living in poverty if you had a regular income,” he said. “You could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.”
Reports of malnutrition and food poverty in Yorkshire “disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences”, he said. “How can it be that last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?”
The effects of the government’s welfare reforms, Sentamu said, were “beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment”.
“This is the new reality,” he said, “Food banks aren’t going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages. This has been going on for 10 years now. And for people slipping into poverty, the reality is much harsher.”
If governments were powerless to do much more than “tinker” with the current economic trends, he added, the church would find itself doing even more.
Reflecting on Christianity’s long commitment to fighting poverty – from Saint Francis of Assisi to John Wesley, and from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest and father of liberation theology, to the current pope – Sentamu said the Church of England had once again found itself compelled to speak up for the poor, and urged Anglicans to follow the example of the architects of the welfare state.
“They had a clear vision as to how things could be different,” he said. “In part, they were also tapping into the spirit of the immediate postwar years in which there was a great hunger to rebuild a more equitable, more caring world. It is that vision which we need to recapture today, but remoulded in a way which is realistic for the circumstances we face now.”
Poverty, the archbishop concluded, was “costly, wasteful and indeed very risky”. He said: “We in the church must make the argument that losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we can gather is hugely wasteful; that paying people below the level required for subsistence fractures the social contract and insurance, and that this is risky.”