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“God is greater than our fears, our enemies and our failures” - Justin Welby’s Presidential Address

by Lydia Davies

The Presidential Address by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at the February 2024 group of sessions of the General Synod, illuminated the enduring message of faith and resilience amidst global turmoil.

Archbishop Welby emphasised the pivotal role of faith in navigating through adversity.

Drawing upon the Psalms, Welby urged for a deeper acknowledgment of suffering within the Church.

“The Psalms speak constantly of suffering as a dangerous theological reality, and we are curiously blind to it… Psalm 56 talks about our internal life in suffering when we face enemies, and enemies are mentioned 71 times in the Psalms.

“Suffering as part of God's people's experience comes from the normal challenges of life. From those who will be wrongly perceived as enemies externally, and also from those we wrongly perceive as enemies internally”

Reflecting on the relentless suffering witnessed across the globe, from the Ukrainian-Russian war to the forgotten conflicts in Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, Archbishop Welby urged for compassionate action in the face of humanitarian crises saying “we need to assume the best and the most generous, rather than the worst”

Amidst the backdrop of global uncertainty and societal upheaval, Archbishop Welby called for a steadfast commitment to faith and unity within the Church

“It is very tempting to say that in such a time as this, we should put aside the issues within the church, but that would be a very serious mistake. In 1939, George Bell wrote an article on the behaviour of the church in a time of war. 'What should the church do in a time of war?’

“His simple conclusion was that the right strategy…is to be even more the church. We must be even more the church with all our challenges and difficulties and as we work through them”

Archbishop Welby also emphasised the importance of prayerful lament and protest, urging believers to seek solace and refuge in God amidst the trials and tribulations of life.

“Together, we must pray truthfully and with lament and protest”

He emphasised God's unwavering faithfulness and calls upon the faithful to draw strength from their faith and not to be afraid.

“In both the Old Testament and New Testament we're encouraged not to fear, but the psalmist with honesty says 'when I am afraid'. Fear corrodes, it causes neurological degeneration of hormones and chemicals that make us ill”.

He finally reminded listeners of the invincibility of God's faithfulness above all things.

“God is greater than our fears, than our enemies and in our failures. God is unbreakably faithful to covenant and promise. When that is our comfort and peace, then in this world, at this time, off its hinges, we can in all our troubles, be truly the church we should be, truly God's Church in God's world”

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