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A Heartfelt Plea | An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Father Welby, you have been called to an unenviable position, that of Archbishop of Canterbury, you are a focus of unity for the family of churches called the Anglican Communion, the father of this family, called to lead us in prayer bowing before “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3 :14-15). I plead with you then as a child, who knows that his family is in trouble, looking to you as Father of that family to bring Godly remedy.

Solomon instructed his own son with these words “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6) for he knew that the role of a father was to teach. I plead with you as our Father to teach us from God’s word, that we may truly call Jesus our brother, by walking in the ways of our Father in Heaven, for Jesus himself said “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister”. Help your children understand what it means to “forsake not your mother's teaching” (Prov. 1:8), help us to cling to that which is taught by the Church Catholic, to understand her counsel, open up for us what has been passed on through Tradition, through the ages in our family. I plead with you to train your children and to teach them, do not forsake us as father and leave us without teaching. A father who loves his children teaches them and so I ask, Do you love me?

“How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Father Welby, multiple times over the last few days you have spoken of our deep division as a family which is plain for all to see. Father, I know it must be embarrassing for you to have your children in such open conflict before all the world, no parent wants the world to see their family troubles. Yet true unity is not a matter of brave faces, of forced smiles in public, of one likeness in public and another in private and I know you in your heart know this. Father please stop saying ‘Peace’, when there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:10) in our family, stop encouraging us to simply put on a brave face, and help us to remedy our division. Father, I am asking you to discipline your children and yes “All discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). You claim you have no authority, but this is simply not true, you were given the backing of the other Primates when they met to exclude those who rebelled from the table, to give them time to learn obedience, but you choose to invite them back before this had happened. In addition to this you resist moves towards a covenantal basis of union, which would establish our responsibility to one another. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24). I care deeply for our family and for all my brothers and I want us to function as a family should and so I ask, Do you love me?

Father, I am concerned for you, you seem to be afraid of many things. You speak repeatedly of threats to the “very existence” of the church in various countries. Father please do not forget whose house it is, for “If the Lord does not build the house , in vain do its builders Labour”; you need not fear for he is faithful. We have a God who brings life from death, sing Psalm 103, sing Psalm 31 to the Lord and let your heart be comforted for God is good and he loves you, and your family. Father your relationship with God, your love of God and trust in him is of utmost importance to our family. I pray that you would grow fearless as you reflect on the Love of God, for “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18). God’s love perfects, it transforms those who are loved and who love, it transforms them into God’s image. This is what love does, for humans the object of love transforms the one who loves, and this is why we are to have God as our first love. If we do not love God first, then we will be transformed into the image of whatever is our first love. If our first love is not God, we can not properly love others for they are made in his image and find freedom in him alone. And so I ask, Do you love me?

Cornelius Harding (Layman, Holy Trinity Church, Norwich)

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