Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury Tells Synod Ecumenical Unity Enhances Evangelization

Wearing the ring that Pope Paul VI gave to one of his predecessors, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury today addressed the Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome. His message used a lot of "we" language and emphasized that Catholics and Anglicans share a common agenda for evangelization - which will be more effective if done together: "Evangelization, old or new, must be rooted in a profound confidence that we have a distinctive human destiny to show and share with the world," he noted.
Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams during Williams'  visit in March, 2012
Williams lauded Vatican II, saying that it was "a sign that the Church was strong enough to ask itself some demanding questions about whether its culture and structures were adequate to the task of sharing the Gospel with the complex, often rebellious, always restless mind of the modern world."

His basic message was that our human destiny is found in relationship with God, best discovered through contemplation. Evangelization, he said, should be grounded in contemplation, but more than that, contemplation is a gift we bring to a struggling world. "To put it boldly", he noted, "contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”

Speaking to the need for Christians to present a unified face to the world in order to evangelize effectively, Williams defined spiritual  ecumenism as "the shared search to nourish and sustain disciplines of contemplation in the hope of unveiling the face of the new humanity. And the more we keep apart from each other as Christians of different confessions, the less convincing that face will seem."

Read the full text of his address on his website.

What did he say today that is important? First, that all Christians share a common gift - contemplation - which is one of the most effective tools we have to grow closer to Christ,  and which  we can model for a frantic world which longs for peace.  That is wisdom for sure.

Second, that to reach the world with our message, our public disagreements and differences are a hindrance.   It is rather like a couple trying to convince young people to embrace marriage and family life, while bickering over its own divorce. Christians, to reach the modern world effectively, must stand together on what we have in common - the Trinity, one Baptism, a truly catholic (universal) Church and a common belief that Christ came to show us the love of the Father and died and rose again to bring us everlasting life.

If we preach what we have in common together, in a spirit of contemplation and love, Williams is saying, our message has a better chance of transforming the modern world.

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