Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop – Cross is a challenge to the world

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral this morning. You can read the text of his sermon here, and below is the accompanying press release.

Press release from Lambeth Palace
Sunday 4th April 2010
Archbishop – Cross is a challenge to the world

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has used his Easter sermon to urge Christians to keep a proper sense of proportion when they feel they are experiencing opposition to their faith and remember both the physical suffering of Christian minorities in other countries and call to mind what exactly the Cross stands for in their faith.

In his Easter sermon delivered at Canterbury Cathedral he says that ‘bureaucratic silliness’ over displaying religious symbols should not be mistaken for physical persecution:

‘It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned and harassed for their resistance to injustice.”

“Remember our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in Iraq, the Christian communities of southern Sudan … the Christian minorities in the Holy Land … or our own Anglican friends in Zimbabwe; … we need to keep a sense of perspective, and to redouble our prayers and concrete support.”

He says that the climate of intellectual opposition to Christianity – what he called ‘the strange mixture of contempt and fear towards the Christian faith’, regarding it as both irrelevant and a threat – is largely unjustified:

“… on many of the major moral questions of the day, the Christian Church still speaks for a substantial percentage of the country – not to mention speaking with the same concerns as people of other faiths. On burning questions like the rightness of assisted suicide, it is far from the case that the Christian view is only that of a tiny religious minority; and the debate is still very much alive.”

He challenges intellectual critics of religion and Christianity to come and see the difference that Christians are making in their communities

“… at local level, the Church’s continuing contribution to tackling the human problems no-one else is prepared to take on is one of the great untold stories of our time. I think of the work of a parish I visited in Cleethorpes a few weeks ago and the work they sponsor and organize with teenagers excluded from school in an area of high deprivation. I should be more impressed with secularist assaults if there were more sign of grass roots volunteer work of this intensity done by non-religious or anti-religious groups.”

“There are things to be properly afraid of in religious history, Christian and non-Christian; there are contemporary religious philosophies of the Taleban variety which we rightly want to resist as firmly as we can. But we do need to say to some of our critics that a visit to projects like the one I have mentioned ought to make it plain enough that the last thing in view is some kind of religious tyranny. And if any of the Church’s vocal critics would care to accompany me on such a visit, I should be delighted to oblige.”

But he says the Cross is an object that ought to be feared as well as respected because what it stands for is nothing less than the uncomfortable reality about ourselves and the world we live in:

… we must acknowledge our own share in what the cross is and represents; we must learn to see ourselves as caught up in a world where the innocent are scapegoated and killed and where we are all unwilling, to a greater or lesser degree, to face unwelcome truths about ourselves. We must learn to see that we cannot by our own wisdom and strength cut ourselves loose from the tangle of injustice, resentment, fear and prejudice that traps the human family in conflict and misery.”

And the hope that it represents is no less challenging, he says;
“If you want it to be invisible because it’s too upsetting to people’s security, I can well understand that; but let’s have it out in the open. Is the God we see in the cross, the God who lives through and beyond terrible dereliction and death and still promises mercy, renewal, life – is that God too much of a menace to be mentioned or shown in the public life and the human interactions of society?”

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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

‘It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned for their resistance to injustice’ – Archbishop Rowan Williams’ EASTER SERMON – Well done, Archbishop Rowan. If your predecessor, Lord Carey and his panicky companions, were in the congregation, no doubt their ears would have been stinging – from the accuracy of your observation. Their scare-mongering tactics should, by now, have been… Read more »

Rev Laurence Roberts
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Rev Laurence Roberts

‘The world’ lives with the cross every single day –but what of ‘the Church’ ?