Archbishop visits Korea with message of church unity
From Lambeth Palace
The ‘living presence of Jesus’ sets the direction of the church, said Archbishop Justin
The Archbishop of Canterbury left Korea today after a five-day visit in which he praised the Korean Anglican Church for providing ‘a vision of unity’.
Archbishop Justin said he was ‘thrilled’ to be invited by the Anglican Church of Korea and its primate, the Most Revd Paul Kim.
Arriving in Busan on Wednesday he said: ‘I give thanks that the Korean church continues to set before us a vision of unity and reconciliation despite the political and social challenges of this divided peninsula.’
Before leaving the peninsula the Archbishop joined an ecumenical pilgrimage to the Imjingak peace park, close to the border with North Korea, where the group of WCC Assembly participants prayed for peace
The Archbishop’s time in Korea was the last leg of a 10-day visit to Anglican primates in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, travelling with his wife, Caroline. Archbishop Justin will be visiting every primate in the Anglican Communion during his first 18 months in office.
Speaking to the Episcopal News Service at the WCC Assembly, the Archbishop described the ‘gift’ of seeing the church in all its breadth gathering together.
‘Lots of difference, lots of difference of opinion, lots of faults and flaws and cracks… but together. That’s been something really quite beautiful and I’ve found deeply moving,’ he said.
The Archbishop praised the WCC as one of various ways of dealing with ‘extreme diversity’ in the global church, without ‘sticking [our] head in the sand and pretending people don’t disagree over major questions.’
He added: ‘How we work towards unity, how we deal with differences which sometimes go back centuries… is an example to the world of how conflict is dealt with. So we become a reconciling force as we ourselves are involved in reconciliation.’
Archbishop Justin with the congregation of Seoul Anglican Cathedral, South Korea, 3rd November 2013. (Picture courtesy of Seoul Anglican Cathedral)
In his address to the Assembly on Friday, the Archbishop said the church ‘cannot be satisfied’ with a lack of visible unity.
‘We are to be one, visibly one, so that the world may believe. We are to be one so that the Gospel we preach is not denied by the way we live in separation,’ he told the WCC’s governing body.
‘When we are not at peace with God through Jesus Christ, we cannot be peacemakers – or bringers of justice – in the world.’
In a sermon at Seoul Cathedral yesterday, the Archbishop said the church ‘must change’ because it exists in a radically changing society, but it must never lose its foundations. ‘It changes by listening in faith to Jesus Christ, through prayer, through openness to new things.’
He added: ‘Foundations on the apostles and prophets set the shape of the living church, the living presence of Jesus by His Spirit sets the direction of the church.’
Drawing on the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Archbishop said: ‘Remembering our foundations is how we build the church of today. Forgetting them means we are no longer building God’s church but our own.’
in contrast with the message from GAFCON, which seemed to promote a culture of separation in the Anglican Communion on matters of gender and sexuality, this message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, on a Visitation to the Anglican Church in South Korea, seems to follow the Gospel imperative of preaching Peace to those who are near and far away – regardless of serious differences in theology and praxis.
The Archbishop’s Visit to the World Council of Churches, also in South Korea, marked an agreement among the participants of the need for a visible intention for unity – as a mark of the inclusivity of the Gospel for ALL people – regardless of difference.
How fresh is this intentional desire for the Christian witness of God’s Love to the world! If only all the provinces in our own Anglican Communion of Churches had the will to co-exist with one another in koinonia – despite the obvious tensions that have arisen between us on issues of adiaphora – then how much greater would be our testimony to ‘The great love of God as revealed in the Son’!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand