Being a force for unity in a world of disagreement

A Church of England bishop in the UK says the Anglican Communion can be a real force for greater equality and unity in a desperately unequal world full of disagreement.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, heads up the Church of England in a large conurbation in the north of England.

He spoke to the Lambeth Conference team about leadership and how the Anglican Communion can have an impact in today’s world.

What three words would you use to describe what it means to be a leader?

“If I try to summarize what I’m about as a leader into three words, it would be about engaging, both church and wider society; equipping, particularly equipping the church for the mission in God’s world, and finally culture-moulding. Both moulding the culture of the church, but also moulding the wider civic culture of the society in which I live. If I get those three things right, then the rest will follow.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in being a bishop in Manchester?

“The biggest challenge I face is how we adapt and supplement structures and methods of ministry that were created in the heart of the Industrial Revolution in the 1840s, to make them fit into the 2020s and beyond. Up until now, things have largely been sort of fixed and patched here and there, but I think we need to do something more radical.”

“Manchester is one of the most diverse cities in Europe, diverse in the languages that people speak and diverse in the way in which people understand their mission under Jesus Christ. So, we have large and small churches, churches of all traditions within Anglicanism, and churches who take very diverse attitudes on things like human sexuality and the role of women, and lots of public issues as well.”

Where is the voice of the Church needed most?

It’s great to be coming together as bishops from across the whole of the Anglican Communion, because there are major global issues that I hope we can help the Church to address. Most obviously, climate change; we need to do something to get that under control. Related to that is the widening gap between rich and poor, both in individual countries, but then between the nations, again, something where church agencies have a huge experience of alleviating need and enabling advocacy, but I’d like us to consider how we can further that work.” Bishop David said he also believed the Church has a role to play in challenging and speaking out against the resurgence of authoritarianism and populism that is excluding certain social groups, who are not favoured by the regime in their country.

How can the Anglican Communion be a force for good in the decade ahead?

“I think firstly, we can be a force for unity in a world that seems to prize disagreement. We can be a force for greater equality in a desperately unequal world. And we can be a force that speaks and acts out the Good News of Jesus in a world that desperately needs to know his love.”

“At the heart of Anglicanism, is the incarnation, a sense that we follow a Lord who came to earth and lived a fully human life. And that means that we have to respect the very different contexts, the different earth that different Anglicans walk on in different parts of the world. For me, that’s about building relationship and I often say to people here, God so loved the world he didn’t send a zoom invitation, he came in person. And so we need to meet in person, to be in relationship. The conversations we have had in preparation for Lambeth have been fantastic. I’ve learned so much. But we can learn so much more by physically walking together; by that journey we will do, the hospitality beforehand and then when we gather together in Canterbury itself. That time together will be desperately precious for us learning to turn good disagreement from a slogan into a real lived experience.”

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