Anglican structures need updating, says Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin WelbyAP

In All Saints Cathedral Nairobi on Sunday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby spoke of his long held conviction that the structures of the Anglican Communion needed updating for the 21st century from the sinful power patterns of colonialism.

He said it should "have a structure that is not for the power of a middle aged clergyman living in London with very little hair – so that the work of declaring the Gospel may go forward and that many people shall become disciples of Christ".

Archbishop Welby spoke of the problems of discrimination and favouritism in the Church and cited the exclusion of Afro-Caribbean Christians from the Churches in the 1960s.

"In the 1960s there was large scale immigration from the Caribbean into the UK," he said. "They were not welcomed to our churches and so they formed their own churches. African-Caribbean churches are the strongest churches in the country. I met with their leaders a couple of weeks ago. They are the strongest churches. The Church of England lost out on the new life they brought and what God offered us through them."

He also referred to the parliamentary debate on same-sex marriage legislation.

"When the UK Government brought in the same-sex marriage legislation it created a new institution of same-sex marriage. The Church disagreed and I spoke against because we honour marriage not because we hate or fear anyone whatever their sexuality.

"I spoke against the law in Parliament at great personal cost and became the object of much hatred. But not only that law dishonours marriage. Violence in marriage, adultery, and porn dishonour marriage."

The Archbishop was speaking at the main morning service attended by the Primates Council of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans who are leading a conference of over 1,300 Anglicans from around the world beginning in Nairobi on Monday. The Primates of Sudan, Southern Cone, Nigeria, Kenya and the Anglican Church of North America were present.

His main theme was to stress the centrality of the Bible in Christian life and ministry. He spoke of how reading the Bible had sustained him and his wife when he was in the hands of militia leaders discussing whether or not to kill him. He also had warm praise for a Bible Reading Marathon that the cathedral in Nairobi had recently held.

The Secretary of the Council, Bishop Peter Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney, said following the Archbishop's sermon that "Archbishop Justin opened the door to a changed Anglican Communion which gives us hope, although he will need to hasten to catch up with the Anglican Future which began five years ago."

Archbishop Welby is clearly taking note of the words of the Primates Council of GAFCON when it met in London in April 2012 and said that the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion should elect their own chairman.

Archbishop Welby said it was "a privilege to be here when so many of the GAFCON are here and preparing".

He also spoke of his love for and debt to Kenya: "In two months' time it will be 40 years when I first came to Kenya in January 1974 and for seven months taught in a Harambee school in a village north of Nairobi. Through the witness of many Kenyan Christians I met Christ and gave my life to him. I came for 24 hours because I love the church in Kenya and have received love from the church of Kenya. I first found the Lord here."

He apologised for being able only to stay 24 hours but Her Majesty the Queen had something to do with that.

"I would like to stay 24 weeks but I have a long standing engagement tomorrow in Iceland and I promised to be there long before I was invited here," he said.

"And on Wednesday I have to baptise George our next King but two. I cannot escape doing that. It is not the sort of thing you can say to Her Majesty 'I am sorry I am a bit busy. Can you pick another day?' No doubt there will be a grand party at the British High Commission."

The High Commissioner was in the congregation and the British Delegation of 120 to GAFCON2013 have been invited on that day to a reception at the High Commission.

The main GAFCON conference opens on Monday at 4pm in Trinity Conference Centre on the All Saints Cathedral compound.