Archbishop: Everyone is called to be a disciple

Nicky Gumbel interviewing the Archbishop of Canterbury(Photo: HTB)

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby opened up about his conversion, losing his daughter Johanna, and what he learned from working in the oil industry in a wide-ranging interview at Holy Trinity Brompton's Leadership Conference on Monday.

He was interviewed by long-time friend and vicar of HTB, Nicky Gumbel, on day one of the conference at the Royal Albert Hall.

Archbishop Welby said that working with mainly non-Christians in his oil industry days had presented him with the challenge of working out what being a Christian meant in the world.

"It taught me to value that everyone has a vocation, everyone is called to be a Christian disciple wherever they are, it's not just for people who are called to be ordained," he said.

There was pin drop silence as the Archbishop spoke movingly about the experience of losing his seven-month-old daughter, Johanna, in 1983.

Although it was "indescribably painful", the Archbishop and his wife Caroline remember it as a time when "there was a sense of the presence of God [more] than almost any other time in our life - and the reality of God's love", he shared.

"It was this extraordinarily intimate relationship with God of weeping and praying … We were deeply surrounded by love and most of all very deeply by the love of Christ who sustained us through that.

"It's still a pretty rare day when I don't think about Johanna and I think that's true for most parents who've been through this and yet it's never to think about her without remembering the almost tangible way in which Christ held her and us, and holds her still."

But there was a lot of humour in the interview too as the Archbishop recounted his conversion to the faith after a "staggeringly boring" talk by the Christian Union at Trinity College, Cambridge.

He also drew laughs when speaking about one experience on his cathedral tour in the days leading up to his enthronement.

On his Chichester stop, a man who didn't recognise him approached him and said: "I've heard the Archbishop of Canterbury's here today ... Is there any chance you can introduce me to him?"

When the Archbishop told the man that he was in fact the Archbishop of Canterbury, the man answered with a rather disappointed "Oh".

Turning his attention to the state of the church in Britain today, Archbishop Welby told the some 5,000 Christians present that a "risk-taking church" was needed.

"There is no safety in Christ – there is absolute security, but there is no safety," he said.

He said it was "natural for churches to grow" but admitted it took a lot of "hard work" and that churches needed to find new ways of "liberating people to be risk-takers in the service of Christ".

He also spoke of the need for Christians of all denominations to be united.

"We cannot live for our cause to win, we have to live for His cause to win," he said, adding that "very often the biggest wounds we will experience will come from other Christians".

Watch the interview in full here: 

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