COI Gazette – 10th October 2014

Archbishop Welby visits the Church of Ireland

Pictured last week at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, are (from left) Dean Gregory Dunstan, Caroline Welby, Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Richard Clarke. (Photo: Paul Harron)

Pictured last week at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, are (from left) Dean Gregory Dunstan, Caroline Welby, Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Richard Clarke. (Photo: Paul Harron)

During his visit to the Church of Ireland last week and in the course of a wide-ranging interview with the Gazette editor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, affirmed the role of the media.

He said that while there had been recent examples of “glaring irresponsibility” in journalism, there had also been “some phenomenal examples of penetrative and important investigative reporting”.

Archbishop Justin Welby’s approximately 20-minute interview with the Gazette editor can be heard online at (Interview 53). As well as Anglican Communion and media affairs, the following topics were discussed: Payday lenders and Wonga; Human Rights; ISIL and the Iraq situation; the Northern Ireland political situation; and Doubt in the Christian life.




Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury highlighted the reality of doubt from time to time in the Christian life when he said that he himself experienced such questionings. Speaking to the Gazette during his visit to the Church of Ireland last week, Archbishop Welby commented further on the subject, saying that one should not hold doubt within oneself but should “take it to God in prayer, even if you’re not sure that you’re talking to anyone in particular”. Such prayer, he said, would lead to the discovery that “the grace of God overwhelms the questioning, the doubts, the difficulties in the most profound and extraordinary way”. Praying in this way, he added, was not only an individual act, but was also “the drawing together with others in prayer and worship”. (Interview details, page 1 box)

Faith is not about the same kind of certainty that we can have about causes and consequences in everyday life. If it were, it would not be faith, because faith is about the unseen and is always a reaching out beyond the day-to-day certainties of life to something deeper and, in the end, something that is beyond the full capacity of human words to express. We are always searching, always finding, always asking, always hearing – such is the ebb and flow of the interior life. Jesus himself knew doubt. From the Cross, he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That cry was a question from the heart and soul in the midst of a terrible agony. Yet, he had not been forsaken, for his heavenly Father would raise him to life after the sacrifice was complete. Not long afterwards, St Thomas voiced doubt when he told the other disciples, who had seen the risen Christ, that unless he saw the nail marks in Christ’s hands and put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into his side, he would not believe. Then, when the risen Christ appeared again, this time with Thomas present, he spoke to the doubting disciple: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20: 24-29) Christ met Thomas’s need and he was brought to a sure faith. He was not condemned for his doubt; rather, he received the grace of which Archbishop Welby spoke – the same grace that is still pouring forth from the heart of God.

When considering this important theme, it is necessary also to recall that the life of faith is a life in which the believer grows towards maturity, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 13). There are physical growing pains and, in terms of full maturity, there are painful experiences through which one learns and, by the grace of God, becomes more mature. Maturing is the opposite of an instant process; it takes time. There can be setbacks in the process of spiritually maturing, such as doubts and questionings, but these setbacks can be the building blocks of a yet deeper faith. Those going through such spiritually arid days will best keep praying, despite the doubts, as the Archbishop said, and will benefit from reflecting on the words of other Christians down through the ages who have gone through their own dark nights of the soul.


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