“Expect Surprises”: Archbishop of Canterbury’s Remarkable Interview at the World Council of Churches

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has hinted that we should expect “a few surprises” in terms of ecumenical relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, is in Busan, South Korea, attending the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches.  In his address to the Assembly, he noted that the WCC Assembly really reflects the depth and breadth of God’s great Church; and he called members to recommit themselves to the task of restoring full, visible, sacramental unity to the Body of Christ.  “We must be one,” he said, “so that the gospel we preach is not denied by the way we live our separate lives.”

Canterbury Cathedral

In an extraordinary interview with Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio, Archbishop Welby also spoke with conviction about the importance of Christian unity, and expressed his hope that the participating churches will work fervently on the important doctrinal and dogmatic differences between them

“…in the context of churches and ecclesial communities that say no sacrifice is too great to be obedient to the call of Christ that we may be one.”

“Perhaps,” the Anglican Archbishop mused, “we need to reimagine what it means to look like the church and to surrender some of the things that give us our sense of identity in the cause of Christ.”

There’s more.  Read Hitchen’s full interview with Archbishop Welby here.

*     *     *     *     *

Archbishop Welby is primate of the 80 million member Anglican Communion, which is the third largest Christian denomination in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  However, his opinion is not binding for others in the Anglican Communion; there is no single “Anglican Church” with universal juridical authority, as each national or regional church has full autonomy.

Both Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis assumed their leadership roles in their respective churches in March 2013; and the two met for the first time in June.  From the start, they seem to have established a friendship of respect and common concerns.

Recently, Archbishop Welby spoke of the spiritual gift of the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, and encouraged members of his flock to “Do like the Catholics, and go to confession.”



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  • I am not Spartacus

    “The Assembly of the World Council ofChurches” does not include the solitary one that is a Church- The Catholic Church.

    A good way to remember this simple truth is that Catholics have Churches and protestants have buildings.

    • moseynon

      “The Assembly of the World Council ofChurches” does not include the solitary one that is a Church- The Catholic Church.

      That isn’t accurate. The declaration Dominus Iesus explains that a Church must have maintained apostolic succession and the integrity of the Eucharist. I believe this recognition is extended to the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox, both of which have membership in the WCC.

      As for Protestant denominations, they are considered “ecclesial communities.” However, they are Christian and share in the work toward salvation. I don’t want to quote a large block of text here, so I will refer you to section 17 of Dominus Iesus</i?

      As for the buildings used for worship services, we have them, the Orthodox have them, the Protestants have them. All of these buildings can be considered churches.

      • moseynon

        Hmmm…. the link I posted to Dominus Iesus is not appearing on my screen. Just in case others can not see it, I will repost it now


        As for the buildings used for worship services, we have them, the Orthodox have them, the Protestants have them. All of these buildings can be considered churches.

      • bonaventure

        The Anglican “church” does not have a valid Eucharist, nor even a valid priesthood or episcopacy, even if it can trace on paper its succession of bishops to a time where the Church was united.

        The absolute only Churches with a valid Eucharist, priesthood and episcopacy are the Orthodox and Oriental (pre-Chalcedonian) Churches.

        • moseynon

          Yes, that was my understanding as well. Still, I think it is significant that Archbishop Welby, during his interview, used the term “ecclesial communities.” It is a term which many Protestants find offensive.

          I wonder if his use of the term is a signal that he is willing to meet the Catholic Church on its own grounds? If so, the pending issue of women bishops will be a problem. From the recent news, it sounds as if the Church of England will try once again to allow for women to serve as bishops. The proposal was defeated during the last go-around, but only by the barest of margins. I guess we will see.

        • Rick Evans

          Your “absolute only Churches” should have included The Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian). It is distinctly separate from both the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as of course, Catholics. The validity of its sacraments has been verified in our time by JPII when in 1994 he relaxed rules of joint worship/ marriage etc. between their adherents and those in our Chaldean Rite.

          • I am not Spartacus

            There is one true Church, the Catholic Church. All other communities are differing assemblies of nominal christians

          • Rick Evans

            Yes, and the one true Catholic Church has acknowledged the validity of the sacraments (Including the Holy Eucharist) of the 3 other “communities” mentioned above by bonaventure and me.

          • I am not Spartacus

            I knew you’d be unable to cite any source prior to Vatican Two. Effete Ecumenism is the Universal Solvent dissolving Tradition and the wisps of foggy evaporation of Tradition is pointed at by you as definitive although such claims are clearly a rupture with Tradition.

            Now, i could cite Tradition that there is no Apostolic Succession absent a Pope’s approval of the putative Ordination (Even one of Lefevbre’s Bishops was uncertain he was one due to such facts) but such a citation would be meaningless in this world of Magisterial positivism in which whatever latest claim advanced is accepted as definitive even when (actually, especially when) there is no evidence that claim can be sourced in Tradition.

            There is only One Church. Pewriod. The schismatic heretics do not have Apostolic Succession and they are riven with heresies (well, what does one expect from the seedbed of heresies and iconoclasm?) from the denial of Original Sin to the rejection of the Infallible teachings of Vatican 1 re Church and Papal Primacy, to rejection of The Immaculate Conception to acceptance of divorce and remarriage…

            Ugh, they are a blasphemous and execrable joke and yet y’all try to claim they are a Church.

            What ever happened to love of truth and the ability to discern truth from error?

          • I am not Spartacus

            Satis Cognitum:

            It is so evident from the clear and frequent testimonies of Holy Writ that the true Church of Jesus Christ is one, that no Christian can dare to deny it. But in judging and determining the nature of this unity many have erred in various ways. Not the foundation of the Church alone, but its whole constitution, belongs to the class of things effected by Christ’s free choice. For this reason the entire case must be judged by what was actually done. We must consequently investigate not how the Church may possibly be one, but how He, who founded it, willed that it should be one. But when we consider what was actually done we find that Jesus Christ did not, in point of fact, institute a Church to embrace several communities similar in nature, but in themselves distinct, and lacking those bonds which render the Church unique and indivisible after that manner in which in the symbol of our faith we profess: “I believe in one Church.” “The Church in respect of its unity belongs to the category of things indivisible by nature, though heretics try to divide it into many parts…We say, therefore, that the Catholic Church is unique in its essence, in its doctrine, in its origin, and in its excellence…Furthermore, the eminence of the Church arises from its unity, as the principle of its constitution – a unity surpassing all else, and having nothing like unto it or equal to it” (S. Clemens Alexandrinus, Stronmatum lib. viii., c. 17). For this reason Christ, speaking of the mystical edifice, mentions only one Church, which he calls His own – “I will build my church; ” any other Church except this one, since it has not been founded by Christ, cannot be the true Church. This becomes even more evident when the purpose of the Divine Founder is considered. For what did Christ, the Lord, ask? What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded? This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated. This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did. “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you” (John xx., 21). “Ad thou hast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world” (John xvii., 18).

            ++++++++++ end of quotes ++++++++
            I could copy and paste all day long and it still would make no difference to those who accept the latest novelties which represent a rupture with Tradition

      • I am not Spartacus

        Dear Dale. Show me the pre-Vatican Two money quote re your assertion

        Aposotolic Succession can not be found in the schismatic heretics of the east due to their ordaining Bishops absent the Pope’s approval.

  • Guy Fox

    Sometimes in business mergers are too costly, especially when current management has a ridiculous estimation of the enterprise’s value. This is doubly true if the management itself is a problem. A patient investor recognizes that picking up the pieces in bankruptcy is the cheaper way to go. Church mergers included.

  • Diffal

    Problem, as your article points out, is of course that “there is no single “Anglican Church” with universal juridical authority, as each national or regional church has full autonomy” I have been told that recent ARCIC meeting between the two bodies consist of the Catholic side and several Anglican theologians with their own individual opinions some of whom are closer to the catholic position than to each others. Ironing out the doctrinal issues is rather difficult when this is the case. Some of the groups of course are simply waiting for the Catholic Church to ‘get with the times’ on issues like female clergy which of course means they will be waiting until at least the aecond coming!

  • LewistonCatholic

    The surprise: Archbishop Welby announces “We were wrong to split from the One True Church 500 years ago. The only way to achieve unity for the Church of Christ is for us to reunite with the Church that Jesus founded which is the Catholic Church”. Now that would be a surprise.

  • Char

    there’s a lot of bitterness and hate in these comments

  • Michael Newhouse

    Point of semantics: the Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches are not denominations.