23 Mar 2010
The Archbishop of Yorks two address's can be downloaded below. A video of the key presentations from the conference will be available soon.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s right-hand man, John Sentamu, blew into Christchurch this month in the teeth of a mad March gale. After a powhiri in the Cathedral and a mayoral reception, he warmed to a meeting of the judiciary and then charmed Christchurch clergy over dinner. The following day he addressed a diocesan conference on “The Church as an Agent of Social Change.” Brian Thomas tagged along to see how much punch the Archbishop of York really wields.
Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has all the clout of a Tua-man – and diocesan delegates had no choice but to take it on the chin at a special match in the St Margaret’s College chapel on Saturday, March 13.
Dr Sentamu even looks a little like boxer David Tua: short and stocky, with a scalp that wouldn’t disgrace a Gillette razor ad. The difference is that John Sentamu is pugnacious in the Spirit. He’s a holy bruiser. And the power behind his ferocious grin has nothing to do with long hours in the gym. John Sentamu works out on his knees. Praying eyeball to eyeball with Jesus. Building the spiritual stamina that is necessary, absolutely necessary, to being an undisputed heavyweight champion for God.
So, if Christchurch thought it was going to get a gentle massage in the art of Christian apologetics, it was in for a rough ride from York. “I summon you to a fresh start!” he told the crowded chapel. “The church can only become an agent of social change when it is constantly being renewed in the Holy Spirit.” And how does that begin to happen? Through acceptance of God’s gift of forgiveness…. Through repentance, which brings us into covenant with a partner who is never static, who lays upon us a whole new set of demands. “The greatest miracle is the constant forgiveness of God.”
Later in the bout, the Archbishop lightened up with a history lesson on “the chocolate trinity”: Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry who, apart from being British sweetmakers, were also unashamedly men of God. “Their desire to serve God in the world was what drove them!” Dr Sentamu bellowed, pushing the sound system into overload. “You can’t make a difference in the world by merely being involved. You must be clearly committed. Social change, ultimately, is going to require more committed Christians in every area of life: politics, community….”
Q & A
Dr Sentamu gave two set addresses – each punctuated with verbal hooks, feints and anecdotes – but it was during question time that his agility really showed.
To a question on the potential of sports chaplaincies, he reminded us that several of the great English football clubs had been started by the Methodist Church to keep youngsters out of trouble. “But the church lost touch with them,” he said. “If those clubs were still in the church embrace, all our stipends would be paid by them.”
Another delegate raised the dilemma of conflict between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Dr Sentamu took the question head on. “There’s fault on both sides,” he said.
“Some Christians [in Nigeria] haven’t learned the art of talking about the gospel…. We should pray that they will begin where people are, and learn the art of Jesus. We need to make Jesus’ act of saving the world more attractive, more compelling.”
The Archbishop then warned us to watch out for two new religions: Atheism (headed up by the apostle Dawkins) and Human Rights. “While the horse was leaving the stables, we [the church] were still sleeping,” he said. “Rowan [Williams] and I are now trying to re-state in 20th century language what the Christian gospel is.”
Sadly, one of the best exchanges in the all-day conference was missed by the majority of delegates. It came after lunch, when up to 50 young people from The Kiln circled Dr Sentamu with some questions about life and the church. To the few ‘oldies’ sitting at ringside, the incisive exchange dispelled any fears about the future of the church. The most telling answer, however, came in response to a question about the greatest need facing young leaders today. “Confidence,” said the Ugandan Bomber, quick as a flash. “Confidence in God; confidence in yourself.”
As the diocese re-orients itself for mission in the world, the Archbishop’s words should be scored across the top of every parish agenda.
WORDS: Brian Thomas
PHOTO: Dave Wethey
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