The ABY's Presidential address is online.
"Fear not, do not be afraid", a recurring theme of the Bible was the ABY's opening theme.
"The church should take risks for the gospel ... have courage doing God-like actions." ... The language of fear has become the language of international relations.'
He quoted Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem,
“Ring the bellsIdentifying where the church's individual and corporate brokenness allows God's Light and Life to come in.
That still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
No speech from the ABY would complete without his insightful levity:
You will have heard of the story when a Lion, a Gorilla and a Chicken were discussing fear.
The gorilla said 'When I beat my chest all animals are afraid'
The Lion boasted 'When I roar, animals and humans for miles around are very very scared'
'That's nothing' said the chicken.
'All I have to do is sneeze and the whole world is terrified'
At the moment, the Church is in danger of being paralysed by fear of schism in the Anglican Communion; by much painful disagreement over the controverted issue of ordaining people in same sex relationships, and the blessing of such relationships.
And in our fear, too, Christ can easily be pushed out of the way as we try to show others that we are right and that they are wrong. Then, grace, compassion and love go out of the window.
Although the best leaders of the Hebrews were sent to spy out the Promised Land, and came back with wonderful stories about it, only Caleb and Joshua were without fear of moving into the land. They "focused on God, not on the size of the problems... We need to be people ready to go, ready to lead. We go, we stay, we don't just visit..."
Fear of doing what God seems to be calling people to is not a new thing.
In the story(of the feeding of the 5,000, Matthew 14), the response of the disciples to the hungry multitude was:Fear can paralyse - but dealing with issues, even when fear overwhelms us, needs to be put into context.
- there isn’t anywhere to buy bread
- there isn’t any money to buy bread with
- the numbers are so huge that it’s clearly foolish to try
It was all foolish. But it was God at work! And from this story four things stand out:
- We must be willing to offer to God that which is ridiculously small. What we need is not great faith, but faith in a great God.
- We must be thankful even for small things
- In this miracle of God’s generosity, the miracle went on and on and on until all were fed. We must be faithful in prayer and patience as we wait for God’s response and, like the disciples in the story, work hard at sharing out the miracle of God’s grace.
- Fourthly we must learn to trust God and leave our concerns and cares in his hands. In all our perplexities, Christ is with us as Romans 8 reminds us.
This means facing up to crises, when they occur, with honesty and realism, not minimising the problem but not supersizing it either, keeping it in Godly proportion.
The Lord says to us all: “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.”A careful encouragement, with supporting evidence, to Synod, to churches and to individuals.
So, my brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid.
But rather, Put out into the deep.