​There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith globally and in the United Kingdom, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in his enthronement sermon in Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday.

Preaching to 2000 people inside the cathedral and millions more watching and listening around the world, Archbishop Welby drew on the story of Christ beckoning the disciples to leave the boat and walk across the waters, recalling Jesus' words: "Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid."

Archbishop Welby said that "our response to these words sets the patterns of our lives, for the church, for the whole of society”.

“The more the Church is authentically heeding Jesus’ call, leaving its securities, speaking and acting clearly and taking risks, the more the Church suffers,” he said. “Thomas Cranmer faced death with Christ-given courage, leaving a legacy of worship, of holding to the truth of the gospel, on which we still draw. I look at the Anglican leaders here and remember that in many cases round the world their people are scattered to the four winds or driven underground: by persecution, by storms of all sorts, even by cultural change. Many Christians are martyred now as in the past.

“Yet at the same time the church transforms society when it takes the risks of renewal in prayer, of reconciliation and of confident declaration of the good news of Jesus Christ. In England alone the churches together run innumerable food banks, shelter the homeless, educate a million children, offer debt counselling, comfort the bereaved, and far, far more. All this comes from heeding the call of Jesus Christ. Internationally, churches run refugee camps, mediate civil wars, organise elections, set up hospitals. All of it happens because of heeding the call to go to Jesus through the storms and across the waves.

“There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says ‘Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid’. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed.”

For a full transcript of Archbishop Welby’s sermon, see www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/out-of-our-own-traditions-and-into-the-waves-the-archbishop-of-canterburys-inaugural-sermon

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