On 9 November 2012 the Right Reverend Justin Welby was
announced as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
In his opening statement at Lambeth Palace, Bishop Justin
said he was “astonished and excited” to be taking over from Dr Rowan Williams,
who stands down as Archbishop at the end of December. Acknowledging the many
challenges faced by the Church, he said it will be a privilege to lead the
Church “at a time of great spiritual hunger”. The new Archbishop's Biography can be found here.
My daughter Meredith plays the flute. As a music performance major, she spends
hours practicing her scales and mastering music theory. Her repertoire grows
year by year not only in size but in complexity and sophistication. As you
might imagine, Meredith reliably hits the right notes as the ensemble moves
through the score.
Plenty of accomplished musicians hit the right notes. That is not what distinguishes
Meredith and the very best among her peers from others. Instead, the most
admired musicians thrill our hearts and stir our minds because they achieve
a pleasing tone. Lesser musicians can play precisely the same notes in the
correct tempo and yet, nevertheless they lose our interest with a thin or
In both our nation and in our Church we are struggling with our tone. We
seem unable to disagree without contempt, and we heap scorn upon compromise
as if it were always born of the spirit of cowardice and surrender. Our proud
insistence upon being right drowns out the humble impulse to submit ourselves
to something greater than our own opinions and agendas. We need a new, more
By God’s tender grace we are finding a more compelling tone in the
Episcopal Church. While we will always debate ideas, we are beginning to
speak to each other on the basis of something more fundamental than our differences.
The Holy Spirit is reminding us that we are one in the crucified and risen
Christ. Our unity in Christ gives us a common mission. Jesus himself sends
us to make disciples and to serve the poor in his name.
When we focus on what we have in common, our tone grows sonorous and resonates
with others. The content of the Good News is too often lost because it is
being conveyed by a shrill or grating voice. Keeping before us always our
unity in Christ’s person and the mission he gives us, even the tone
of our disagreements can draw followers to Jesus.
On this first day following President Obama’s reelection, some are
rejoicing and others are lamenting. Oddly enough, we Episcopalians have a
hard-won lesson to share with rest of the nation.
We have discovered through bitter internal turmoil that unity is a gift.
It is a gift that we must nurture or risk losing. Who we are together is
well worth working for. It is fine to disagree. However, when we do so in
forgetfulness that our primary calling is to deepen and to reinforce our
unity, then we chance forfeiting who we truly are.
So let’s be mindful of our tone. As Christians and as Americans. As
followers of Jesus, we have an especially high calling. Jesus has sent us
into this world to set a new tone.