Meditation and Reflection

"Our daughter died…" Justin Welby's sermon to Child Bereavement UK

 

Every now and again a sermon is preached which is so simple in expression and yet so rich in its depths of compassion and apprehension of salvation that you want to hold it in your heart and cry over it in some private moment when you can hide your face from the world and pause the performance of life. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon to the Child Bereavement UK’s carol service at Holy Trinity Brompton on 10th December is one such sermon.

You can’t sum it up in a sentence or reduce it adequately to an archive category and six succinct blog tags. It is an archbishop speaking to the Church; a priest ministering to his flock; a man talking about sad feelings; a bereaved father still mourning the death of his seven-month-old daughter more than 30 years after the car crash which killed her. Justin Welby has walked in sorrow and raged in anger, and still does. He knows his flaws, human weaknesses and imperfections. He understands loss and the uncertainty of life’s frailty and tragedy. And yet he keeps coming back to the certainty of Christ and the peace that passes understanding. Johanna Welby died, and the grief was unbearable. But just look at the father, and consider what a rich harvest that little baby has brought forth: ‘..unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’

There are two prayers that many people here will have prayed. Anyone who’s lost someone in an untimely way, particularly perhaps a child, sibling or parent, a very close friend…. one is, ‘Make them better. Lord, make them better. Get them out of this. May they recover and be healed.’ The other is when that prayer has passed. A lot of people pray, ‘Lord, let me join them. Take me as well.’

The fact that we’re all sitting here today is because, for many of us, neither of those prayers were answered in the way we hoped. But time goes by and we begin to rebuild our lives. We never “get over it” — that’s such an atrocious expression — but we do begin to rebuild. You live with this gap, as Caroline and I did more than 30 years ago when our eldest daughter died, and you begin to rebuild. In those days Child Bereavement UK was not around, or if it was we didn’t know about it.

Our daughter died five days after a car crash on the way back from France. We were moving back to the UK after several years living in Paris. And so we came back and we came to this church, where we’d been married, and we began to rebuild.

Perhaps as time goes by you come to a Christmas service and you hear that reading about the shepherds and their joy and you think, ‘Fine for them… doesn’t feel much like that to me.’ Some people know what to do and what to say, and others cross the road to avoid talking to you because they’re so frightened of saying the wrong thing — and I think after a while you understand that.

Time goes by. And I remember that, and that sense sometimes of ‘What’s it all about? What’s it all for?’ We were Christians, and sometimes people turn away from God and sometimes they turn to God, and like the psalmist they say, ‘Where were you? Where are you?’ It’s in the Psalms. Tough words, bitter words, of anger with God. Much better said than suppressed.

And if we’re wise, and if we have wise friends who love us — and we did in this place; they loved us and they looked after us, it’s wonderful — and if we’re wise, eventually we begin to look up a bit. We just find the strength. For some people it’s much harder than others. Never, ever tell people what they ‘ought’ to be or ‘ought’ to do or how they ‘ought’ to behave… but somehow, with wise friends we were able to move forward.

We came back eventually to that great puzzle, which there is one child in the whole of human history who died, whose father could have done something and didn’t. Who could with a mere exercise of will have changed the world so it didn’t happen. His beloved child, whom he sent, whom the angels announced, whom he sent to live this risky life, and who died unjustly some 30 years later, out of time, unfairly.

And when we turn to that child and see in that child that there is hope and healing, we find a source of purpose, a source of going on, that is so boundlessly deep, so extraordinarily puzzling sometimes, but so wonderfully embracing, that in the dark moments and the light moments we are held and comforted and carried, often unawares, and the dark moments continue. Many people here will know how suddenly and surprisingly that can catch up on you. You see a face, you think, you hear a tune, you go to a place… and the memories just trip you.

We continue like so many here to live with all of that. But we found over the years that this puzzle of the God that so loved the world that he gave his only son so that all who believe in him should not have that sense of endless death and destruction, but have the hope of life and the knowledge of a future and the life that is somehow rebuilt around us by the grace and love of God.

We found there the transforming hope and purpose which enabled us to rebuild and through many more trials, through many moments almost as bad, to find ourselves where we are, with the bitterness of the memory, and the joy of the memory. With that gap which we remember every 5th November — on the basis that if you don’t attack the birthday, the birthday attacks you. And so we have all the family and we do something silly. Buy a present we can’t afford, have some fun — we have a lot of fun actually. But there’s always that reality, and yet there’s now that hope.

And my prayer for those who are in those darkest of dark moments, which I remember so well, where they are praying that second prayer… and neither prayer is being answered, has been answered, I pray for you and for all of us here, for that hope that heals and strengthens and draws us forward, because of that child who was born and risked and died and rose again, and offers life to us and to all we love. Amen.

  • William Lewis

    Amen

  • bluedog

    Quite brilliant.

  • Uncle Brian

    Thank you, Your Grace.

  • Martin

    A sermon should be an exposition of God’s word. This sermon seems markedly lacking in any reference to Scripture. It could be said by anyone to anyone, with the omission of a few words it could even be said by an Atheist. It neither teaches nor inspires. And people wonder why the CoE is in such a dire strait. It’s too short too.

    • sarky

      Showing your usual compassion I see.

      • CliveM

        I thought of saying something but decided getting into a debate on this, simply distracts from the post and it’s message and gives to much credence to Martins comment.

        • sarky

          You’re better than me, I find these things hard to ignore 🙂

          • CliveM

            Flatterer!

        • carl jacobs

          That was harsh, Clive. What did Martin say?

          A sermon should be an exposition of God’s word.

          That’s a true statement from a Reformed perspective. I realize that other traditions have other practices. I grew up in a church without the practice of expository preaching, and I can clearly see the difference now.

          This sermon seems markedly lacking in any reference to Scripture.

          This is also a true statement. There are a few allusions to Scripture here and there. In truth the theology inherent in the one paragraph that sort of kind of touches on the Gospel was absolutely dreadful.

          there is one child in the whole of human history who died, whose father could have done something and didn’t.

          Yes, I understand the point of casting the Passion in those terms to an audience of this type. “God knows. He’s been there.” But it stands the purpose of the crucifixion on its head. God the Father was not a passive observer on Good Friday.

          It could be said by anyone to anyone, with the omission of a few words it could even be said by an Atheist.

          This is also objectively true. That doesn’t make it objectively bad. It means Welby was speaking of a shared experience. He was speaking to an audience that he understood, and that knew he understood them. But that doesn’t make it a sermon either. A sermon has a specific purpose. It requires explicit pronouncement and not just vague allusions.

          It neither teaches …

          It certainly does not teach. This sermon is more of a reflection on shared experience. It is intended to validate the natural responses to the loss of a child. Only someone in Welby’s shoes could give that sermon. But the divine context is presented as muddled and uncertain. It’s as if God is as confused about the whole situation as the bereaved patents. What is missing is the necessary connection between the death and the divine purpose. We may not know the answer to the question “Why?”, but we must know that an answer to that question does exist and will eventually be made known – in this world or the next.

          … or inspires. And people wonder why the CoE is in such a dire strait. It’s too short too.

          This I agree was too harsh on Martin’s part. He would have been wiser to leave this off. But that doesn’t change the truth of his other comments.

          My younger daughter almost died at the age of three weeks. The reality of modern medicine spared me that loss. So I could not stand in Welby’s place and speak to this group of people. I only know the sound of the bullet as it passes by. I don’t know the sickening “thwap” as it hits flesh. So I agree he should be given latitude. But this sermon is so concerned with identification and validation it never really gets around to theology. It doesn’t present God as one who never slumbers nor sleeps. It doesn’t present God as one who watches carefully to make sure His word is fulfilled.

          And that is a serious omission.

          • CliveM

            Hi Carl,

            I don’t think I was harsh.

            We have been given the text of a sermon, which was about the death of a child and how God can help and support you, in what must be the bleakest moment in a parents life. I hope and pray to God no one here ever has to experience such pain.

            However the Archbishop was speaking in moving terms to people who do understand that pain. He was talking in Godly terms of a shared experience which they would all understand. It was a sermon and it was also Pastoral.

            Martins comments where neither Godly or charitable. Frankly they said more about his personal obsessions. They should have been left unsaid.

            If I where to lose my son, I know who would be speaking Gods words to me and even if he were to quote direct from the bible, it wouldn’t be Martin.

          • Phil R

            We lost two children ten years ago a year apart. Both boys.

            I tell you when you are in this sort of pain you need a Martin not a Welby.

            You need God’s word not vague notions.

          • CliveM

            I am very sorry to hear about your sons, it would have been unbearable for you.

          • Phil R

            It was not unbearable, simply because we had a Martin to give guidance from the Bible and a whole church community that loved us.

            I completely understand why people cannot cope without the Bible.

          • chiefofsinners

            Dear Phil
            Maybe those who are already Christians need a Martin, while others need a Welby to lead them to God and teach them to cope with the Bible.

          • CliveM

            Sorry no one needs a Martin.

          • chiefofsinners

            I know what you mean, but I haven’t been through Phil’s experience and wouldn’t doubt the sincerity of what he says.

          • CliveM

            I don’t doubt his sincerity.

          • Phil R

            I am not sure that anyone is lead that way.

            Jesus and the disciples were pretty blunt.

            Many people hated them for it.

            But which way worked?

            Is Welby’s and other Christian leaders’ New Speak working?

          • jsampson45

            Perhaps both a Martin and a Welby. A sermon is a particular form, an exposition of Scripture. This was an address rather than a sermon.

          • carl jacobs

            Precisely.

          • sarky

            Myself and my wife went through a miscarriage a few years ago and I can tell you now if I had a Martin I would have punched him in the face. Welby I would have listened to as he had been there. As it happened we had neither, but got through it and went on to have another daughter.

          • Phil R

            I am sorry for your loss.

            Your reaction though, does not in itself indicate that your preference was the correct one to apply generally.

            Jesus and the disciples constantly gave the “wrong” response and many people reacted violently to what they said.

            I would have had more faith in Welby if he could say “wrong” things occasionally.

            Well once would be a start. The “three wise monkeys” best describes his approach to the world.

          • sarky

            Or it could be that he understood the sensitivity of the subject and pitched it just right.

          • carl jacobs

            Clive

            Martins comments where neither Godly or charitable.

            Then you say this of me as well. I would have argued with Martin over his use of “inspiring.” I would not consider this sermon to be evidence of the decline of the CoE because of its context. And the statement about it being too short was gratuitous. But otherwise, I agreed with his post. I would not have written that post in that way. But I would have communicated the same conclusions.

            Now, truth be told, I personally wouldn’t have made that post on this thread, and I commented principally to defend Martin. But what he said was true.

            I was a pallbearer at a Police officer’s funeral many years ago. He was well known and well liked in the state. He had a couple commendations for saving lives. He was only 49 when he died. Cancer killed him.

            There were at least 1000 people at that funeral. The church was filled. The overflow area was filled. Police officers from all over the state were there. The mayor and city council attended. His funeral procession was two miles long. And here is what I remember about the Sermon. The pastor mentioned the Gospel not once. It was just a reflection on Dave’s life and how he lived it. At the end the pastor quoted the one and only line from Scripture n the entire sermon: “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” He wasted the opportunity. Dave was also a Freemason. There was more spiritual content in the Masonic rites allowed by the pastor than in the whole of the rest of the funeral. That’s how I reacted to this sermon. I saw it as a wasted opportunity.

            Sarky would approve, of course. But be very careful when you find the unbelieving world approving. It’s not a good sign.

          • CliveM

            In situations of bereavement tone and context are important.

          • carl jacobs

            I agree. As I said, there some things you don’t say when the wound is fresh. But this service was not that context. Just as a funeral is not that context. Martin’s post was not gentle. It required a light touch. That is the fault I find with him. But he is correct in what he said. A service like this is exactly the right context to address those hard issues.

            If not there, when?

          • alternative_perspective

            Agreed, Reformed Protestant and convicted Catholics are a real problem for me.

            The number of people I’ve met who have been poisoned against Christ because of the insensitivities and blunt theologies of these two groups is taxing, to say the least. Half the time I spend talking to non Christians is undoing the often hurtful and radical claims to certainty that they’ve had rammed down their throats by these groups.

            There are certain teachings we know categorically but derivations and denominational doctrines are not on a par with Christ’s divinity, say.

          • carl jacobs

            Oh, I see. You have trouble with Reformed Protestants. Like me, for instance. Good to know.

          • alternative_perspective

            No, I have a problem with an absolutist stance towards the theology, their beliefs about biblical interpretation, not to people.

            FYI, I was quite an anticatholic a few years ago but I met someone who challenged my beliefs. I was forced to look at the scripture underlying their belief… It was all firmly rooted in the Bible. Now I disagreed with the interpretation but I had to agree it was Biblical. Now having spent a lot of time in the conservative evangelical church I knew they rooted their beliefs in scripture too.

            I came to the conclusion that there were two positions I could accept.
            1. one or the other is wrong
            2. Both are right but in different dimensions.

            I accepted point 2. As in the absence of special revelation from God, who am I to condemn either. I concluded that truth exists but was deeper and multidimensional and that personally I could neither affirm or deny either pole.

            The reality though is these poles have caused a lot of heart ache and the firmer one asserts the exclusive truth of one or the other, the deeper the pain that’s caused.

            So my mantra for this became: act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.

          • Pubcrawler

            Well said

          • DanJ0

            This blog, and some of the comments underneath, have certainly increased my understanding of Christianity … and its internal diversity. I’m grateful for that. However, many of the comments over the years have embedded my a-theism and shown me that Christianity really is just wishful thinking. I’ve been left with the impression that there’s good, kind people from all walks of life, and there’s the bleak, cold, dead legalism of core Christian theology: believe or suffer.

          • alternative_perspective

            Sorry

          • CliveM

            Carl

            There is a world of difference between asking a question “if not there, when?” And what Martin wrote.

            I think it is a pity that Martin doesn’t understand that.

            I still believe however the AofC was right in his approach.

          • sarky

            Or its a sign you might be doing something right!!!

          • William Lewis

            …But it stands the purpose of the crucifixion on its head. God the Father was not a passive observer on Good Friday.

            How does this contradict the Archbishop’s statement that God could have done something but didn’t? Surely the Father’s decision not to save His Son was an active choice. Just as the Son’s decision not to appeal to the Father was.

          • carl jacobs

            Surely the Father’s decision not to save His Son was an active choice.

            The Father was the source of the Son’s suffering. God poured out His wrath upon the Son so that God’s justice might be satisfied. God does not overlook sin. He punished it in the person of Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” It’s not like some unknown external agent punished the Lord Jesus while God the Father hid on the other side of the Universe. The active choice was to sacrifice the Son. There was never any possibility it could have been otherwise. As it is written “For this I was born.”

            The question that we struggle with is “Why does God’s perfect plan include sin and suffering?” We don’t know the answer to that question. We can’t get around it by saying “Oh, man screwed it up with his free will.” The redeemed in heaven will have free will and yet they will never sin. God could have created man such that he would not have sinned – proven perfectly by the reality of man as new creation who will never sin. So why wasn’t Adam that perfect creation? We don’t know. But we will know.

            To suggest that God could have answered Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane by removing the cup is to deny the very purpose of Jesus’ life and death. It denies the entire purpose of the creation from the beginning. It suggests that God didn’t actually make the best plan when He chose us in Christ Jesus before He laid the foundation of the world. The Cross was not Plan B. It was Plan A. There never was a Plan B. God doesn’t require a Plan B because He is the sovereign God who orders everything after His own will.

            So, it’s true. We wouldn’t have chosen God’s Plan A. No sin. No cross. No savior. But then … we aren’t God. And who are we to judge His purposes?

          • William Lewis

            ” The redeemed in heaven will have free will and yet they will never sin. God could have created man such that he would not have sinned – proven perfectly by the reality of man as new creation who will never sin. So why wasn’t Adam that perfect creation? We don’t know. But we will know.”

            The redeemed are in Heaven because of Christ. They are made perfect because of Him. God’s method of delivering sinless free will is Christ’s sacrifice and our acceptance of it. Now that is not to say that there are no difficulties over the suffering of the here and now, but I think the Archbishop’s sermon is a beautiful and loving message that tries to bridge that gap between the pain of loss and God’s perfect plan of redemption and reconciliation to come, made possible through the pain and loss of His Son.

          • sarky

            Carl, when will christians like you realise that honest heartfelt words, in a language people understand, will have a greater impact than a million lines of scripture.

            I for one have a respect for the fella after reading this.

          • carl jacobs

            sarky

            They are honest heartfelt words because they come from personal experience. I am not talking about what he included. I am talking about what he left out. This reflection never rises above the theological level of a group hug. It doesn’t squarely face the hard questions of “Why?” and “How could you be God and let this happen?” One certainly doesn’t address those questions in the hospital when the pain is still seering. But those questions must be faced eventually. This is exactly the kind of forum where one who has stood in that dark place could say “I know those tears. I cried them once myself like you. Let me tell you why I found hope and not despair.”

            Those heartfelt words have to lead somewhere. It is good to empathize. It is much better to testify. The empathy is here today and fades like grass tomorrow. But the testimony remains forever.

          • sarky

            I have heard plenty of testimonies and they too disapeared like farts in the wind.

          • sarky

            Also want to add that the wrong words at the wrong time lead to a lifetime of bitterness.

          • Uncle Brian

            A sermon should be an exposition of God’s word.
            That’s a true statement from a Reformed perspective.

            Yes, but Welby doesn’t claim to be preaching from a Reformed perspective. Therefore the rules governing Reformed sermons don’t apply in this case. It’s not a Reformed sermon, and it wasn’t intended as a Reformed sermon, but it’s still a sermon.

          • carl jacobs

            That’s a fair comment. But Martin was assuming the correctness of the Reformed perspective and was making his determination according to that perspective. He was not addressing the title so much as the purpose. A sermon has a purpose. What is that purpose? And did this sermon by Archbishop Welby fulfill that purpose? The defects in this sermon are manifest. It’s only half there.

          • William Lewis

            Quite

      • Martin

        Sarky

        You don’t show real compassion by failing to give people an understanding of their situation, by treating it as a huge mistake to which no one has the answers.

        • sarky

          No one does have the answers. But showing people that you have gone through the same as them and survived, is a good start.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            On the contrary, the Bible has the answer.

          • sarky

            Im sure you’ll understand if I pass on a bronze age story book.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            You don’t even know what ‘bronze age’ means.

          • sarky

            ?????

          • Martin

            Sarky

            Basically, nothing. It is a pretty meaningless term when you consider the whole history of the World. Men were working bronze and iron before the Flood so the usage of the term is a mere display of ignorance.

          • sarky

            Erm I have a sneaky suspicion I’m not the ignorant one!

          • Martin

            Sarky

            Hate to disappoint you, but you are. But a lot of your ignorance is self imposed.

          • sarky

            Whats your excuse?

          • Martin

            Sarky

            I don’t need an excuse, for I have no self imposed ignorance. That is left to Atheists.

          • sarky

            Im pretty sure jesus condemned the self righteous.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            My righteousness is based on Christ, yours is your own.

    • Roger Sponge

      ” I pray for you and for all of us here for that hope that heals and
      strengthens and draws us forward, because of that child who was born and
      risked and died and rose again, and offers life to us and to all we
      love”

      Seems pretty Christian to me.

      • Martin

        Roger

        That ‘risked’ certainly isn’t Christian. No risk was involved.

        • Roger Sponge

          In truth I missed the “risked”. I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean!

    • Anna

      Justin Welby, as you surely know, had John 3:16 in mind when he spoke of the “God that so loved the world that he gave his only son so that all who believe in him should not have that sense of endless death and destruction”. And he was doing exactly what the Bible says we should while ministering to those bereaved, “…mourn with those who mourn” (NIV) or “…to weep with the weeping” (YLT).

      There is a time and a season for everything, and the scripture recognises our need for comfort when we suffer, mercy when we stumble and reconciliation when we drift away. Parents who have lost a child are in deep pain and need a shoulder to cry on; they are not quite ready to hear a theological discourse about sin and suffering. When the Lord met the widow of Nain who had lost her only child, “his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry” Luke 7:13 (NIV).

      By laying bare his own struggles, Welby was letting them know that in him, they had a friend who understood their pain. More importantly he was reminding them that God who had experienced the same pain was not aloof from their suffering.

      • William Lewis

        Precisely.

      • Martin

        Anna

        Welby may have had it in mind but he did a pretty poor job of applying it, making it sound as if God was standing there wringing his hands at His inability to solve the problem when the Bible tells us that all three persons of the Trinity agreed together, before Creation, what would be done.

        It does not comfort someone to be told that there is no reason for their loss, for their pain. What comforts them is to know that God cares for them and even in their pain has a purpose.

        In laying bare his own struggles Welby shows he hasn’t actually addressed the problem in his own life. How can he then aspire to help others?

    • William Lewis

      A sermon should be an exposition of God’s word.

      A sermon can be an exposition of how we can live according to God’s Word.

      • Martin

        William

        How can it be when there is no exposition of God’s word.

        • William Lewis

          Certainly living according to God’s Word implies knowledge of God’s Word, but that does not preclude sermons on such living taking place for the edification of the listener. Indeed the Archbishop here was preaching in an evangelical church where God’s Word is preached often and to many people. There is a context here and an understanding of the needs of the listener. Something that St. Paul was rather good at but your one size fits all approach is woefully lacking.

    • Dreadnaught

      Are you so bereft of the milk of human kindness that you cannot see the exceptional quality in a man who is shouldering the burden of Anglican Christianity in Britain under the onslaught of Islamic appeasement?
      I am atheist, but never in denial of the Christian cultural legacy that has shaped until recently the character of tolerance we like to think is closely associated with ‘Britishness’.
      I would maintain if in Welby’s position, that God had deserted him and his daughter; you would no doubt say that’s what you would expect from an atheist. But he doesn’t does he. He still believes in the God of his faith despite the apparent lack of opportunity for them both to enjoy the reward of travelling through life as father and daughter.
      If you think a sermon better reaches into the minds of people by quoting dusty passages of Biblical text, full of rubbing sand in the eyes and stuffing thistles up your arse just to show how much you are prepared to suffer, then get on with it.
      I understand the pain Welby went through in recalling this in a most public way; most people will.
      I also recognise the humanity and bravery of the man to be able to use his grief to demonstrate, in a sermon that will reach out empathy to others who may feel that God had deserted them.
      If I can see value in this – why can’t you?

      • Martin

        Dreadnaught

        Welby has failed to discipline those within his hierarchy, he has failed to exhort those outside it. He has failed to stand against all the various aspects of homosexuality in both the church and the nation and collapsed over ‘gay’ marriage.

        He has again and again failed to preach the gospel when he has bot an opportunity that many preachers would give their eye teeth for and the duty to do so. He has revealed how he understands so little of the graciousness of our God that he cannot address the sorrows we are all open to in this world.

        In this case he failed to speak of the love of God for His creatures, how turning to God when we are in pain is better than “rebuilding our lives”. He could have spoken of how David reacted when his child died, he could have done so much more than bleat ineffectually about:

        “We came back eventually to that great puzzle, which there is one child in the whole of human history who died, whose father could have done something and didn’t. Who could with a mere exercise of will have changed the world so it didn’t happen. His beloved child, whom he sent, whom the angels announced, whom he sent to live this risky life, and who died unjustly some 30 years later, out of time, unfairly.”

        when what happened was that God, in the person of the Son chose to take the sin of His poor, feeble people, who could of themselves to no good thing, upon Himself and suffer on their behalf.

        Sorry your grace, but if you choose to post a feeble, wishy washy talk that addresses none of the pains of humanity and praise it, then you must expect it to be examined more closely.

        Does Welby still believe in the God of his faith or is he failing to come to grips with what God is teaching?

        Do you really think that the passages of the Bible that deal with our pain are dusty passages? Have you not read Job and seen His pain and sorrow and how God dealt with him?

        Yes, I do understand in some way the pain, but God is there for His children in such pain and His word gives such great comfort. You don’t help people with empathy, you help them by pointing them to God.

        • CliveM

          Martin

          You have decided to create a God in your own image. God allows you to but will judge you for it. But do not condem those who seek the true God, who created mankind in his image.

          • Martin

            Clive

            What are you on about?

        • Dreadnaught

          I wouldn’t care to debate the theology of Christianity with you when Christians are so seemingly at odd with one another over over what is or is not how to ‘do’ Christianity.
          I believe life is far too short to be dissecting that which can not be universally held to be truth.
          I see Welby as a good example of how to get along with your fellow man by being a decent man in a rather hostile environment.
          If you feel better qualified to take on the role by all means send in your CV; but your outlook seems more monastical than ministerial.

          • Martin

            Dreadnaught

            Trouble is, Jesus told His followers not to expect to get on with men.

            I don’t feel qualified, that’s why I’m content to remain in the pew where Welby should be.

        • William Lewis

          In this case he failed to speak of the love of God for His creatures, how turning to God when we are in pain is better than “rebuilding our lives”.

          Except that his description of rebuilding their lives is a description of a turning to God! His description of God’s love for His creatures is that is so deep that He would sacrifice His only Son. Can you not see how that would resonate with the attendant listeners?

          • Martin

            William

            “Except that his description of rebuilding their lives is a description of a turning to God!”

            Is it? I’m afraid it doesn’t sound like that to me.

            The gospel is not about God sacrificing His Son but about God the Son choosing to take upon Himself the sins of His people.

            What He said might resonate with his hearers but that doesn’t mean it was Christian.

      • Phil R

        I think you and Welby would get along just fine.

        Both of you think that it is a deal. Believe in God, obey God and God will give you the good life. Always

        • Dreadnaught

          I for one certainly don’t think that because I don’t believer there is such a thing as a god. Welby certainly doesn’t think that because he believes there is a God – the rest of what you have said is just your own presumption.

    • Sam

      Dude,

      So

      1)what did he say wrong in terms of Christian belief ?
      2) what should he have said ?

      • Martin

        Sam

        In general there is so much that he could have said that He didn’t. Scripture gives us so much reference to God caring for His people and the book of Job is an excellent place to go. I suggest you read some of the other posts where I’ve expanded on what was wrong with what he said.

  • CliveM

    Very moving and heartfelt sermon.

  • Phil R

    “God that so loved the world that he gave his only son so that all who
    believe in him should not have that sense of endless death and
    destruction, but have the hope of life”

    Doesn’t strike me that he seems very sure of what he believes at all.

    • CliveM

      This sections seems clear enough to me.

    • alternative_perspective

      Have you ever suffered such loss?

      Its so easy to say those words when life is going OK but not so easy in the hard times.

      I’ve never suffered the loss of a child but I’ve been in those moments when I’ve sincerely and somewhat forcibly questioned Gods love… Having experienced Him first hand I couldn’t question his existence.

      But it was in that moment of raw and totally unguarded honesty (I was like a beast) that God most openly connected with me.

      Trusting in Gods love is sometimes insufficient but trusting in his unswerving faithfulness and goodness is always enough. For those who’ve never suffered I think this seems odd, if not contradictory but for those who’ve been through the pain I think it’s understandable. And it was only by This knowing that I could keep on going, without Jesus I would have fallen out of society or worse. Knowing that he loved me was meaningless, knowing that his was good and trustworthy was everything.

      • Phil R

        We lost two boys.

        wishy washy theology would not have been helpful

        • carl jacobs

          Phil

          I appreciate the courage you have shown on this thread. This subject must be extraordinarily painful for you even now. Thank you for what you have written.

          • Phil R

            Carl.

            I have a lovely wife and 7 surviving wonderful children aged from 6 to 26

            I also enjoy my work.

            I have been blessed beyond measure

  • Phil R

    What I also don’t get with Welby is that he has suffered a loss. He knows the pain.

    But later, when he is in a position to make a difference to others losing loved ones. He decides to do nothing. Despite the pleading of his fellow Bishops.

    Why? To my knowledge he has never explained it. All of the answers that come to mind are not virtuous answers.

    If I were a Bishop attending the Primates Meeting in January I would want to look him in the eye and asking him why. Why he seemed (s) to ignore the plight of African Anglicans. Why he could not simply state the Biblical truth (and Church teachings) on Homosexuality as requested and expel those that refuse to show love to their fellow Christians in Africa.

  • The Explorer

    The sermon has evoked very different reactions.

    It is significant, it seems to me, that Paul uses two different approaches. When speaking to Jews, he cites the Scriptures. When talking to pagans, he cites general revelation and Epimenides.

    Whom is one addressing in a C of E congregation: theological literates, or theological heathens? If both (which, in my experience is the case), where does one pitch one’s message?

    • CliveM

      I think also the theology of what your preaching matters.

      And I’ll leave it at that.

      • The Explorer

        I think general revelation can be Chrisitian in its theology; just as the ‘Narnia’ books are Christian although they never refer directly to Christ.

        • CliveM

          I agree, but that wasn’t really what I was meaning.

  • The Explorer

    With a sermon given at a traditional church service the preacher can assume a reasonable proportion of believers among the congregation.

    With a carol concert, the situation is slightly different. Those attending are favourably disposed, or they would not be there, but some may be attending for cultural reasons, rather than from religious conviction.

    A sermon given at a carol concert to Child Bereavement UK is different again. What the congregation has in common is loss, not belief. I think Welby pitched his message accordingly.

    • magnolia

      Great, kind, & accurate comment!

  • Inspector General

    Somewhat distasteful that a few of God’s (self) chosen here thought it inappropriate to cut the man some slack on an occasion that would bring back the most awful of memories for him. Shame on those concerned…

    • Martin

      IG

      We’ve been cutting his slack since he became ABC. It’s about time he got his act together.

      • Inspector General

        Martin, his support for female bishops stinks as much as a recently deceased rat stinks. But on this occasion, where is your humanity?

        • Martin

          IG

          I hadn’t even thought of that subject, but my humanity is in weeping for those listening to whom he gave not a crumb of comfort.

          • Inspector General

            One thinks that those present were not waiting for that day to be given comfort in their loss.

          • Martin

            IG

            If they were, they’d have been sorely disappointed.

    • magnolia

      Yes; the deaths in Paris have re-made this painfully immediate for the poor man. He also seems still to partly self-blame and shares that extreme vulnerability with others, many of whom will be doing likewise, as that is what parents do. They feel they are the adults, who should be able to prevent any harm coming to the vulnerable; sadly adults cannot always stop harm, and even if further knowledge or preventative action (as seen incidentally with the benefit of hindsight,) could have produced a more favourable outcome we don’t get to live days over as in “Groundhog Day” with retrospective wisdom.

      He needs applause, and gentleness, encouragement not to blame, least of all himself, and lots of love, and certainly not the opposite.

      Most of us have a fair idea how Jesus would react, and it is with love and compassion and healing.

      • Inspector General

        Mags. He is on record for stating that the Paris atrocity ‘shook’ his faith. One did not expect that from the premier churchman in the UK. It would be expected of him that he be made of sterner stuff. Your second paragraph shows that you too acknowledge there is no leadership quality about him. He seems to be a caretaker AoC. Not the right time for one of those.

        • Phil R

          The Paris atrocity shook his faith.

          Whereas looking at a mass grave in Africa didn’t even put him off his lunch it seems.

          The guy is all double standards

          • magnolia

            You know very well from your own life, as I know from mine, which has also had suffering, there are times when one feels strong, and times when one feels pain. Was Jesus a weak man with double standards because he sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, because he wept at the death of Lazarus, then? Or should he have been all sanctimonious stoical sermonizing? Thank God he was compassionate.

            Christian leaders are sometimes called to be vulnerable. Much more difficult to share your shared pain than to come out with some puerile answer to the problems of suffering that floats above the congregation and reaches none.

            I challenge you to find one instance in the gospels when Jesus told bereaved people to pull themselves together and be strong. No. Thought not. It is love which causes pain to rise up in the human heart at these times, and from time to time thereafter, and love (as apart from lust or pride of possession) is never wrong. It is what we are here for.

          • Phil R

            I have been thinking about this. What was important to us at this time of pain was that we had the company, council and prayers of strong Christians that we respected.

            We also processed the grief differently. For me it was extremely intense, but relatively quickly over only to be repeated when I visited the graves. For my wife, the pain was longer and deeper. For many years she asked me to tend the graves as she said that she needed to focus on our living children.

            Anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation. I would say you need to give your wife time (and remember that to her it is still painful years later, when to you perhaps it is more of a unpleasant and distant memory) to be with strong Christian women.

            (Also…..Don’t try and tell her how she should feel… e.g. that (perhaps) she should be over it and moved on, because you have as a man. She is a woman and everything is different for her)

          • mark

            You might listen to what he actually said, rather than what was
            reported.

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34893039

            http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/blog.php/25/why-arguing-with-god-is-not-the-same-as-not-believing-in-him

            I think you might find he understands the realities of mass graves in Africa too. He spent a lot of time before he was archbishop working for reconciliation in parts of Africa – his own life was on the line more than once.

          • Phil R

            “I think you might find he understands the realities of mass graves in Africa”

            He may understand the realities, but it is plain by his inaction that he is either arrogant in ignoring his flock or simply cares less for their lives, than the feelings of well off Liberals, in the US and at home.

      • Phil R

        No he is a leader and it is about time he acted like one.

        • magnolia

          Also a father. And a human being. I am glad our leaders are not robots.

          • Phil R

            Any more strawmen you want to bring up?

        • Sam

          Dude

          So

          1)what did he say wrong in terms of Christian belief ?
          2) what should he have said ?

  • David

    Welby’s presentation is not so much a sermon, as they are usually developed from, and rooted in, Scripture, but more of a carefully crafted, deeply sincere compassionate talk, but having a link to a Biblical theme, I’d say.
    It is exceedingly well done, and being based on personal experience, very convincing. Anyone who had been touched by such an event must have been deeply, positively, impacted by this I’d say. So it would have achieved what was probably it’s main purpose, to show compassion and support the losing family. Well done Archbishop.

    • carl jacobs

      This is a good comment. Well reasoned. But it also highlights the problem. The subject matter that would have required this reflection to be transformed into a sermon is the subject matter AoC Welby chose not to address. He showed compassion and support. That was indeed his main purpose. But that leaves the purpose of the reflection in the temporal realm. He included nothing beyond vague allusions to connect the temporal to the eternal. An unbeliever could have done as much, and indeed they do. But can they offer hope? Can they offer answers that satisfy?

      So the question stands unanswered. “He has the standing to speak. He started well. Why then did he stop short? Why did he not finish what he started?”

  • chiefofsinners

    We should be grateful that Welby’s second prayer was not answered. He has become like Christ, a faithful priest who is able to sympathise with our weaknesses and to understand those who walk in the valley of the shadow. The life of his daughter was not lost in vain. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.

  • Bob

    I have an issue with anyone who instrumentalizes death and grief, even his own, in order to manipulate those who are suffering into believing in his religion.

    If your arguments can’t persuade someone in full charge of his faculties of the truth of what you’re saying, and you have to rely on the desperation of grieving parents who’ll clutch at any straw or phantasm to keep the unbearable reality of the death of a child at bay, what does that make you?

    Perhaps Welby’s reason for keeping the evangelical aspect of his sermon vague was deliberate. Perhaps he isn’t an obsessive/compulsive sociopath so utterly fixated on his divine idol and his idea of right and wrong that he feels justified in taking advantage of people when they’re at their weakest. Perhaps he understands that other people don’t just exist to satisfy his egotistical need to convert them. Perhaps that’s why they made him archbishop.

    • William Lewis

      And so it begins.

      • Pubcrawler

        Now unleashed.

    • carl jacobs

      Hrmmmm … this is not good. Not good at all. But maybe Avi isn’t paying attention.

      • William Lewis

        You may have to distract him with some derogatory remarks about herring, or some such.

        • carl jacobs

          Do you think it would work?

          • William Lewis

            Mmmm. It’s a long shot. A lawyers writ demanding your three years back pay would be a better option.

          • carl jacobs

            I don’t know. I think my only real hope is that he never opens the thread.

          • William Lewis

            Probably best to close the thread now then. Especially now Bob has exposed himself, again. I’ll lead the way:

            “Nothing to see here but Bob’s square pants. Move along please. There’s a nice new thread just opened up next door.”

          • Hope’s cheap, Carl.

          • carl jacobs

            Now, let’s not go making any untoward and unwarranted conclusions on the basis of anything that has occurred on this thread.

          • Ha!

          • carl jacobs

            That would not be the proper attitude.

        • And I might agree with the remarks, as I OD’d on the things this afternoon. Very salty.

          • carl jacobs

            btw. I’ve been meaning to ask you. Have you heard of Dr Timothy Snyder? (History Prof at Yale.) I have been listening to a lot of his stuff on Youtube that last two weeks or so, and wondered what you thought of him. At least he seems to offend the right people.

            If you have never heard of him, search youtube for “timothy snyder bloodlands”

          • I have not read anything directly by him, other than a few lengthy quotations in various critiques, but I understand that he is seen both as the current top Holocaust historian by some and as an at least passive, by omission rather than commission, apologist for Eastern European nationalists who are attempting to erase or downplay their nations’ complicity or enthusiastic involvement in the Holocaust. Apperently, he rightly underlines the scale and importance of massacres of Jews outside of the better-known killing centres, but blames these almost solely on the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Einsatzgruppen, ignoring the deep and lethal reality of native antisemitism and willing collaboration.

            It’s true that Dr Snyder’s work appears to annoy some on the extremes of Left and the Right for focualsing on the Holocaust when we should be “moving on” with current atrocities, or for stressing its historical uniqueness. His work appears to have also been unethically misused by current nationalistic Eastern European white-washing commissions trying to rehabilite a number of fascist monsters, something that he should certainly address…if he hasn’t already… and there seems to be an ongoing debate over his contribution in the field, but I’m not sure about how it has evolved lately.

            Thanksfor the recommendation … although I wish there were transcriptions of his lectures, as I prefer reading over hearing!

          • carl jacobs

            …apologist for Eastern European nationalists who are attempting to erase or downplay their nations’ complicity or enthusiastic involvement in the Holocaust.

            … blames these almost solely on the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Einsatzgruppen, ignoring the deep and lethal reality of native antisemitism and willing collaboration.

            I have listened to maybe 12 hours of his talks, and will say that is not an accurate summary of his argument. One of the things I learned from him is that most of the killing in the East was performed or sustained by recruited local agents. I didn’t know that. He does say that local anti-semitism is not a good predictor of why the Holocaust happened on such a scale in certain places but not others. He focuses instead on the destruction of states as the key enabler.

            That last contention about states is what I was interested in your opinion about.

          • At uni I focussed more on medieval Jrwish history and my main source on the Holocaust is my (signed) copy of Raoul Hilberg’s *The Destruction of the European Jews,* which is a must-get if you’re intetested in the topic. The work, though, is minimalist in conclusions, dealing mostly with facts and figures and the mechanical and administrative aspects behind the planned extermination.

            With this disclaimer in mind …my being uncomfortable with my lack of expertise and the fact that I’m unfamilliar with Dr Snyder’s work… I can say that his hypothesis on the destruction of states …esp. starting around the 30 minute mark in the video… deserves serious attention. I can’t tell, though, whether he overstates the case through projecting causation onto correlation simply because I fon’t know enough about this stuff. Also, while I share his unease with the narrative-based, “micro-history” approach, I do think that there is limited, but important value in it, when either historiographical data or focus are lacking. I also take his argument that local antisemitism is a poor predictor with a grain of salt because the subject has not been studied extensively in an objective fashion and because the bulk of the data has still to be collated, published and dispassionately analysed.

            My overall impression, though, is that critiques of Snyder’s contentions are mild and courteous and that they’ll benefit his further work.

      • Pubcrawler

        Avi might be offline till after sunset

        • carl jacobs

          I’ve considered that. There is also the possibility that he is still lighting Hanukkah candles due to his unique way of counting to eight. So perhaps he will be busy tonight …

    • Very good, Linus, now all you need to do is to fess-up to your identity and give me the home-run against Carl. Can’t promise His Grace will be graceful about your playing silly-buggers with your monikers, but promising to drop your Japanese character and the Fu Manchu lingo might mitigate things.

      • Bob

        Wasn’t Fu Manchu Chinese? I’m told the Japanese dislike being mistaken for Chinese, and I know the reverse to be true. Given the history of Japan’s relationship with China, who can blame them?

        And I wonder, what it is about this Linus person that so obsesses you? Looking at the comments here, it seems he monopolises an inordinate amount of your attention.

        I’ve never seen one of his posts … is he some kind of conservative hallucination, perhaps? A liberal bogeyman who personifies everything you hate about the world and the way it works?

        Ah well, I suppose one musn’t gloat over the paranoia of the vanquished. There you lurk in dark corners of the Internet, spitting poison at everyone you hate (and there are such a lot of us!), prophesying damnation and catastrophe for everyone who won’t obey you, and casting your vote for extreme parties that can never hope to govern.

        I’m enjoying the sideshow (does that make me Sideshow Bob? I may have to change my profile image…) It’s a bit cringe-making at times, especially when the American contingent starts praisin’ the Lorrrd, but the comedy of religion never fails to entertain.

        • I’d day the fellow who changes monikers more often than his underwear and uses fake anglo-Chinese for a fake Japanese character has the obsession issues, Linus. Sorry, my bad, but I’ll stick to calling you Linus, your longest-living persona fragment It’s for the sake of continuity, if that’s alright. Us religious zealots can’t handle rapid change, as you well know.

          • Bob

            Intentionally misnaming someone is a recognised weapon in the armory of the psychological manipulator, so call me whatever you like, but be aware that I know what you’re about.

            If you insist on calling me Linus, I’ll just have to return the favour by calling you … hmmm, let’s see … how about Martin? And he can be carl jacobs. And he can be you.

            So Martin, how does it feel to be labeled as a gibbering fundamentalist Bible thumping Jayzuz botherer? Speaking in tongues yet?

          • William Lewis

            “Intentionally misnaming someone is a recognised weapon in the armory of the psychological manipulator… “

            Funny, that’s just what Tutti Frutti said.

          • I think you just solved the mystery as to why the BBC “disappeared” the series and took so long to issue a DVD; Linus was behind the botch-up.

          • You are an idiot, Linus, and always will be, no matter what cartoon character you hide behind. You’re trying to insult me with Martin? Martin and I may not agree on a single theological point, but I wish I had a fraction of his unwavering conviction and courage to face anger and ridicule he knows will come his way. Thanks for the honour, but I’m not sure I deserve it.

            Begone, buffoon. Do the only thing you can do and come back as yet another clownish character and amuse us with trying to take down bloggers and Arch Bishops whose night soil you’re not good enough to take out.

          • Bob

            You are an idiot Martin, and always will be no matter how authoratatively you tell me leave this blog. It isn’t yours to evict anyone from.

            I might as well tell you to begone, although I wouldn’t append the word “buffoon” to such animperious command. You’re not nearly amusing enough to merit that. “Self-important blowhard” perhaps? “Canada’s answer to Colonel Blimp” also sounds about right.

            Whatever the epithet, it won’t be half as bleak, condemnatory and all-round miserable as the real thing.

            By all means continue to lay down the law. But don’t be surprised when I ignore you.

          • It was merely a helpful suggestion for you to slink off with your tail your legs and to come back and try one more time to function on a blog for at least a fortnight, Linus. It may be the only skill you might be able to put on your CV. Reading comprehension is certainly not one to put on.

          • carl jacobs

            Dear … let me see … how many is it by now … Sixth Incarnation of the Blog Lord Linus

            Speaking in tongues is a Pentacostal practice. Both Martin and I are Reformed. If you are going to insult someone, at least try to do it with intelligence.

            And I could never be Avi. I don’t drink Bud Light.

          • Bob

            Arcane religious practices and drinking habits aside, you’re pretty interchangeable as far as I can see. Two dimensional conservative cardboard cut-outs all look the same to everyone else.

            The kind of person who sends everyone except himself to hell doesn’t have many distinguishing features.

          • carl jacobs

            How terrible for me. But even as a two-dimensional piece of cardboard, I can at least take solace in the fact that I am real. What are you, Linus? Are you French? Are you English? Are you gay? Are you straight? Are you married? Do you really own a castle? One deception builds upon another until each claim becomes its own refutation, and nothing remains but a collection of lies.

          • A man’s pissoir is his castle.

          • Pubcrawler

            One has to fill the moat somehow.

          • That was a low blow, Carl; it happenned only a couple of times, on hot days, as chasers for lower quality whiskies and thirst quenchers after plate-fulls of salty shmaltz herring. And I was not in full control of my faculties. Circumstantially justifiable incidents. Say what you will, but Bud still sits squarely in the “male” spectrum of brews. Bailey’s liqueur, on the other hand….

          • carl jacobs

            You realize of course that “Light Beer” was originally developed as a woman’s drink.

            Carl’s First Law of Beverage Consumption: Never drink anything that contains the words “Light”, “Diet”, or “Free” in the title.

          • A marketing shtik of no significance; “light” brews are renamed summer ales consumed in places where the local water might put one six feet under. Marlborough reds were a “woman’s” cigarette until they got the Marlborough man to switch their gender.

            An academic question pertaining to marketing research, but where might one find these “free” drinks. Willing to travel or relocate.

          • carl jacobs

            You might remember an abomination called “Pepsi Free.” This is not the same thing as a free drink. One describes the price (good) while the other describes the content (bad).

            First Corollary to Carl’s First Law of Beverage Consumption: Never drink anything that contains the word “Zero” in the title either.

          • Oh. I misunderstood. 🙁

          • carl jacobs

            Bailey’s is expensive, you know. Close to $30 a bottle. Very exclusive.

          • So must your shiny new dress be to go with your new life style.

          • carl jacobs

            No, I have not been turned into a Scotsman.

          • CliveM

            Grrrr, Hmmmm no chance of you becoming a Scotsman Carl, no self respecting Scottish male would ever confess to drinking a Baileys (named after an english cricketer)!!

          • carl jacobs

            Now,now. Let’s not go spreading fictional stories and smearing a perfectly good drink by associating it with the Sport of Organized Apoplexy.

            Who or what is “Baileys”? I’m sure that this is a question that has bothered pretty much everyone who has ever seen a bottle of this drink. There have certainly been a lot of speculations, from claims that he was the one who thought of the recipe, or that he was some important historic figure in the Irish history, but the truth is that this is actually a fictional name, much like “Monty Python, for instance. The name itself was actually inspired by a hotel in London, called “Bailey’s” and that’s the whole truth about the name.

            http://baileysguide.com/a-little-history-lesson-on-baileys.html

          • CliveM

            Still a Granny drink whatever it’s named after!

    • Martin

      What makes you think that anyone is in full charge of his facilities when it comes to the gospel?

      • Bob

        The Gospel certainly does seem to provoke hysteria among certain unstable personality types. But no more so than any other religion or fad. Be it Jesus Christ or Justin Bieber, screaming groupies come with the territory when idolatry is being acted out.

        And let’s not get started on the subject of irrationality. I’ve read a few of your posts in which blind zealotry combines with contempt for anyone who dares to contradict you. If only you realised what a poor advertisement for faith you are. But you probably wouldn’t care. Unless we bow down to you as the unique prophet of God, we’ll all burn, won’t we?

        • Martin

          Bob

          There’s nothing blind about my zeal, it’s based on the Bible. the same place where Welby claims to get his theology. The Bible tells us that faith comes from God, He gives to those He saves the faith to believe.

          For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
          (Ephesians 2:8-9 [ESV])

          The fact is, faith that comes from Man is a waste of time.

          I’m no prophet, I’m not even a preacher of the gospel, I’m just pew fodder who sees all too clearly the problem of the World.

    • Rasher Bacon

      That’s very good of you to allow those possibilities, Bob.