Transcript of the speech given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace
Good morning everyone.
And a very, very warm welcome to Lambeth Palace. I’m delighted that we’re able to welcome you to our modest home here. Particularly delighted by the solidarity that has been shown in this morning’s walk, which I think has been a memorable experience. And like all of you I’m sure, I’m very, very grateful for those from other Christian Churches and other faith communities who have so generously joined us this morning to witness together.
But before we move into some slightly longer reflections on where we are and what we hope from today, I would like to present to our guest of honour today, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, a letter which I have written expressing something of the Anglican Communion’s resolution on the subject of the Millennium Development Goals in the light of the many meetings and statements over the last few years which have sought to express our commitment to the goals which have been defined by the world’s Governments, goals which have been generously and faithfully supported by the Prime Minister and others here, and which we believe today will help take forward still further. Prime Minister, on behalf of all of us… [letter is presented]
Prime Minster, honoured guests, brothers and sisters. One of the greatest paradoxes of the world we live in today, is that in many ways the world seems to be smaller than ever it was; and yet the divisions between people in the world are larger than they have ever been. Communications means that now we know straight away of the sufferings and the needs of people on the other side of the world, and yet the gulf seems to grow deeper all the time. When the Millennium Development Goals were identified in the Millennium year, and when so many of the Governments of the world signed up to that vision, it was an attempt to bridge those great gulfs between rich and poor, and an attempt to say that the world could have a common future resting on justice and compassion. It was the moment of recognition, that unless we addressed these great gulfs between human beings, we cannot expect a future of stability or welfare for any of us.
As the world grows smaller the truth is that the suffering and the need of anyone in our global community is going to be, sooner or later, the suffering and the need of everyone in our global community. This is not, and should not, be a surprise for those of us who hold the Christian Faith, who have believed for two thousand years that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer. But it is also a vision that is shared by many people of Faith and commitment throughout the world and throughout our own land.
Today’s event is not only an event for us who are Anglicans and who are gathered for the Lambeth Conference. We have shared some of the planning and the vision with other groups, not least the network called ‘Micah Challenge’. This international network of Christians concerned about development issues rests upon the vision defined by the prophet Micah in the Hebrew scriptures: What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God.
That is the challenge we seek to confront today. We are committing ourselves, as Bishops, as Anglican believers, as people of Faith to do justice; that is, to seek systems in our world that will give to each person what they deserve in the eyes of God. Not what they deserve because of their prosperity or success, but what they deserve because they are made in God’s image and demand our respect, our love and our service without qualification. That is justice. We must love mercy. We must be
people whose compassion is readily stirred by any member of our human family. People who feel that if compassion is not exercised and shared, we all become less human. And we must walk humbly with our God. We must recognise our limitations. We must recognise that we all depend on our love, a gift, a commitment from God, greater than any words can express, which is the energy that sustains our vision. Humility, gratitude and hope all come together in that recognition. That is the challenge, that is what we seek to face today, that is what we say “yes” to in our gathering today.
And as I introduce the Prime Minister to speak, I want to say that we are gratefully aware of the way in which he and many in our Government have continued to make this Micah shaped vision a priority. And we long for our own Government to keep up the pressure on Governments around the world to rise to the challenge that is set before them. We know that the special session of the United Nations in September is going to be a crucial moment for strengthening the resolve of the nations of the world to tackle the Millennium Development Goals. We all know with sorrow, with great regret, how far the achievement of those goals has slipped behind because of all kinds of circumstances. We would want to challenge the leaders of our world to be faithful to the promises they have made: the commitment to the poor, the willingness to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly. And so Prime Minister we thank you very, very deeply for your willingness to be with us this morning. It means, I know, a great deal to all who are gathered here. We are grateful for the commitment that you have consistently shown to the Millennium Development Goals. I have been privileged to know a little of how very personally you feel those challenges, and how much your own passion is to see these things happen. So it’s with very great pleasure and gratitude that I invite you now to address us. Prime Minster.