Welby, on Australia tour, addresses indigenous issues

The Rev. Michael Duckett, right, presents gifts to Archbishop Justin and Caroline Welby, including a boomerang-shaped cross. Photo/Diocese of Sydney

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, during the first week of a two-week tour of Australia, met with indigenous leaders on Oct. 10 around a campfire in Glebe, a suburb of Sydney, according to a report from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

Welby met with Pastor Ray Minniecon and the staff of Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries on the grounds of St John’s Anglican Church. Scarred Tree’s motto is “Authentically Indigenous, Authentically Christian.” Reconciliation was a major theme of Welby’s visit, who has just released a book on the subject.

Pastor Ray Minniecon, left, receives a reconciliation award from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, center, and his wife, Caroline.

Welby acknowledged the Stolen Generations, a term that refers to aboriginal and mixed-race children forcibly removed from their parents from 1905 into the 1960s as government policy, in an attempt to assimilate them into “white” Australian society.

He compared Australia’s situation to Canada’s First Nations people, who were often subject to abuse at government and church-run residential schools, whom he had visited earlier this year.

“Reconciliation starts with Jesus,” Welby told the crowd in Glebe, “and when we are reconciled to God by Jesus on the Cross and he offers us life … God does not give us just enough reconciliation, he gives us oceans of reconciliation and he says let that overflow.”

He stressed that actions, not just words, were needed to heal. “We can’t change history – terrible things were done, we must acknowledge it … say it is reality, but we can change the future. When we repent as a people and turn, that’s when reconciliation becomes possible.”

Welby presented a special reconciliation award to Minniecon and accepted the gift of a boomerang-shaped cross from the Rev. Michael Duckett, pastor of Macarthur Indigenous Church and chairman of the Sydney Anglican Indigenous People’s Ministry Committee.

On Oct. 12, Welby visited Gawura Indigenous Campus at St. Andrew’s Cathedral School and had lunch with students and staff during a tour of Moore College.

At the start of his trip, on Oct. 6, Welby said that Anglicans are called to “unity — not unanimity,” reported Church Times.

Welby and his wife, Caroline, were welcomed to Australia in a ceremony in Perth “led by Elders of the Noongar people, the traditional custodians of this land,” he wrote on Twitter. He wrote that he hoped that the visit would give him “a chance to learn from First Nations people across this ancient land — to listen deeply, build relationships, stand in solidarity, and take small steps together on the slow journey towards God’s healing and justice.”

In a sermon preached in St. George’s Cathedral, Welby said that Australia and the U.K. were both “having to reckon with the consequences of our history.” An audit of the Church Commissioners, going back to 1704, had revealed that they had “made about £450 million out of slavery”, he said. “So what are we going to do with that?”

The Magnificat, he said, showed that Christians “belong to the world’s greatest revolutionary organization, not of violent revolution, but of a revolution of the heart and life which is the hope of our world.”

He continued: “When we listen to those words of revolution, when we learn that, although we disagree passionately with each other, passionately, vehemently, deeply, we will disagree well.

“When we learn that, then we have something to say to the world around. To listen closely to God’s word is not to become clones of each other, all spouting the same thing as if we were a sect, but to rejoice in our individuality, to embrace our mutual need for one another, to relate to one another and love one another in action and word, and in so doing to reveal Christ.”