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Archbishop's Presidential Address to General Synod

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Tuesday 8th February 2011

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, today delivered his presidential address to General Synod on the theme of 'Reconnecting and Refreshing the Wellsprings of Solidarity in England.'

In the address, the Archbishop explained what it means for the Church of England to contribute as a national church for the common good at a time of great uncertainty.

He stated the worryingly high levels of unemployment, particularly but not exclusively among the young; a gulf between those who have and those who don't have; of fiscal deficit and deep cuts in public expenditure; of rising levels of student and trade union unrest; and of low levels of trust between elected representatives and those they govern. He said: "In these fractious and uncertain times, the role of the national church, like other elements in the social fabric, is constantly questioned and often attacked."

Dr Sentamu examined the contribution the Church of England can make and how it should go about making it. He advised "We must assert the value and importance of the contribution of trust in God to our national life; we must build up the wellsprings of solidarity in our society and we must actively continue to seek to influence the terms of national debate on key issues affecting our society".

The Archbishop announced he has set up a symposium inviting economists, social thinkers, contemporary historians and theologians to contribute their views on some of the implications of the credit crunch and its aftermath.

Dr Sentamu provided a summary of some of the themes provided by the Symposium members. This is available online at www.archbishopofyorksymposium.org. Their findings included the need for a more informed and measured style of public debate on the key issues; the urgent case for affirming certain essentials of the Gospel which should underpin our social understanding and the need to nurture Christians who day-by-day seek to live out their faith in the context of work or by their contribution to society.

Expressing concern at the extent to which the Welfare State is under threat, the Archbishop said: "There is an urgent need for the Church once more to rise to the challenge and to lead reflection on how the social compact can be re-fashioned in ways that make sense in the light of today's serious social and economic realities".

In closing, the Archbishop reflected on the mission statement set out by Jesus of Nazareth in the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes describe what human society looks like under the rule of God and the attributes that are needed for transformation in us and our society.

Recognising this vision as counter cultural, the Archbishop said: "As we try to rearticulate in today's circumstances how the moral order should be reflected in the compact underlying our society, we cannot expect to be universally welcomed or applauded. But to do these things is, quite simply, our God-given duty and our particular calling".

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