'We need to be a risk-taking church,' was the message from the Archbishop of Canterbury in the opening session of the Leadership Conference 2013.
In an interview with Nicky Gumbel that drew a prolonged standing ovation and was trending on Twitter by the time he had finished, Justin Welby, who was installed as Archbishop earlier this year, spoke of his priorities for the church of England, which included the renewal of prayer and religious life, reconciliation within the church and evangelism throughout the nation.
'My prayer is that the church will be risk-taking in all these three areas, that we will be willing to change, to have a revolution that enables a renewal of prayer, reconciliation and evangelism,' Welby said. Church growth, he said, is 'natural,' but 'what we can expect is very hard work.' But he also added that he was 'more optimistic about the church now than I have ever been.'
The Archbishop spoke movingly and amusingly about becoming a Christian while at Cambridge university – 'you were a very disruptive influence to my non-Christian life,' he joked to Nicky – meeting his wife Caroline, the tragic death of their daughter Johanna in 1983 and his eventual acceptance for ordination. 'I was really very hopeful that they would turn me down,' he said. 'I was in a great church, loving my job and things were going quite well, but we had this sense that God was calling us – me to ordination.'
Being a Christian, he said, is 'the imitation of Christ. We cannot live for our cause to win, we have to live for His cause to win.' Prayer is absolutely crucial. 'There is no point in the history of the western church where the renewal of the church has not been preceded and accompanied by the renewal of prayer and praying communities.'