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“Listen to the voices of other faiths”

Special Correspondent
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Archbishop of Canterbury also stresses the need for churches to “speak to one another”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, addressing a public reception accorded to him by the Church of South India Diocese of Madras in Chennai on Sunday. Others from right are V. Devasahayam, Bishop in Madras Diocese; M.M. Rajendran, former Orissa Governor; and Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, Prince of Arcot. — Photo: M. Vedhan
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, addressing a public reception accorded to him by the Church of South India Diocese of Madras in Chennai on Sunday. Others from right are V. Devasahayam, Bishop in Madras Diocese; M.M. Rajendran, former Orissa Governor; and Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, Prince of Arcot. — Photo: M. Vedhan

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Sunday stressed the need for churches to “speak to one another” and to “listen to the voices of other faiths” to build mutual trust and realise the fullness of the Christian truth.

Delivering a special address at a reception hosted in his honour by the CSI Diocese of Madras, Rev. Williams said though churches might like to believe that they had assimilated the fullness of Christian truth, none of the churches alone can preach the whole gospel.

“The reality is that we need one another's gifts and to speak to one another. In fact, in the whole world of religious diversity we need to listen to voices of other faiths without letting go of our own convictions,” Rev. Williams said.

Terming the life of a healthy church as a combination as much of congregational and presbyterian functions as of pastoral care and evangelical encouragement, Rev. Williams said listening to others was central to pastoral responsibility.

“The role of a Bishop is not one of power or dominance…but holding together the deep diversity and bringing out of it good news for everyone,” he said.

According to Rev. Williams, there were two aspects of the character of God at the heart of every search for conducting a distinctive life. One was His faithfulness in not abandoning people in need and the other was abject humility, he said.

The most important thing to be said about a Church (or a pastor) would be that it did not run away from people in need whether they were Dalits, disabled or people of other faiths, or even if these people did not call themselves Christian, Rev. Williams said.

Underscoring humility as a central trait for pastoral or presbyterian leadership, Rev. Williams said if the Church is there for all, the Church had to be a humble institution willing to learn, sometimes even repent, and “prepared not to be safe, wealthy or comfortable but always willing to love.”

Social Welfare Minister P. Geetha Jeevan described the Archbishop as a theological scholar, writer and teacher whose visit to Chennai would hopefully lead to a transformation of society, especially in education and culture.

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, said the Archbishop had been a committed unifier and someone who had consistently progressive positions on issues such as the war on Iraq, nuclear weaponisation or obscurantist doctrines. The visit to India by the Archbishop was one of progressive exploration of all values that are held dearly in India constitutionally and civilisationally, he said.

M. M. Rajendran, former Governor of Orissa, said the Archbishop's message to the Wall Street community about ethical economy and the importance of distributing accumulated wealth had a parallel in Mahatma Gandhi's own concept of trusteeship. He called upon the Anglican and other churches to work closely with Governments and NGOs to alleviate poverty and ensure that the benefits of development reached the marginalised sections.

The Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali said Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and should not be labelled as a religion of terrorism based on the acts of a handful of antisocial elements.

A.M. Chinnappa, Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, V. Devasahayam, Bishop in Madras Diocese, S. Vasanthakumar, CSI Moderator, G. Devakadasham, CSI Deputy Moderator and M.M. Philip, CSI general secretary also spoke.

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